27. John Paxson’s game-winner versus Phoenix Suns: 1993 NBA Finals, Game 6
Now known as the second half of the infamous Chicago Bulls front office tandem GarPax, Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson delivered one of the most signature shots of the Jordan Era of the Bulls.
Chicago was playing a solid Phoenix Suns team in the 1993 NBA Finals. This was Charles Barkley’s best year as a professional and Chicago had the opportunity to three-peat as NBA Champions. Down 98-96 with 14.4 seconds left in Game 6, Bulls forward Horace Grant would kick the ball out the sharpshooting Paxson to stun the Suns in Phoenix.
Paxson’s three-pointer gave the Bulls at 99-98 lead with 3.9 seconds left in the game. Grant would pack Kevin Johnson at the buzzer to give the Bulls a third-straight NBA title. Jordan would retire for the first time after this game to pursue a career in baseball.
Three-pointers have become commonplace in the NBA during the small-ball era of the league. However, their usage would normally come late in games during Paxson’s playing career. Chicago didn’t want a Game 7, as Phoenix may have been the most worthy Finals adversary of the Jordan Era.
Basketball history may be totally different if Paxson didn’t drain the most important shot of his NBA career. Maybe Barkley and the Suns would have won a championship? Perhaps Jordan doesn’t leave the sport for two years in the wake of the three-peat?