In the 1991 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls played against Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Bulls lost in Game 1 at home despite an impressive 36 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals from Michael Jordan. However, in Game 2, the series changed, and the history of the Chicago Bulls changed forever.
In Game 2, Jordan scored 33 points, 13 assists, and 7 rebounds on a 15/18 shooting from the field, including an incredible play, later to be known as “The Move.”
In the fourth quarter, Jordan drove down the court and threw a no-look pass to teammate Cliff Levingston, who made a move to the basket from the left-wing. But when the defense collapsed on him, Levingston kicked the ball back to the top of the key, where Jordan stood, ready to take flight.
Jordan was planning on dunking the ball, but when Sam Perkins came over to block the shot, Jordan had to change something. So on his way back to the ground, he switched the ball to his left hand and spun it off the glass with world-class finesse. And of course, the tongue was out.
The play, known simply as “The Move,” sent the crowd and the game’s broadcasting crew into delight. “Oh! A spectacular move by Michael Jordan!” announcer Marv Albert yelled.
After Game 2, the Bulls never looked back. They won the next three games on the way to their first-ever NBA Championship.
Here’s what Jordan said about the play after Chicago’s dominating 107-86 Game 2 win over the Lakers to even the series at 1-1: “Cliff threw it back to me, and I saw a clear lane to the basket, so I was going to dunk the ball. I exposed the ball. But then I saw long-arms Sam Perkins there, and it was just instinct to change it. And I changed it to my left hand and was able to get it off.”
The play became famous for three reasons: No. 1: Marv’s call, No. 2: the replay angle captured Jordan at his athletic best and No. 3: it was done by Jordan. Had any other player made the shot, the reaction would’ve been far more muted.