The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announces its 2009 class Monday morning, and Michael Jeffrey Jordan is a finalist.
His chances for induction, it is said, are pretty good.
It's nearly impossible to capture the impact and essence of Jordan in words, so consider the following as words meant to invoke images. That's how Jordan perhaps is remembered best—by closing the eyes, remembering the roar, savoring the scintillating.
His wondrous gifts made the spectacular almost commonplace, but what wonderful memories indeed. Here is one attempt at ranking the 10 greatest images from Jordan's, ahem, Hall of Fame career.
June 14, 1998: Jordan caps a 45-point game — and his Bulls career — by sinking the game-winning shot over Utah's Bryon Russell. The shot comes after Jordan displayed the other dominant aspect of his game — defense — and stole the ball fromKarl Malone at the other end. Jordan holds the follow-through to put an exclamation point on NBAchampionship No. 6.
May 7, 1989: Jordan hangs in the air for seemingly forever and makes a double-pump jumper from the foul line over Cleveland's Craig Ehlo, who jumps after and descends earlier than Jordan. The buzzer-beater steals Game 5 and the first-round playoff series from the Cavaliers, who had gone 6-0 against the Bulls during the regular season. It also sends late announcer Johnny "Red" Kerr into celebratory convulsions.
April 20, 1986: This is more of a game than an image, although Jordan dribbling between his legs repeatedly before making a quick jumper over Larry Bird has lived in highlight films forever. Jordan scores an NBA-playoff-record 63 points against the Celtics, prompting Bird to say he's "God disguised as Michael Jordan." God, er, Jordan had missed most of the regular season with a broken foot, and this marked the first of 37 career 50-point games, including playoffs.
June 12, 1991: John Paxson drained most of the clutch fourth-quarter baskets, several set up by Jordan's passing. But the image that remains from the Bulls' first championship is Jordan, after his seventh season, bathing the championship trophy in tears as he clutched it in the Lakers' visiting locker room, his father, James, by his side.
March 28, 1995: In only his fifth game back after a 17-month experiment with minor-league baseball, Jordan drops a double nickel on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. His 55 points marked a then-Knicks opponent record. Jordan also dished to Bill Wennington for the game-winning basket in the 113-111 triumph, leaving the image he would do whatever it took to win.
June 3, 1992: Following one of his six first-half three-pointers in Game 1 of the 1992 Finals, Jordan turns to the Chicago Stadium crowd and shrugs, palms upturned, coy smile on face. It seemed his 35 first-half points amazed even him.
Feb. 7, 1988: With a sold-out Stadium crowd rocking, Jordan leaps from just inside the free-throw line to outduel Dominique Wilkins in the slam-dunk championship, creating a poster that surely remains on bedroom walls. He then caps his homestyle-flavored All-Star weekend by winning the game's MVP award after scoring 40 points, including 16 in the final six minutes.
June 11, 1997: Jordan collapses into Scottie Pippen's arms after pushing his flu-ridden and dehydrated body into scoring 38 points, including a clutch late three-pointer. The Game 5 Finals victory gives the Bulls a 3-2 series lead over Utah en route to title No. 5, easing the pain of Jordan's bad pizza experience.
June 5, 1991: Jordan rises up on the right side of the basket with the ball in his right hand, shifts the ball to his left and kisses a layup off the glass on the other side during Game 2 of the 1991 Finals. The jaw-dropping play highlights a bounce-back victory after the Bulls dropped Game 1 at home, and they win their first championship in five games.
June 14, 1992: Jordan leads his teammates back onto the Stadium floor — and eventually atop the scorer's table — to celebrate championship No. 2 over the Trail Blazers. Jordan's face positively glowed as he held two fingers aloft and repeatedly screamed, "Two of them!"
And that's how it ends. These images don't even mention Jordan's career-high 69-point game against Cleveland in 1990, his buzzer-beater in Game 1 of the 1997 Finals to beat Utah, his buzzer-beater fadeaway to sweep Cleveland out of the 1993 conference semifinals or his 11 triple-doubles in 14 games in March 1989.
But the final one perhaps best captures Jordan's essence — a smiling champion.
MJ was ridiculous in every way. I cannot imagine what he would do in the league with the current rules - maybe average 45ppg? I would have to really think about my Top 10 MJ games, but this is a pretty great list. This is a personal favorite (loved the move, and really hated those Knicks!).