Michael Jordan is a walking human highlight reel. Here are 5 of the biggest highlights in Michael Jordan's career.
1. Back-to-Back Slam Dunk Championships
The Slam Dunk Contest began in 1984, and in its early years, the contestants were the superstars of the league. Unfortunately, in recent years, the quality of contestants has had a massive dropoff from the heyday of this event. Most casual fans don't even know who the contestants are.
Michael competed in three of these events (1985, 1987, 1988). He did not compete in 1986 due to an injury. The competitors he was against in the three events were the likes of Dominique Wilkins, Julius Erving, Larry Nance, Darrell Griffith, Clyde Drexler, Ron Harper, Jerome Kersey, Spud Webb and Tom Chambers. If Jordan's competitors were not mostly All-Stars, most of them were starters in their respective teams.
After suffering defeat at the hands of Dominique Wilkins in 1985, Michael became the first player to ever win the event back-to-back. He won in 1987 and 1988. This feat was not repeated until Jason Richardson won the event in 2002 and 2003.
Ironically, Jason's jersey number was also the number 23.
2. 63-Point Assault at the Boston Garden
This match pitted Michael Jordan against five Hall of Famers in Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Bill Walton. It was like Thanos challenging the Avengers or Steppenwolf taking on the entire Justice League. Most players would have been crushed or would wilt under the pressure of playing against such competition. Jordan was different. He did not waiver.
The Bulls limped through the regular season as they did not have Jordan's services for 64 games due to injuries. They did manage to get to the playoffs with a 30-52 record. Their reward for their perseverance was a first-round match-up with one of the greatest teams in NBA history.
On that night, Michael was mostly hounded by Dennis Johnson, the NBA Finals MVP in 1979 and multiple-time NBA All-Defensive First Team and NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection. He also had to deal with All-Star Danny Ainge. Despite this, he was able to score 63 points in that game and even helped force the game to go into overtime.
Michael may have lost this battle against Boston's cavalcade of stars, but he did gain the respect of Larry Bird who said, "He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."
To get this compliment from one of the two best players in the league at the time was certainly a feather in the cap of Michael Jordan.
3. The Best Shooting Guard in the NBA
Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler were two very comparable players. They had similar height and weight. They were also very athletic and could defy gravity. Both were also great scorers. The question was who was better?
While Michael may have bested Clyde in two Slam Dunk Contests, this does not prove that much as many contest winners end up not having spectacular careers.
The chance for the debate to be settled came in 1992 when the Chicago Bulls faced the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA Finals. The first four games were close as the two teams merely exchanged victories. At the end of 4 games, the series was tied at 2-2. The Bulls later won games 5 and 6 en-route to their second straight championship.
Jordan proved to Drexler who the better shooting guard was.
4. The Passing of the Torch
Michael was a student of the game. In addition to playing basketball against his brother Larry at their homemade basketball court, he also watched plenty of basketball as well. He idolized Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and even watched the 1979 NCAA Championship Game between Magic Johnson's Michigan State Spartans and Larry Bird's Indiana State Sycamores.
Michael was an immediate impact player upon his arrival in 1984. However, it was not his time yet. His time would come later
Michael was just entering his prime and Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant had developed into All-Star caliber talent. Michael won his first championship against his childhood idol Magic Johnson in five games. This was a passing of the torch from Magic to Michael.
5. The Last Dance
Tensions were high between the Bulls' top players and the Bulls' management. Despite the success of the franchise, the owner and general manager refused to give credit to the players.
Jerry Krause, the Bulls' general manager, firmly believed that organizations won championships. He believed that if Jordan left, he could easily assemble another dynasty. Phil Jackson was not coming back the next season and neither was Michael Jordan. It was the Bulls' last hurrah.
Despite all the drama that year, Michael was able to will the Bulls back to the Finals for a rematch against the Utah Jazz. Jordan would end up with a fairy tale ending to his career where he shot the winning basket in the NBA Finals and won his sixth ring.
This was Michael's last game in the NBA. Or so we thought.
© 2021 Jan Michael Ong