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An unknown stat makes that legendary game even more impressive and helps explain why fans get angry when stars rest.
(Originally published June 8, 2017, at the now defunct 16WinsARing.com)
If you want to fully understand Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game,” you first have to understand one of Michael Jordan’s greatest statistics: 357.
It’s a stat that is rarely discussed. The number most associated with MJ, besides 23, is 6. As in “6 rings.” Once upon a time, MJ’s career was defined by a melange of numbers. People thought about 63 and 69. They pictured him in 9 and 45. They were astounded by 7, and later 10, for his scoring titles. They grimaced at .202 and glowed with pride over 72–10.
No number in NBA history serves as more of a mic drop in current hoops debates than MJ’s 6. The figure may be augmented in different ways, like “6–0” (his Finals record) or “6 for 6” (his Finals MVPs). But, unquestionably, 6 is the number. He likes it like that.
“She wasn’t no cop, man. She looked like one of Orlando’s hoes.”
That quote right there — that was the first ever “Wee-Bey reaction GIF.” You know the one even if you don’t know its source. A man with his hand on his chin, mouth staring, eyes agape, turns his head over his right shoulder as if shielding himself from impossible news.
To know why a Cubs win can elicit fireworks on a Wednesday night and grandparents giggling and strangers hugging on the moonlit streets of Chicago, Illinois, you have to first know what broke those people. Mine was Game 7, 2003. I couldn’t drink after that game. I was in college and I was too sad to drink.
I called my parents on my walk home that night and kept muttering variations of “I thought they’d do it. I really thought they’d do it.” My mother comforted me. Then my father took the phone, heard me out, and said:
The genius of the character of Marlo Stanfield is that a textless, bold-colored headband came to feel too flashy.
He opened without one, an intro so perfect yet under the radar because the scene is about Bubbles, not this unnamed, previously unknown character whose first appearance departing a building is teamed with the sound of a bird chirping, as if Marlo is a hawk fledging from his nest and preparing to hunt the people of Baltimore like squirrels.
I’ve never felt thrilled for another city’s fans. Not like this.
That is nearly the exact same intro I used for my column May 14, 2010, the day after the Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated by the Boston Celtics — AKA the final game LeBron played as a member of the Cavs until his return last year.
Way back in October, back when the Bulls’ record of 72 wins was safe, I began an essay about the 12 moves the Bulls made between June 1993 and October 1995 that turned an aged, bickering, 57-win champion into a flourishing, rejuvenated, 72-win juggernaut.
Seven months later, I have a 13,000-word e-book and have spent more time reading about and watching clips of the 1995-96 Bulls than any time other than 1995-96. I’ll save you the suspense: It’s been a sweet 7 months!
Thus I am very proud to release “How The GOAT Was Built: 6 Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls.”
I believe in the planning and principles behind the ‘96 Bulls and the whole second three-peat. A lot of sound reasoning went into those teams. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any luck.
As I researched this team, I had fun diving into history’s wrinkles — those mostly forgotten sharp left turns our memories ironed into straightaways. The lesson: like the parable of the Chinese farmer, you truly never know if an event will end up being good luck or bad, so plan the best you can, react pragmatically, and move on.
And with that, here are my two favorite “what if?” moments of the 1996 Bulls — they’re related.
What if Chris Dudley didn’t sign with the Trail Blazers in 1993?