Bulls savor second helping of joy Jordan still main course, but this time final fare had something for everyone

June 15, 1992|By Melissa Isaacson | Melissa Isaacson,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- The details are secondary, mere blips in one amazingly electric evening.

The heart-pounding fourth quarter.

The bench contribution.

The records that fell as the Chicago Bulls made history.

All of them will fade with time. And what we will be left with, days from now, months from now, years from now, is the big picture. The memory of watching a team achieve pure, unadulterated satisfaction.

This was victory just as sweet as it gets. Their 97-93 triumph over the Portland Trail Blazers last night gave the Bulls the 1992 NBA championship, their second consecutive world title and an occasion that had something for everyone.

"John Paxson turned to me in the locker room and said, 'What a long, strange trip it has been,' " Chicago coach Phil Jackson said, "and he wasn't just quoting the Grateful Dead. It has been a long strange trip. Last year was the honeymoon. This year was an odyssey."

This night was for everyone who has ever wanted to give up. Everyone who was ever tired of their job or gotten sick of their boss. Everyone who ever questioned whether the goal was worth the aggravation, whether the destination was worth the journey.

This was about Bobby Hansen, a nine-year veteran who wanted only to belong, only wanted to contribute. Who rarely played until this NBA Finals series, then calmly entered the game in the fourth quarter, hit a three-pointer, made a steal and jump-started this team to its destiny.

It was about Stacey King, the most beleaguered of third-year players who grew up and decided it was best to keep his dissatisfaction private. Who grabbed hold of the only significant playing time he has had since last November and helped sustain this team when it needed it most.

It was about Scott Williams and his eight rebounds and two blocked shots, and B.J. Armstrong with his four assists and key jumper to pull the Bulls to within five with 9:10 left. It was about Cliff Levingston drawing fouls and urging on, as always, his teammates.

It was about a team defense that held the Trail Blazers to a record-low 14 fourth-quarter points, enabling the Bulls to come back from a 17-point, late-third quarter deficit. About an offense that would not quit. And a crowd that would not let them.

"Going into the fourth quarter," Paxson said, "Phil said, 'Fifteen points is nothing if we can regain momentum,' and it worked just like he said."

This was all about Bill Cartwright and his underrated defense and unbreakable will. About Paxson with his veteran smarts, his in-your-face job on Terry Porter and his clutch-as-can-be six-of-nine shooting for 13 points. About Horace Grant, muscling inside, about brushing himself off time and time again, about five rebounds and a block of a Buck Williams shot they will be reliving in the highlight films.

It was about Scottie Pippen crushing the demons and muting the critics and leading the fourth-quarter band of renegades with poise and cool. It was about letting his skills rise to the occasion and finishing this unforgettable night with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists.

And finally, it was about Michael Jordan, the man who defies explanation, who capped this season with 12 of the Bulls' last 17 points to finish with 33 for the night in leading the Bulls in scoring every game of this postseason.

Jordan was the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals, a unanimous selection, an undeniable selection and a repeat selection.

Perfect.

"I'm just so glad Chicago drafted me eight years ago," Jordan said. "If they didn't, I don't think I could do what I did, being a part of back-to-back championships. This is a great town to play for. I love it. And I hope to play here forever."

It was about stepping back when he needed to step back and swooping in like they knew he would.

This was a pulsating Chicago Stadium that engulfed the Bulls with emotion, that sent them off the court on a cushion of mania and begged them back with a rocking ovation.

It was the team gathering in the Blackhawks' locker room under the old barn, and in the middle of craziness looking up at their coach.

"Great job, fellas," Jackson whispered to them and they nodded as one.

It was the last Lord's Prayer of the season, recited in unison, and a champagne shower.

It was June Jackson grasping her husband's face and embracing his soaked body. And it was about her husband hugging their children, one by one.

It was Pippen standing in his still blood-stained uniform with a smile that could have swallowed up the locker room.

It was big Horace grabbing Horace Jr. and hanging on.

"How sweet it is," said Jackson.

"To finally contribute," said Hansen. "This is just unbelievable."

"It puts everything right where it should be," said Cartwright. "We couldn't possibly have imagined a better ending."

"The struggle," said Grant, "makes it that much sweeter. As soon as the last second ticked off the clock, excitement and joy shot straight through my body."

"I hope," said Paxson, "that the people of Chicago appreciate what we've done. It's truly special."

And then they were beckoned away.

"Grab that trophy and let's show it to them," Jackson cried out as he led the march back to courtside.

"You got it," shouted Jordan. "Let's go."

And suddenly, they were back where it all began. Back under the stark white banner that greeted them in this season's opening game, that comforted them during the hard times.

"Two of them," cried Jordan as he circled the court, glimmering trophy held aloft.

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