Michael Jordan turned 50 on Sunday, a fact we’re sure you know by now. We’ve got one more treat for you, though, to remember the GOAT’s birthday by. Today: The 5 best games by Michael Jordan you may have forgotten about.
Over the course of Michael Jordan’s 15-year basketball career, he blessed fans with an unusual amount wealth of iconic memories. These defining moments are so deeply ingrained into the basketball mythos that they are remembered not by date or opponent, but simply by name: “The Flu Game,” “The Buzzer Beater,” “The Shrug,” “The Double Nickle,” “The Playoff Record,” “The Lay-Up,” “The Shot on Ehlo,” “69 Points” and of course, “The Last Shot.”
While it’s unlikely that any basketball fan will forget these moments, as time creeps on and our collective memory fades, we inevitably â€” and unfortunately â€” forget some of the other remarkable performance MJ graced us with during his career. (He played 1,072, so it happens.) In an effort to preserve some of these “lost games,” we’ve compiled a list of 5 of the best Jordan games you might not remember.
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5. Nov. 30, 1995 at Vancouver Grizzlies
The Vancouver Grizzlies didn’t win a ton of games in their expansion season, but on Nov. 30, 1995, the Grizz appeared to have caught Jordan and the Chicago Bulls on backend of a seven-game roadtrip. With 5:37 remaining in the fourth, the lethargic and banged up (Dennis Rodman was out with an injury) Bulls trailed Vancouver 76-73â€”that is, until rookie Grizzlies’ guard Darrick Martin made a tragic mistake: he taunted Jordan.
“You ain’t so hot,” he barked, according to David Halberstam in Playing For Keeps. “I can guard you any time I want.”
Martin’s comments were all Jordan needed to motivate him. The process of adding wood to the proverbial fire inside him, as he put it during his Hall Of Fame speech, had been set into motion.
Jordan instantly found his groove, and knocked down five consecutive field goalsâ€”a dunk, a pull-up, a driving lay-up, a fadeaway, and an off balance jumper plus the foul shotâ€”in 2 minutes to put the Bulls up three. And if that weren’t enough, he then added a baseline fadeaway, a circus lay-up, a steal and a dunk, pull-up, a driving lay-up, and, to finish the game, another steal and slam. Jordan converted 9 of 12 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 points in the final 6 minutes as Derrick Martin looked on from the bench. Chicago won 94-88.
4. Nov. 29, 2001 at Charlotte Hornets
Collectively, I think we’d all prefer not to remember Jordan’s years as a Washington Wizard. Indeed, rather than end his career on the most storybook of storybook endings, Jordan, 38 at the time and retired for three seasons, decided to make a second comeback attempt in 2001. It was not the same.
Although still supremely talented, Jordan struggled to keep up with his younger opponents, averaging just 21.2 points, 4.4 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game in two seasons with the Wiz (which in turn dropped his career totals by 1.4, 1 and 0.4 respectively) and missing the playoffs twice.
For one night in December 2001, though, Jordan was young again as torched the Charlotte Hornets for 51 points. It was a classic Jordan performance. He shot 55 percent (21 of 38), grabbed seven rebounds, dished four assists and had three steals in 38 minutes of action. Remarkably, MJ’s first 24 points came in the first quarter, including knocking down a nifty double-pump 14-footer off the glass while drawing a foul.
After the game, it was perhaps Jordan who summed his performance best: “I’ve had nights like this before. It’s just been awhile.”
3. April 13, 1989 at Indiana Pacers
If there was any question as to how magnificent Jordan was as a basketball player, consider the following: For 11 consecutive games during the spring of 1989, Jordan recorded a triple-double in 10 of them, and fell short by a mere three rebounds in the other. Again, for emphasis: 10 triple-doubles in 11 games. During that span, he averaged 33.6 points, 11.4 assists, 10.8 rebounds, 2.9 steals, and made 51 percent of his field goals.
Maybe the most impressive of these games statistically occurred on April 13, 1989 against the Indiana Pacers. On this night, Jordan, who had been moved to the point by coach Doug Collins that spring, had 47 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and two blocks. Jordan operated as a true triple-threat for the Bulls: snatching defensive rebounds, finding open teammates for easy hoops and attacking the rim when necessary. The advanced stats bear this out, as well: Using 37 percent of Chicago’s possessions that night, MJ was responsible for 23.5 percent of the team’s defensive rebounds, assisted on 58.3 percent of made field goals, and shot 65 percent cumulatively (that, is his True Shooting percentage). Despite this gargantuan effort, the Bulls lost nonetheless, and the team was forced to recalibrate its offense before the 1989 playoffs, namely by moving Money back to the second guard spot.
2. April 29, 1992 at Miami Heat
Jordan holds both the highest and third-highest single game point totals in NBA postseason history. The former, of course, occurred when MJ notched 63 against the Celtics at Boston, and has been discussed ad nauseam since. Conversely, the latter, against Miami in game 3 of the 1992 Eastern Conference Quarter Finals, has received considerably less fanfare.
Despite holding a 2-0 Chicago series lead, the Heat ran up an 18-point first quarter lead against the defending champs, and Jordan, for his part, had but two points in the period. Then MJ caught fire. He netted 17 points in the second quarter, 19 in the third and then 18 in the fourth for a total of 56 on 20 for 30 shooting. In doing so, Jordan helped pull the Bulls back into the game by nailing a fadeaway to take the lead with 5 minutes remaining, as well as a pair of free throws to seal the victory for the Bulls. He also added five boards, five assists and four steals.
Jordan and the Bulls ultimately advanced to the 1992 NBA Finals, where they defeated the Portland Trail Blazers to win the second of sixth championships in the 1990s.
1. April 3, 1988 at Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons represented the tallest hurdle for Jordan early in his career, relying on mental toughness and hardnosed play to frustrate, and ultimately, eliminate the younger Bulls. Crucial to the “Bad Boy” Pistons’ success against Chicago was a set defensive principles invented by Detroit head coach Chuck Daly called the “Jordan Rules.” The Jordan Rules were essentially designed to make games as physically demanding for Jordan as possible by sending multiple defenders at him whenever he touched the ball, making him work for every shot, and in the event he did get a shot off, pounding him as hard as possible.
The impetus for Daly’s strategy was an April 1988 regular season game in which the Bulls defeated Detroit 112-110. Jordan recorded one of the most efficient performances of his career against Detroit: 59 points on 77.8 percent field goal shooting (21 for 27) and making 17 of 19 free throws â€” the final two of which sealed the Bulls’ victory. His offensive rating (that is, the number of points produced per 100 possessions) was an astounding 173.
Maybe most impressive about Money’s night was that the majority of his attempts came from midrange. Although he was often criticized at the time for his shooting, Jordan was on fire from the field, draining pull-ups off down screens and in one-on-one situations against defenders Joe Dumars and Vinnie Johnson.
After a game like that, it’s no small wonder why Daly resorted to the Jordan Rules. He might not have been stopped otherwise.
*All statistics provided by Basketball-Reference.com
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