The videotape shows me jabbing my fist in a downward spike. I was off the hook. I had earned $5,000 for the kids on the West Side. What the crowd didn't know was that privately I had told the Bulls that if I missed all three shots I would pony up five grand myself. Why should the kids be penalized if I turned out to be a lox?
And now I had a "free" shot. I went into my crouch, I suppose, but I honestly don't remember it. What I do remember is that shortly after the ball left my hand, I really liked the way it looked going toward the basket.
Influenced by the way Jordan backs away from a three-pointer he imagines will go in, I, too, backed away from the center stripe.
Reinsdorf would later tell me he thought the ball was going in. So would journalist and Jordan confidant Bob Greene, stationed under the basket.
The ball hit the right side of the rim solidly...and bounced to the right and to the floor. I can now relate to Patrick Ewing's missed finger roll in Game 7 of last season's playoff series against the Indiana Pacers, even though my shot was 42 feet longer.
On the Bull bench, center Bill Wennington flashed two thumbs up. After the game Reinsdorf offered to have me shoot again next year.
And what about Him? Nada. He had other things to think about.
But not I. Not a day has gone by that I haven't thought about the Shots, how close I had come to hitting one, and all that led up to the experience. The training paid unexpected dividends. Payton's instructions have helped me conquer a number of fears. Last spring I took my kids on Space Mountain, the roller coaster in the dark at Walt Disney World. For the first time I kept my eyes open. And twice I went down the world's tallest water slide at Disney World's Blizzard Beach, a 120-foot drop in which I reached a speed of 55 miles per hour on my movie-seat-contoured butt. The change in my behavior: I now seek out a challenging experience with my eyes rather than close them to it.
One day last May I ran into Paxson. "You surprised a lot of people," said the man who won Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals with a three-pointer from about 24 feet. I told him I loved the athletic experience because its results were so concrete. I did what I did, and everybody saw it. I told him I felt for the first time the high of being a professional athlete. And Paxson replied, "It's the greatest, isn't it?"