The closest I came to losing hope during the Bulls' dynasty years was June 14, 1992. I was an emotional and impressionable 7 year old.
This was Game 6 of the NBA Finals and the Bulls found themselves down 15 points to the Portland Trail Blazers heading into the final quarter.
Sure, the Bulls had a 3-2 series lead at that point, but this Blazers team proved to be a worthy adversary throughout Finals, and especially on this evening.
For every attempt at a Bulls run, it seemed like Portland would answer with a Jerome Kersey dunk or Terry Porter jumper. Clyde Drexler shot poorly, but helped keep the Blazers in front with a timely steal and block.
I was watching the game in the basement of my home when my Dad came downstairs and found me sobbing. Thankfully, this was a time well before camera phones and the internet or else I would've undoubtedly found myself as a viral clip for terrible parenting.
I thought it was over.
Not only was I devastated by the impending loss, but I was traveling overseas the next morning on a family vacation. In the event of a Game 7, I wouldn't be able to witness a second consecutive title during this primitive age of landlines and rabbit ear antennas. And that's under the assumption this Bulls team could bounce back to win a Game 7 after getting destroyed tonight.
I remember my Dad questioning/ridiculing my (over) reaction. He wasn't as consoling as he was practical. He said something along the lines of "it's just a game" and "there's still the fourth quarter."
This was difficult for me to comprehend as a child.
Maybe he wanted to toughen me up as a kid or just simply put things into perspective.
Or maybe he knew I should keep faith in the defending champions because then the fourth quarter started. Or more specifically, Scottie Pippen happened.
Pippen led a second unit lineup to start the quarter with Michael Jordan on the bench. I would've sworn this was a concession by coach Phil Jackson that the game had already been lost.
Instead, there was Scottie drawing triple teams, moving the ball for a hockey assist on a Bobby Hansen corner 3, and bullying his way on the block for a bucket. On the defensive side, Scottie was forcing multiple turnovers, including a Drexler double dribble that not only prompted a Blazers timeout, but basically represented the tipping point in completely shifting the momentum to the Bulls.
In a span of 3:30, Scottie led a 14-2 run to bring the Bulls within three points. Jordan eventually reentered the fray, but it was Pippen who continued the onslaught by weaving through Blazer defenders for a coast-to-coast layup. With Portland still clinging onto the lead, it was Pippen who finally tied the game with a desperation three as the shot clock wound down.
Yes, Jordan closed the game in a frenzy by scoring 10 of the Bulls last 12 points, but it was Pippen's playmaking on both ends of the floor that acted as the catalyst to make it all possible.
In the end, Pippen scored 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, setting the table for the first NBA title celebration on the Bulls' home floor... and a pretty dope family vacation.