The airing of “Game 6: The Movie,” a high-definition rendering of the classic Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz, has uncovered many details from the past. Among them is this photograph by veteran NBA shooter Fernando Medina, who captured a kid predicting Michael Jordan’s shot going in before “The Last Shot” went down the hatch.
A kid in a red shirt can be seen lifting all five fingers of his left hand and his right index finger, symbolic of Jordan’s would-be sixth title upon burying a game-winning shot after crossing over Bryon Russell.
The image never stops being anything short of glorious, as Toni Kukoc, Dennis Rodman, and an unflappable Michael Jordan track the trajectory of the ball as it goes up in the air. Even Jazz players like Jeff Hornacek, Karl Malone, and the defending Russell hold their breath for those few seconds of air time.
Rivera, a Cuban refugee with no formal photography training, learned from some of the best in the business, including some of the legends in sports photography: Barry Gossage, Andrew D. Bernstein, Nathaniel Butler and Walter Iooss.
Rivera was named the Orlando Magic team photographer in 1996 and got the opportunity to cover the 1998 NBA Finals and take this iconic Jordan photo.
Medina has seen this photo thousands of times, but yet he admits it’s “crazy” to find new twists to this moment in time. He has also noticed some of his own, like this kid raising his hands, calling it before Michael Jordan’s shot tickles twine.
“In the picture, see if you can find it, there’s a little boy wearing a black Bulls jersey and he’s got his hands up in the air. He knows that shot is going in,” Medina told NBA.com. “There’s no doubt in his mind that the Bulls just won. All the people’s expressions are what makes that picture. That and a little serendipity on the clock, because with 6.6 seconds left on the clock … It’s his sixth championship, in his sixth try, he’s six-foot-six, it was in June. All these sixes, which is crazy about this picture. It really adds to it too.”
The magic in Michael Jordan’s fairytale career will never cease to amaze us, and these nuggets of candor are exactly what made “The Last Dance” all the more special while the world is at a standstill.