Sunday, June 20, 1993. I was 13 years old and enjoying my last summer before I entered high school. I would lose a friend to death that summer. I would gain a few, too. It was a summer of ups, downs, sure things and uncertainties. A typical summer for a kid growing up in Kansas City, Kan.
I was not a sports fan at the time--I had better things to do--- but this series drew me in. This series changed it all for me. Marginally interested, I sat down to watch and was hooked forever. This is the moment I fell in love with the highs of losing and the lows of defeat, the intensity of competition and the metaphoric similarities sports has with life. I was in the living room, with my dad, in Kansas City, as we watched the game. We were both rooting for the Suns. I don't know why. Maybe because I've always disliked the favorite and always rooted against the bully. The Suns were my type of team---tough, confident, underrated and led by a charismatic personality in Charles Barkley. While the rest of the basketball world marveled at Michael Jordan and the Bulls' accomplishment--three titles in three seasons---I wished it had never happened. I wished John Paxson's shot had bounced off the front of the rim, or Horace Grant's pass had been thrown into press row.
This game featured what may be the biggest shot in Phoenix Suns basketball history. In fact, this is one of the biggest shots in NBA history. It not only gave the Chicago Bulls their third straight NBA championship and broke the heart of the Suns; it gave us all---for 16 seconds---a glimpse into the future of the NBA.
Drive and kick.
With 19 seconds remaining Jordan took the ball and crossed mid-court, passing to Scottie Pippen with 8 seconds remaining. My heartbeat raced as Pippen drove into the lane, drew in the defense and dished to Grant with 6 seconds remaining. I sat at the edge of my seat with my eyes bulging and fists clinched. Time seemed to stop as Grant proceeded to make the biggest pass of his career. With the entire defense collapsing like an inflatable object, expelling its last breath, Grant threw a perfect strike to Paxson.
And the story ends there.
Those 16 seconds gave us a preview of the NBA we see today, where penetration is king and the perimeter shot is the exclamation point--the deciding factor, the dramatic actor and the master of momentum. Every possession is a beautiful display of controlled chaos.
This shot, this game, this moment changed my life.
Here's a question: Where were you on June 20, 1993?