Facing a prime Michael Jordan must’ve been intimidating, but in 1992, even with one ring on his finger and three MVPs to his name, players knew they were going against a man who was only getting better. One of those men was future Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, who was considered at the time to be one of the best pure scorers and top players in the game. Drexler and the ’92 Trail Blazers won 57 games, and the 6-foot-7 guard was about to join Jordan on the Dream Team, but even though he was Jordan’s peer in many ways, he knew Jordan was impossible to stop. Especially after tying the Finals at two games apiece.
Imagine being one of the best players in the NBA — someone who has dominated the game throughout their entire lives and are challenging for a title — only to come to the realization that a basketball god stood before you, and he was shrugging his way to greatness.
Drexler’s dilemma is perfectly illustrated by a quote in Trail Blazers and Seahawks owner Paul Allen’s memoir, Idea Man.
“We had out moments against the Bulls. Midway through the fourth quarter of a tight game four in Portland, Clyde tapped the ball away from Jordan and converted it into a dunk, setting off a surge that evened the series at two games apiece. Nearly giddy, I went into the locker room afterward and found Clyde slumped in front of his locker, completely exhausted, an ice bag on every joint. And I said, “Clyde, that was a brilliant steal. You read Jordan perfectly.”
He looked up at me, shook his head, and said, “Stop, stop, you don’t understand. Most guys have two or three go-to moves; Jordan has nine. I guessed right, that’s all. I got lucky. Sometimes you get the bear, but usually the bear gets you.” Clyde knew the score. The Bulls, on the cusp of a dynasty, beat us in six games.”
Astute Redditor Ginormousego found the moment in the video above. It’s a good play, and Drexler would consistently be the best player on the floor for the Blazers each night in those six Finals games, but it ultimately meant little. Jordan would crush all en route to his second championship, and Drexler would need to move to Houston (and have Jordan retire) in order to finally get his one and only ring with Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995.
Now let’s watch “Shrug Game” highlights because there’s nowhere to go from here but through a ’90s Bulls rabbit hole.