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The shot left John Stockton's hand, spinning out from it the way nearly all of his jumpers did back in the day, lifted to an apex of his controlled body, arms extended up, up, up over his head and next thing …
We'll get to the next things in a minute.
I remember "The Shot" as though it happened yesterday. A scary thing, really, considering it's been exactly 20 years now. From press row in the old Summit, which fittingly enough, at least in the eyes of Jazz fans, is now a large church, I could see what was happening: An inbounded ball by Bryon Russell, scant time slipping off the clock, a screen set by Karl Malone on Clyde Drexler that would have landed him in jail had it happened on the street, Charles Barkley on a switch hesitating to get out to the shooter, as Stockton had popped free up top, accepting the ball, measuring the successful completion of the most fondly remembered moment in Jazz history.
But what happened before that moment made it even more memorable. Not the far-distant stuff, the games and playoff series of the past that had ended in disappointment and defeat. No, the much more recent events, the ones that occurred in the fourth quarter of that particular Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference finals.
It was a game the Jazz, ordinarily speaking, had no business winning.
Ordinary, though, had no hold, no place on that day.
The Jazz were about four freeway exits past losing in Houston. They knew in the far reaches of their minds they had Game 7 at the Delta Center in reserve a couple of days later, back when the Jazz reigned over their home court in a devastating manner for opponents that they've never experienced since. Everybody in the building was fully aware of the hand the Jazz had yet to play.
Perhaps the only one who didn't care, who wouldn't let that bit of insurance comfort him was … You Know Who.
After the Jazz fell into a double-digit deficit to Houston, led as the Rockets were by Hakeem Olajuwon, Barkley and Drexler, it was Stockton who hauled the Jazz back out. In a remarkably uncharacteristic way, the unselfish point guard took remaining matters into his own hands. He palmed the entire game the way he could the ball, and somehow the whole thing looked every bit as weird as that anatomical disproportion. The man who stood 5 foot 11 suddenly was the biggest man on the floor.
He scored 15 fourth-quarter points on all kinds of shots, including the last one.
When he elevated, slightly left at the top of the arc, the score tied, the crowd intently watching, hoping for inaccuracy and getting the opposite, Bill Walton uttered his famous expression: "Uh-oh."
As the shot splashed, two jubilantly raised fistfuls of things happened:
1) Stockton leaped into the air,
2) the Jazz bench exploded,
3) the click of a camera lens caught the all-time Jazz trifecta of Malone, Stockton and Jeff Hornacek hugging and jumping up and down, looking like kernels of JiffyPop on a hot burner,
4) Jerry Sloan did the rhumba across the floor, grinning broadly,
5) the Jazz qualified for the first time for the NBA Finals,
6) the Summit went dead silent, the PA announcer uttering over the loudspeakers the final score,
7) in a most unusual way, the celebratory voices of the Jazz players and coaches could be heard in all corners of the large arena,
8) the Rockets wandered off, shocked and heartbroken,
9) the writers on press row went into a frenzy on a late, late night on a tight deadline, readjusting their stories and columns to fit the now extraordinary events of the game,
10) sitting in a car and listening on the radio with his wife, Gail, and his grandson, Zane, in a parking lot outside the old Cowboy Grub restaurant in Salt Lake City, some 1,500 miles away, Jazz owner Larry Miller freaked.
"We hollered and yelled and let it all out," he said. "We celebrated like little kids. I'm sure Zane thought I was nuts. It surprised me how quick and how high the emotional spike was, probably because I had done such a good job of holding that in over the last few years. All of a sudden, everything exploded. It was ecstasy, too good to be true. In that instant, it hit me. ... If there was any question whether all of this had been worth it, it was answered right then and there."
On the scene, Stockton told those of us covering the game: "I don't know how to explain the feeling I have. It's tremendous. I want to savor it, enjoy it."
So he did … and still does, along with Jazz fans everywhere … two decades later.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM. Twitter: @GordonMonson.