Memorable Michael Jordan Moments
Who is Michael Jordan?
Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time). Born in North Carolina, Jordan rose to prominence when he hit the game-winning jump shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship game against Georgetown. This was a surreal moment in his life as he was able to take center stage just as his idols Magic Johnson and Larry Bird did just a few years back.
Jordan was drafted in 1984 by the Chicago Bulls and immediately took the league by storm. He averaged 28.2 points per game on a 51.5% shooting average. He took home Rookie of the Year honors. He also produced an endless supply of highlight reels and quickly became a household name.
Michael was able to carry the underdog Chicago Bulls to playoff berths during his early years but were constantly being eliminated by the Eastern Conference powerhouses such as the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons. With the development of Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, the Bulls were finally able to eliminate the vaunted Pistons and advance to the NBA Finals. Once the Pistons roadblock was gone, they vanquished the aging Los Angeles Lakers and captured their very first title in franchise history.
Michael was then able to capture two more titles with victories against Portland and Phoenix. However, his father died and he chose to try his hand in baseball. He would come back a year and a half later and try to win another championship. Though he was able to carry the team to the Eastern Conference Finals, they were soundly beaten by the talented Orlando Magic.
This lit a fire in Michael and he led the Bulls to a 72-10 record which was the best record in NBA history at that time. He would go on to capture three more titles—one against Seattle and two against Utah. He retired for the second time.
With the itch for the game continuing to plague him, it wasn’t long until he decided to have one last run; he joined the Washington Wizards this time. He completed two seasons with the Wizards and finally retired for the very last time.
Despite having been retired for nearly two decades, Michael Jordan still continues to be an influential athlete. His brand continues to rake in billions for Nike and he is now the owner of the Charlotte Hornets. He is still the yardstick by which others are measured.
63-Point Onslaught at the Boston Garden
Michael Jordan’s second season was mostly lost due to a foot injury. This caused him to miss 64 games. He came back with a vengeance and willed his team to the playoffs. They were up against the vaunted Boston Celtics who had five future Hall of Famers in tow—Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, and Bill Walton.
Most young players would wilt under the pressure. This did not faze Jordan. He scored 63 on the best team in the Eastern Conference. "I didn't think anyone was capable of doing what Michael has done to us," marveled Celtics ace Larry Bird. "He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."
Jordan's Free Throw Dunk
The legend of Air Jordan began as soon as he stepped on a NBA court. Fans were treated to dunks and aerial acrobatics reminiscent of “Doctor J” Julius Erving. It would only be proper that he would join the Slam Dunk Contest.
His first foray in 1985 was unsuccessful as he was edged out by “The Human Highlight Reel” Dominique Wilkins. He would later try again in 1987 and would narrowly beat out a young Jerome Kersey. He got his revenge against Wilkins the following year in 1988 as he won the contest using his iconic dunk from the free throw line.
Jordan's Clutch Shot on Craig Ehlo
The Bulls were a better team with the arrival of Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant but were still not among the NBA’s elite. It would be several years before that would occur. The Cleveland Cavaliers were fast becoming a dominant team in the NBA. They were led by Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, and Larry Nance. They compiled the third best record in the East while the Bulls were only sixth. The teams met during the 1989 playoffs.
Despite being a lower seed, the Bulls kept the series close. The series was tied at 2-2 after four games and Game 5 was for all the marbles. It was a dogfight until the very end. Craig Ehlo and Larry Nance knew that Jordan was going to get the final shot and tried to stop him. Jordan floated over the free throw line and scored the winning basket.
Here is the moment as immortalized by Johnny Kerr and Jim Durham.
Durham: The inbounds pass comes in to Jordan. Here's Michael at the foul line, the shot on Ehlo... (overlapping Kerr) GOOD! Bulls win!
Kerr: Good! The Bulls win it! They win it!
Durham: They upset the Cleveland Cavaliers! Michael Jordan hits it at the foul line! 101–100! 20,273 in stunned silence here in the Coliseum. Michael Jordan with 44 points in a game hit the shot over Craig Ehlo. What tremendous heroics we have had in Game 5. From both teams, what a spectacular series this has been. In my days in the NBA, 16 years, this is the greatest series I've ever seen!
Switch Between Hands Layup Against the Lakers
Michael Jordan’s goal from day one was to win a NBA Championship. It was his seventh year in the league and the road to the Finals was not easy. Boston and Detroit proved to be worthy adversaries and stopped the Bulls cold every time they met.
1991 proved to be a breakthrough year and the Bulls finally trounced the Detroit Pistons in a sweep. The next stop was the Los Angeles Lakers. It was the old guard versus the new guard. In the waning moments of Game 2, Jordan showed his aerial acrobatics with his famous switch between hands layup.
Michael Jordan made his name as a spectacular dunker. He used his natural athleticism to dunk over people. However, he was much maligned for his jump shooting ability.
His rival for shooting guard supremacy was Clyde “The Glide” Drexler. People had a debate as to who was the better shooting guard. Jordan silenced the critics by making six three-pointers in the first half en route to a blowout victory. Upon making his sixth shot, he turned towards the broadcast table and shrugged.
Michael Jordan Retires for the First Time
During the offseason, tragedy struck the Jordan household. James Jordan, Michael’s father, was found dead in his car. The assailants, Daniel Green and Larry Martin Demery, were later caught by the police and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The tragedy led to his decision to retire. On October 6, 1993, Jordan shocked the world and retired at the age of 30. His retirement was a big blow to the sport of basketball, who had made Jordan its global ambassador.
Michael Jordan tried to realize his childhood dream of being a professional baseball player after his first retirement. He played for the Birmingham Barons, which was an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. In his short stint, he compiled a batting average of .202 and had three home runs.
On March 18, 1995, he made a simple announcement—“I’m back.” This revitalized the NBA and the struggling Chicago Bulls. They eventually made the Eastern Conference Finals but were crushed by the East’s new powerhouse—the Orlando Magic.
Jordan Dunks on Mount Mutombo
During the 1997 All-Star Weekend, Dikembe Mutombo reminded Michael Jordan that he had never dunked on him. Mutombo was one of the league’s best defenders who was known for taunting his opponents with a finger wag after he blocked their shot. The Bulls and Hawks would later meet in the playoffs and Jordan would finally scale Mount Mutombo.
The Flu Game
It was the 1997 NBA Finals on a pivotal Game 5. The series was tied at 2-2. The winner of this game would win the series.
It was noticeable that Jordan was displaying flu-like symptoms. Theories about his actual condition have ranged from having the flu to food poisoning to having a hangover. Regardless, scoring 38 points and helping lead your team to victory on a pivotal Game 5 is nothing to sneeze at.
The Last Shot
The Utah Jazz were leading 86-85 with less than a minute remaining with possession. This was their chance to bring this series to a Game 7 and potentially win the championship. Everything seemed to go Utah’s way.
Then Michael saw the chance to save the day by stealing the ball from Karl Malone. He would go ahead and shoot over Bryon Russell and do a quick fist pump. In the final possession, John Stockton would attempt a three-pointer that would miss, thus giving the Bulls their sixth and final championship of the Jordan era.
Neil Funk best describes what transpired during the waning moments of the game.
“Screens across. Malone to the post. Malone...stripped by Michael, to the floor, stolen by MJ! Michael the steal! 16 seconds left, Bulls down one...Michael against Russell, 12 seconds...11...10. Jordan, Jordan, a drive, hangs...fires...scores! He scores! The Bulls lead 87-86 with five and two-tenths left, and now they're one stop away! Oh my goodness...oh, my goodness!”
For the time, it seemed like a perfect storybook ending to one of the greatest careers in basketball history. The game winning shot on the biggest stage of them all.