The year of 1993 sports was highlighted by walkoffs to win championships. The NBA Finals came to a dramatic end in Game 6. The Chicago Bulls were leading the Phoenix Suns 3-2 in games, but trailing by two points in the final seconds, and staring at a Game 7 on the road. The ball swung to John Paxson on the left side. Paxson was open from three and he drilled it, giving Michael Jordan’s Bulls their third straight title.
Fast forward to October and the Toronto Blue Jays were going for their second straight World Series title. It was another Game 6, and the Blue Jays—having lost Game 5 and coughed up a 5-1 lead in this game, were another defending champion staring at a Game 7 they would prefer not to play.
Trailing by a run, the Jays got two runners aboard in the bottom of the ninth. Joe Carter came to the plate and launched a game-winning home run for a second straight Blue Jay championship.
Major league baseball had another dramatic subplot prior to the final act. This was the last year in which no wild-cards were allowed in the MLB postseason, and thereby the last year where there was a true pennant race. The San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves each won over 100 games and fought to the last day of the season before Atlanta finally prevailed.
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The ACC won national championships in both college basketball and college football, with North Carolina and Florida State respectively, but the big story was the team that finished as runner-up on both counts.
In football, Notre Dame beat Florida State head-to-head in mid-November. Both teams finished the season with one loss, and no one was undefeated, save for Auburn who was on probation and had not competed in either a bowl game of the SEC Championship Game. Notre Dame and Florida State had each won their bowl games. Yet the pollsters voted the Seminoles national champs.
The history books show this as Bobby Bowden’s first championship team, but the reality is that the Irish were the uncrowned champs of the 1993 college football season.
North Carolina didn’t have the same atmosphere of a tainted title lingering over their championship, but the lasting legacy of the 1993 Final Four is that of Michigan’s “Fab Five”—the recruiting class led by Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard that reached the NCAA final as freshmen in 1992 and then made it back to the Monday night stage one year later. Carolina played good, solid basketball throughout and allowed a big mental error by Webber to swing the title to Chapel Hill.
The 1993 Final Four might not have been won by either UNC or Michigan, if not for untimely injury in Indiana. Bob Knight’s Hoosiers had beaten Michigan twice, would win the Big Ten and made it to a regional final of the NCAA Tournament. But in late February, power forward Alan Henderson was lost with a knee injury.
By the time Indiana got deep into the tournament, the loss of Henderson’s athleticism and shot-blocking skill was too much to overcome. The great basketball fans of Indiana have not forgotten this stellar team, and history shouldn’t either—especially because it proved to be the last truly great team produced by Knight.
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The Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup Finals were each won by proud, traditional powers, albeit ones that were at different stages on their historical arc.
The Montreal Canadiens were a long ways removed from the dynasty years of the late 1970s, were seeking their first Cup since 1986 and were not a great team in the regular season. But they had a great goaltender in Patrick Roy and they won a juicy Finals matchup against Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings.
The Dallas Cowboys had just won the Super Bowl a year earlier and were a dynasty in the making. They had a problem early, when running back Emmitt Smith held out for two games in a contract dispute. But Emmitt came back, the Cowboys got rolling and they won another Lombardi Trophy, the second in what would be a run of three Super Bowl titles in four years.
A footnote to the Dallas run is that they ousted the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs. It’s noteworthy, because this was Green Bay’s first time in the playoffs since 1982 and only their second postseason appearance in twenty years. The Packers were in their second year with Brett Favre at quarterback. The 1993 NFL season began a steady diet of postseason football in Green Bay, first behind Favre and then later behind Aaron Rodgers.
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