On this day 26 years ago, Michael Jordan pulled off one of the most memorable plays in NBA history.
The sequence took place in Game 2 of the 1991 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. After Magic Johnson powered the Lakers to a Game 1 victory in Chicago with a triple-double, it was Jordan who dominated Game 2 with 33 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds. The Bulls outscored the Lakers by 12 points in the third quarter following a close first half, and Jordan put the finishing touches on the game in a way only Michael Jordan could. Sensing Sam Perkins was going to try and block his dunk attempt in semi-transition, Jordan put his athleticism to the ultimate test in the fourth quarter by switching hands mid-air and kissing a left-handed layup off the backboard.
As an incredulous Marv Albert famously said during the broadcast, it was a “spectacular move” by Jordan.
“When he came down the lane, he just went one way, put it in one hand, floated about five more yards, said ‘Well, I don’t know’ and then he went off against the glass,” Johnson said after the loss. “He can do the impossible, the unbelievable. It was his game tonight. He really took it over in the second half. The only thing is no matter if you get beat by one or 20, it’s still 1-1.”
Unfortunately for Johnson, the Lakers failed to win another game in the series and the Bulls secured the franchise’s first ever NBA title. The Bulls went on to win the next two seasons, beating the Portland Trail Blazers in 1992 NBA Finals and the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals. Jordan and the Bulls then three-peated once again later in the decade when Jordan returned from a brief retirement to play baseball.
Although Jordan had plenty of other iconic moments during those title runs, his switch layup against the Lakers was almost the beginning of it all, at least in terms of great Chicago Bulls dynasty moments.