Michael Jordan missed his last shot. Good luck finding the material – on YouTube or elsewhere – as an excavation crew would struggle to find the missed layup within 8 minutes, 13 seconds in the third quarter of their last Washington Wizards game.
That shot He was buried, never discussed, just like the last two years of Jordan's glorious career with the Wizards – a time that, given the rational perspective, is not nearly the catastrophe that some believe. It's just stuck to the unattainable standard Jordan set from his time with the Chicago Bulls, which means it's just not comparable.
For this reason, Jordan's last shot with the Bulls in 1998 will always be remembered by his fans and most passionate mythologists. The setting, the controversy, the backyard dream of all this will make Jordan's pull-up about Bryon Russell forever the perfect end of a career he has considered the best she has ever put together. No matter, he came back three years later and took 2,851 more shots. It does not matter that he was the only guard in NBA history to score at least 20 points after his 38th birthday. Regardless that he was the oldest player ever to score 51 points in the NBA, or 45 in the next game, or that his 96-point total came from just a 3-pointer. It does not matter that Jordan actually generated an MVP buzz – that's no joke – before a knee injury robbed him of the last quarter of his first season with the Wizards.
Jordan's shot to secure the Bulls' second three-goal and sixth championship in eight seasons was so exemplary that everything that followed became irrelevant. This was Roy Hobbs pounding the lights in The Natural. Jimmy Chitwood pulled up at the end of "Hoosiers" and Billy Hoyle caught that praise from Sidney Deane at the end of "White Men Can not Jump" was not some fantasy, script writer. It was Jordan who wrote his own legend in real time and posed to make sure the perfect end to a legendary career was perfectly permanent.
Russell added a few intrigues because there will always be a debate over whether the shot should have been allowed, and it only added Jordan's mystique to have thought control over officials. But the boost also meant Jordan's fight this season in Chicago. Jordan was 35, lost his legs and won his fifth MVP with willpower and a faulty knight. Scottie Pippen was injured and missed almost half of the season. The Bulls had been pushed to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final against the Indiana Pacers – Jordan had since the 1992 Conference semi-final against the New York Knicks play all seven games of a series. And when he reached the final, Pippen was no longer able to offer deception maneuvers.
The jazz had home-field advantage after sweeping the season's series and aiming to become the first team to miss the game from a 3-1 deficit to Jordan – believe it or not – at the end of Game 5 a game winner. Chicago had to win Game 6, especially with Pippen and possibly not for Game 7, so Jordan had to become a superhero. And he was. This push paved the way for this 20-foot jumper and wiped away all the drama that preceded it. Jordan not only won the title, but ended the Bulls dynasty as every child fantasizes. The shot threw such immense shadow over the league that the next generation of stars – even an aging, shaky Jordan – could not miss the comparisons with this version of the man who was responsible for it.
Away from The Game while worshiped as God seemed the best way to go, but Jordan did not want it to end there. The Bulls parted without his consent. Jordan itched three years later, when he could no longer meet games as Wizards manager. He came back for his sake, not for anyone else, and the fact that no one really wanted to return made it easier to dismiss him.