It is one of the most iconic sports photos ever taken.
The photograph, taken by veteran NBA photographer Fernando Medina, captures the moment Michael Jordan sinks the final shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz.
Look closely through the faces and the gestures of the Utah Jazz fans in the crowd.
Can you find the two kids, obviously Chicago Bulls fans; the only two obvious Bulls fans with their hands in the air?
One of them is definitely holding up 6 fingers.
There is 6.6 seconds left on the shot clock.
Jordan stands at 6 feet and 6 inches tall.
This shot would all but secure the Bulls their 6th NBA championship of the Jordan era in June, the 6th month of the year.
And it goes in.
The Jazz fans knew this was the best chance for them to win the championship. They had an incredible team and even better supporters. The ageing Bulls had reached the end of an era. Surely they could not win a 6th championship in 8 years?
The faces in the crowd of the Utah Jazz home fans tells the story.
The hands on the head.
The hands across the mouths.
The mouths open.
In another tenth of a second, despair.
Life is like that. Full of despair. Those moments often called ‘sliding doors’ moments happen every day. Some have no bearing on how we go about the business of our day. Many change the course of our lives forever.
Some of these moments we live with the wonderful consequences- like that “chance” meeting with my future wife in the photocopy room at my workplace.
Some of them will change our lives forever. The missed opportunity to make the most of a chat with someone not realising that at that particular moment, this would be the last time we would see a person.
Despair can sink in without the support of our friends and family. We reach out to God and ask him to save us from the feelings we now have to face. Those Utah Jazz fans in this photo reminded me of who I am and who we usually are in so much of life. Scan the image and you will see what I mean.
Those two young Bulls fans are who we want to be. Have you found them yet?
There is no guarantee this shot will go in.
There is no guarantee, even knowing that the Jazz have 5.2 seconds to win the game, that this is THE winning shot for the 6th championship.
There is no guarantee these two boys would not be ridiculed for being so arrogant, bold or full of confidence to raise 6 fingers and arms BEFORE the shot has even gone in.
To be full of that hope and confidence is what we all aspire to be, just like these two boys. Despite being in a sea of people who appeared to be against them, they remained hopeful.
This simple snapshot just stuck in my head and clearly reminded me that “hope does not disappoint.”
And why does it not disappoint?
“Because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [which] was given to us” (Romans chapter 5 verse 5). It’s available to ALL of us, not the select or the elected; it’s for ALL of us. Jesus promised to leave God’s spirit behind so we can make it through every game this life puts us in- whether we choose to play or not.
At the end of the game, when the Bulls had won their sixth championship, their second 3-peat, Phil Jackson (coach of the Chicago Bulls) embraced Michael Jordan and quite simply said, “Oh, my God! That was beautiful! What a finish!”
Michael replies, “I had faith! I had faith!”
Jackson responds, “I’ll bet you did. God Bless you.”
We so often miss our final shots. But there are so many other times we hit the shot, win the game and just get it right. And perhaps at the end of it all, we can look forward to the day God comes up to us and says, “That was beautiful! What a finish!”
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html