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Chicago Bulls

This Date in NBA History (June 5): Michael Jordan's iconic "mid-air" switch vs. Lakers in Game 2 of the 1991 Finals and more

On June 5th in 1991, Michael Jordan pulled off one of the most famous in NBA history against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 of the 1991 NBA Finals.

Off the pass from Cliff Livingston, he drives down the lane for what seems to be an easy dunk with his right hand. Instead, he hangs in the air and banks it in reverse, off his left hand.

"Cliff threw it back to me and I saw a clear lane to the basket," Michael Jordan began explaining the play at the postgame press conference. "So, I was going to dunk the ball but then I saw long-armed Sam Perkins there, and it was just instincts to change it. I changed it to my left hand and was able to get it off."

After losing Game 1, their first Finals game in franchise history, by just a couple of points (93-91) in the final seconds, the Bulls fought back strongly and won Game 2 by a convincing margin of 21 points (107-86).

The Bulls were led by their dynamic wing duo of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, each of whom recorded a points-assists double-double to combine for 23 of the team's 35 assists. Jordan finished with 33 points, 13 assists, and seven rebounds on 15-of-18 shooting from the field in 36 minutes while Pippen finished with 20 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds on 8-of-16 shooting from the field in 44 minutes.

"It was his [Jordan] game tonight," said Lakers point guard Magic Johnson after the game.

In the game 2 loss, Johnson finished with 14 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, and two steals in 43 minutes. For the series, he nearly averaged a triple-double but couldn't lead the Lakers to their 12th championship in franchise history.

Instead, the Bulls wrapped the Finals series in five games and clinched their first-ever NBA Championship. Across the five games, Jordan averaged 31.2 points, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.8 steals on 55.8% shooting from the field.

Other notable events on June 5th

  • In 1977, the Portland Trail Blazers clinched their first and only NBA championship in franchise history by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 109-107 in Game 6. In the clincher, Finals MVP Bill Walton finished with 20 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists and then an NBA Finals record eight blocks.
  • In 1992, Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of the Finals 115-104. In overtime, Danny Ainge, who scored nine of the Blazers' 18 points, tied a Finals record set by John Havlicek (1974) and Bill Laimbeer (1990).
  • In 1996, the global television coverage of the Finals between Chicago Bulls and Seattle SuperSonics reaches a record 169 countries on six continents in 40 different languages. The Bulls' 107-90 win in Game 1 at the United Center earns a 16.8 rating and a 31 share on NBC and is viewed in a record 16,111,200 homes.

Game-winning buzzer-beater on June 5th

Dennis Johnson vs. Los Angeles Lakers in 1985

Notable playoff eliminations on June 5th

  • In 1994, the New York Knicks advanced to their seventh Finals in franchise history with a 94-90 Game 7 victory over the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals behind Patrick Ewing's 24 points, 22 rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks. The 1994 Finals was the franchise's first championship series appearance since 1973.
  • In 1993, the Phoenix Suns defeat the Seattle SuperSonics 123-110 in Game 7 of the 1993 Western Conference Finals led by Charles Barkley's monster double-double of 44 points and 24 rebounds. The victory helped the franchise advance to their second Finals appearance in franchise history and the first since 1976.

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