It was Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals and the Chicago Bulls were taking on the Portland Trail Blazers. The series was being pitted as a rivalry between Clyde Drexler and Michael Jordan, with some reporters daring to suggest that perhaps Drexler had caught up to Jordan in the best-player-alive debate.
It was the shrug seen around the basketball world, as iconic Chicago Bulls figure Michael Jordan even amazed himself as he lit up the Portland Trail Blazers from behind the arc.
In that game, MJ was an absolute assassin from behind the arc. Jordan — a career 32.7 percent 3-point shooter who shot a mere 27 percent during the 1991-92 regular season — dropped six deep balls in the first half alone, tying a Finals record for 3s in a half, set by Michael Cooper in 1987 and tied by Bill Laimbeer in 1990 (Ray Allen broke the record in Game 2 of the 2010 Finals with seven first-half 3-pointers.)
“Shots started dropping from everywhere,” said Jordan after Chicago’s 122-89 win. Guarded by Cliff Robinson, Jordan let it fly. When the ball swished, his first reaction wasn’t a shrug, but instead a taunting shake of the head — no, no, no — in Robinson’s direction. The Shrug. As in: “What in the hell did I just do?” or “What can I say?” The Shrug happened when Jordan glanced courtside at Magic Johnson, then an NBC commentator, and it became iconic.
“Let me tell you, I surprised them as much as I surprised you and myself, the way I was shooting today,” said Jordan following Game 1, which is now known as “The Shrug Game.”
“I had to ride the wave when I had it, and everyone picked up on it.”
Out of all of Jordan’s legendary playoff moments, this is definitely one of the most memorable ones. Because everyone has had a Michael Jordan shrug moment before.