First of all, it's hard enough to read the defense and anticipate the pass while one is looking directly
at the passer, so let us keep that in mind. How many times have we seen players get burned when they gamble for the steal? every night many times.
MJ starts to guard his man at the :11 mark.
He never fully turns to the passer, and actually the passer at the :12 mark isn't even attempting to pass to MJ's man, his first option is the post.
This is the most that MJ looks at the passer, and it happens in a blink of an eye. One must also notice that MJ doesn't turn to fully face the passer, hell... he doesn't even turn a quarter to face him. Not only does he turn to face him, if he turned his head so that it's paralleled to his shoulders (which means he'd be facing sideways), the passer wouldn't be in a straight line or in a clear path to his vision. The passer is actually behind him and at an angle.
So even if he did turn his head completely paralleled to his shoulder, he did it so fast it would've been very hard for an avg person to get a full glimpse of the passer, specially considering the pace and speed of an NBA game. But again... the passer was slightly behind him and at an angle, so for MJ to get a good read he'd have to not just turn his head sideways, he'd have to turn his entire torso towards him to get a better view, and he'd have to time it immaculately.
Now.... the pass HASN'T been made yet, MJ has his entire back to the passer.
Not only does he time the pass perfectly, he knows where the pass is going. The pass isn't made directly to where MJ was/is, he has to intercept the pass before the offensive player even finishes cutting.
Yes I agree with some of the posters.... it was about timing, it took great peripheral vision (of course he doesn't literally have eyes behind his back
) but this was an amazing play. One of MJ's most amazing plays I've ever seen him do. More amazing than almost all of his shots, dunks, passes, etc. I have great peripheral vision, I'm trying to turn my head at the same degree that MJ did and position my body in the same way MJ had his at the moment he could've peeked at the passer. But I'm also taking into consideration the angle, distance the passer would've been.... it's impossible for me to see anything at a certain radius. Which means MJ was completely basing his anticipation on the person 'receiving' the pass. He was looking at the offensive player in the same way dbs look at WR's eyes to defend.
Any way one wants to look at it, it was a very impressive play and should be included in all of his highlight reels from now on.
EDIT: SHIT.... sorry for the big ass pics. :face palm