VIDEO: The Shrug
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The 2015 NBA Finals begin tomorrow night, but 23 years ago today was Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers, which marks one of the great moments of Michael Jordan‘s career: The Shrug.
If you don’t remember The Shrug, the video is above. Let’s go to the tape for a moment-by-moment breakdown…
0:18 — We see fans streaming into the building, let by a screaming young man wearing a tank top and shorts, who may or may not be dressed to actually play in a basketball game instead of watch it.
0:30 — The Portland Trail Blazers are taking the court, which apparently entails them walking up a few flights of stairs in an old stairwell with wires and cables hanging poking out. Which is quite a juxtaposition to what we normally see these days, with refined architecture and squeaky-clean arenas.
0:36 — The Bulls huddle up and just in front of the camera, Cliff Levingston puts his left hand over Michael Jordan‘s right ear. At first I thought he was just messing with MJ, but Jordan didn’t recoil, which suggests this is something he’s used to. Suddenly, it all makes sense, when Levingston barks out, “WHAT TIME IS IT??” right in Jordan’s ear. So the hand over the ear move is purely practical. This may be one of Levingston’s most important contributions to the Bulls.
1:28 — The Blazers open the game red-hot, making their first seven field goal attempts and jumping out to a 21-15 lead. It is here we get our first glimpse of a younger and sleeker Phil Jackson, looking like a crooked politician in one of the Michael Keaton “Batman” movies.
1:42 — The Bulls players circle up, and while several players are talking, there’s one Bull who isn’t saying a word: Michael Jordan. He comes out of that huddle focused, chomping his gum so hard. You just know bad things are about to happen to the Blazers.
1:47 — Oh man. Danny Ainge tries to get the ball to Clyde Drexler in the post. Jordan jumps the entry pass, steals it, dribbles directly up the court at Ainge, then he avoids Ainge while somehow making him sail into the scorer’s table. No wonder the Celtics won’t make any trades with the Hornets.
1:57 — This is just a peak ’90s moment. These may be the male leads from a Paul Reiser vehicle. (Also, one high five wasn’t enough. GIVE ME TWO HIGH FIVES FOR THAT FADEAWAY JUMPER. Also, my man in the background has an awesome mustache.)
2:09 — Jordan is starting to cook. Meanwhile, Ainge is sooooooo mad. How mad? Mad enough to pound his fist! That’s really, really angry, you guys!
2:25 — OK, game reset: The second quarter is beginning, with the Bulls leading 33-30.
2:37 — Welp, Drexler isn’t giving in. He get a steal and goes coast to coast, and finishes with a nasty dunk in traffic. Drexler was always a much more spectacular dunker than I felt he got credit for. I kinda feel like this Bulls fan after seeing that dunk…
3:05 — Jordan hits a couple of threes, which leads to a shot of Levingston on the bench waving a towel and screaming, “He. Is. Hot. Whooo!” If there were a spiritual successor to Levingston in this year’s Finals, I’d have to go with Draymond Green.
3:11 — Love this from Johnny Bach, Bulls assistant coach: “I said to Phil, ‘Phil, do you sees what’s happening?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ (laughs) We couldn’t believe it.”
3:36 — This is how you know MJ is cooking: Scottie Pippen misses a layup on the break and MJ’s right there for the follow-dunk. The Blazers are also leaving him room to shoot, which is probably a topic for a different day.
3:49 — Cover that man! I mean, look at this…
On this play, Jerome Kersey‘s actually pulling up his shorts to prepare to defend MJ as Jordan is sticking a three in his face…
4:08 — And then right after we hear that MJ has set an NBA Finals record with 5 three-pointers in a half, he goes and hits his sixth three pointer — again, wide open — and as he runs back down the court next to Cliff Robinson, Jordan throws up The Shrug.
Why is he shrugging? Because he can’t believe all of these shots are going in? Or because he can’t believe they aren’t really defending him, much less double-teaming him and making him give up the ball?
Anyway, it’s all downhill from there, mostly literally for the Blazers. Jordan had 35 in the first half, and finished with 39 in a 122-89 blowout win. The Bulls went on to win the series in Game 6, their second consecutive Finals win (and second of six).
Michael Jordan made a career out of giving us moments. But this one may have been his greatest moment of all of them.