The Seattle Sonics and the Chicago Bulls squared off back in the 1996 NBA Finals. The Bulls go on to win the series in six games (4-2), giving Michael Jordan and company their four championships in six seasons.
Before the start game four of the Finals in 1996, Nate McMillan could not bend over and touch his toes due to the pain his lower back and his left hamstring that had been affecting him for two weeks, but ended up playing 14 minutes against the Bulls anyway.
“I can shoot the ball without pain; I don’t have to jump,” McMillan said. But by MacMillan, just being out there allowed his teammate Gary Payton to be more effective in different areas on the court. Payton was able to run Michael Jordan through screens, take him out to the three-point line, and allowed him to start running his mouth while regaining his confidence.
When Payton was asked about how he was able to make this happen, Payton replied, “Nate, Nate MacMillan.”
MacMillan missed games 2 and 3 due to injuries after winning game 4 107-86 over the Bulls. Following the victory
“I have a whole summer to rest. Besides, it’s more inspirational to my team when I’m in a Sonic uniform instead of a nice suit. A lot of the guys, I saw a glow in their faces when they saw me tonight, McMillan said Payton told him, and it motivated him even more.”
The Sonics would also win game five as well but fell short in game six.
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Nate Mac Millan Shared a Story About Michael Jordan Before he was the Superstar he is Today
Last week following a 112-109 win over the Dallas Mavericks I spoke with Nate McMillan and asked him to share his best Michael Jordan story. He told me that might not exciting as other people’s stories, but he met Jordan before he was known as Michael Jordan or The Jumpman.
“I met him when I was a junior in high school, headed into my senior year. He was going into his freshmen year at North Carolina, and I went down and played against him. My brother graduated from UNC Wimbolton, and so I thought my brother was bringing me down there to play against him because he would come over to the university and play, and we end up playing on the same team,” said MacMillan.
“We were two high school kids, and he might remember this, but we swept all the games. The only other memories I had were in the 96 Finals, and I wished I was healthy in all those games. I had a back injury, so I only played in two games and the two that I played in we own.”
McMillan is now the head coach with the Indiana Pacers, and they are currently 39-26 tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with the Philadephia 76ers.