After sweeping the defending champion Detroit Pistons in the infamous 1991 Eastern Conference Finals and exorcising the disappointing demons of playoffs past in the process, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls sauntered into the NBA Finals to face off against none other than Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers. With Chicago’s biggest bully now in its rear-view mirror, it seemed pre-ordained that this was Jordan’s year to ascend to the NBA’s summit.

After losing Game 1 in disappointing fashion, Jordan refused to lie down, opening Game 2 with an offensive flurry. He poured in 33 points and dished out seven assists, but his most indelible mark on the game (and the series) would be another one of his patented aerial shows.

He received a pass from Cliff Levingston at the free-throw line, blew past Magic and took off. As he was reaching his apex, A.C. Green and Sam Perkins lay beneath him, bracing for a potential meeting at the rim. Jordan, sensing a block attempt from the right, switched the ball from his right hand to his left, in mid-air, before kissing it off the glass with a left handed scoop–a truly unbelievable display of dexterity. Marv Albert’s call of the “spectacular move” would live on in NBA highlight reel tapes for the next three decades. Jordan and the Bulls dominated the game and cruised the rest of the series en route to a 4-1 rout. The coronation had begun.

Jordan’s on-court exploits weren’t the only part of his ever-expanding portfolio to hit the stratosphere, as his sneaker line had already infiltrated pop culture on a massive scale. Buoyed by incredible ad campaigns featuring the likes of Spike Lee, prime placement in movies like Do The Right Thing and TV shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the Jordan III, IV and V had pushed the brand to unforeseen levels of success. Masterminded by the genius Tinker Hatfield, by 1991, he was now faced with the unenviable task of making hit after hit. And he did just that.

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