Sunday, March 24, 1996, will forever live in Toronto Raptors' history as one of the first most memorable moments the franchise was a part of.
ON THIS DAY (Mar. 24, 1996) the expansion @Raptors beat the eventual 72-10 championship bound Chicago Bulls 109-108 in front of 36,000 fans! pic.twitter.com/8Uv8pLVPvx- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) March 24, 2021
It was on that date that Toronto earned what still stands as one of the more improbable wins in league history. It caused our NBA Global Staff to wonder: What if we were covering games back then? After watching the game in its entirety, I hopped in the time machine, so to speak, to come with a few takeaways from the buzzer.
Here's how it all went down…
Damon Stoudamire dazzles with 30 points, leads Toronto Raptors past Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls
With the one-point win, the expansion Raptors (18-49) become just the eighth team to beat the Bulls (60-8), who saw their six-game win streak come to an end as Jordan didn't get the potential game-winner off in time.
Behind 30 points from rookie sensation Damon Stoudamire, the Toronto Raptors earned the most impressive win of their inaugural season with a 109-108 win over Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls at the SkyDome on Sunday.
Jordan scored a game-high 36 points but it wasn't enough, as Toronto was finally able to get over the hump to defeat Chicago.
Here are some thoughts from the game:
1. What a win!
Over 36,000 fans were on hand to witness a moment that will be talked about for years to come.
It was such a momentous occasion that a number of fans sat in parts of the SkyDome that had no view of the court just to be in the presence of the greatness that is Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
Come for Jordan, stay for the Raptors, who used a red-hot shooting performance to become just the eighth team to defeat the Bulls this season. Credit to Oliver Miller, who would step up to the line and sink the free throw that would prove to be the difference in this game.
Expansion years are full of highs and lows, for sure. This game was by far one of the highest highs of any expansion franchise in a long time.
2. Damon Stoudamire…here to save the day
He might be diminutive in stature, but the heart of Toronto's outstanding rookie is immeasurable.
After scoring 14 points in the first half, the 22-year-old that has affectionately come to be known as Mighty Mouse would finish with a career-high 30 points (on 11-for-21 shooting), 11 assists and four rebounds, all while dealing with the defence of Jordan.
"I just try to go out there and do what I do best," Stoudamire said after the game. "And that's penetrate, kick, try to make things happen."
It's almost as if Stoudamire lives for these specific moments. Where other rookies might be intimidated by the Bulls, Stoudamire finishes the season averaging 24.5 points, 11.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds over four games against Chicago.
3. Michael Jordan did what he does best
After scoring 13 points in the first quarter, Jordan would explode for 23 points in the second half, including 15 in the fourth quarter alone.
It's amazing to think that it's been a little over a year since he returned from retirement.
To try to make things difficult for Jordan, head coach Brendan Malone gave veteran Alvin Robertson the defensive assignment to make things difficult for his former Olympic teammate and friend; he did all he could.
Robertson had picked up three fouls by halftime and in the second half, some of Jordan's best buckets came over Robertson, who played very solid defence. Jordan's offence was just better.
Late in the game, Doug Christie got a big stop on Jordan with the game tied at 108. On the game's final possession, Robertson forced Jordan to give the ball up, resulting in a missed jumper from Steve Kerr and Jordan's potential game-winner that he got off a tenth of a second too late.
4. Carlos Rogers sets the tone early
Like Stoudamire, Carlos Rogers finished with eight points in the first quarter alone.
Rogers was the first to get the Raptors on the board with a big dunk in the opening minutes and finished above the rim again a few plays later. The 25-year-old was fearless, even refusing to back down from Ron Harper when the two got tangled up.
He would go on to finish with an impactful 15 points (12 in the first half) to go along with five rebounds and three assists.
5. 3s, please!
Led by Stoudamire, who shot 6-for-8 from beyond the arc, Toronto was 11-for-17 (64.7 percent) from 3-point land in the game. It's worth noting that one of Stoudamire's misses was a desperation heave late in the shot clock, so he was more like 6-for-7. Either way, it was impressive.
After Mighty Mouse, Christie shot 3-for-3 and Tracy Murray was 2-for-3, giving the Raptors a clear advantage from the perimeter.
The Bulls, who are led by the league's best 3-point shooter in Steve Kerr (51.5 percent), shot just 6-for-18 (33.3 percent) from the land beyond. Kerr was 3-for-6, Toni Kukoc was 2-for-5 but the rest of the team was 1-for-7.
Enough to make a difference.
6. Chicago's streak comes to an end
The Bulls entered Sunday having not lost in two weeks.
Toronto was able to hand Chicago its first loss since Mar. 10, snapping a six-game win streak that it used to create an even bigger advantage over the second-place Orlando Magic in the standings.
The six-game win streak pales in comparison to the Bulls' streak of 18 games earlier in the season but the fact that the expansion Raptors could put this streak to an end is remarkable, to say the least.
7. Fourth time's the charm
On Nov. 7, the Raptors lost at the United Center by nine points, on Dec. 22, the Raptors again lost at the United Center by nine points and on Jan. 18, Toronto had a chance to tie the game late before losing to Chicago by three points at home.
Sunday, the team finally got over the hump.
The Raptors had proven they could hang with the Bulls three times this season but hanging in there wasn't good enough. The team made the necessary plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter to prove to itself that it is capable of beating this team, something only seven other NBA teams can say they've done this season.
That's not too shabby.
8. What's next?
Toronto is back in action on Tuesday when it plays host to Mookie Blaylock, Steve Smith and the Atlanta Hawks.
The Bulls, who are still in a good position for the best finish in NBA history, must go 10-4 to have a better finish than the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers (69-13). They'll also be back in action against the Hawks when they host them on Thursday.
The Raptors would go on to win three more games in their expansion season, finishing with a record of 21-61. Stoudamire, who posted averages of 19.0 points, 9.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds in his first NBA season, would be named Rookie of the Year.
Jordan and the Bulls would finish the season by winning 12 of their last 14 games, good for a then-NBA best 72-10 record. Chicago went on to win its fourth NBA title in six years - the first of three straight.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.