The river Jordan Champion: Basketball's greatest player showed with one shot why he just keeps flowing.


PRO basketball's greatest player, Michael Jordan, has made shots with more drama, with only nanoseconds left on the clock. He has made more breathtaking baskets, especially early in his career when he would float in the air for so long it seemed as though the laws of physics had ceased to apply. But the 17-foot jump shot that Mr. Jordan made to win a sixth championship for the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night showed why he has been an enduring superstar in such a demanding sport.

Having just scored to bring his team to within a point of winning, Mr. Jordan stole the ball from Utah's best player. Then with a half-dozen seconds left, he evaded his defender near the free-throw line and, with perfect form, launched a high, arching shot that swished through the basket netting.

At age 35, he proved more tactician than magician. But the result was the same: With 45 points, he led his team to another National Basketball Association championship, just as he had done in each of his last five full seasons in the NBA.

Mr. Jordan's prowess has long been romanticized in the poetry of soft-drink commercials. His ability to endure at the highest level of athletic competition, however, is truly a marvel.

Back In 1984, before e-mail, when pick-ups were what poor folks drove, he was already a marquee star in the NBA.

In the years since, his name has become synonymous with the sport of basketball.

It is impossible to imagine the adolescent who was named as North Carolina's "Mr. Baseball," but who was cut from his school basketball team.

His cool persona these days stands in stark contrast to the young Michael Jordan who was so awkward he reportedly took a class to learn sewing and ironing because he assumed no one would marry him. His steely will and solid work habits contrast with his late father's description of him as "the laziest kid I had."

There is no argument over Mr. Jordan's status as the greatest professional athlete of his era. He still carries his team and his league on his broad shoulders. His skill level -- not a management squabble -- should be the determining factor in his decision about whether to continue his stunningly successful career.

Pub Date: 6/16/98

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