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The Ten Toughest Teams Michael Jordan Has Ever Faced in the NBA

Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

1. The 1985-1986 Boston Celtics

The 1985-1986 Boston Celtics were a stacked team with five Hall of Famers: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Bill Walton and Dennis Johnson.

The Celtics had one of the best frontcourts in the league, and they were an excellent defensive team.

Despite battling the best team in the East, Michael Jordan still managed to score 63 points in Game 2 of their first-round matchup. The Bulls still lost to the Celtics in double overtime with a final score of 135-131.

Jordan did not have much help as the Bulls still fell in three games. His best teammates were Orlando Woolridge, Dave Corzine, Charles Oakley and John Paxson.



2. 1997-1998 Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers were a team custom-built to beat the Chicago Bulls, and they were very close to pulling it off. The team had a tough interior defense anchored by the gigantic Rik Smits and by tough men Dale Davis and Antonio Davis. They also had a great facilitator in Mark Jackson. The Pacers were able to outgun their opponents with scorers like Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin and Jalen Rose.

In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Reggie Miller made a clutch three-pointer over Michael Jordan in order to send the series to a seventh game. The Bulls would eventually prevail by a narrow margin with a final score of 88-83 in Game 7.

The Pacers were the closest team to beating the Bulls during the Bulls' run for a second three-peat. They were coached by Larry Bird, who was a former rival to MJ.

Detroit Bad Boys

Detroit Bad Boys

3. 1987-1988 Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons were a stacked team. Though they were by no means a superteam, they had a bevy of quality big men who could all score and defend the interior, such as Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, James Edwards, Rick Mahorn and John Salley. The Pistons also had one of the best backcourts with Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars. In addition, they had two more offensive options in Adrian Dantley and Vinnie Johnson.

Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Adrian Dantley and Dennis Rodman were all eventually nominated to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Their coach, Chuck Daly, would also go into the Hall of Fame as a coach.

The Pistons at this time were one of the most hated teams in the NBA due to their rough style of play. They would frequently get into fights with players of the opposing team. Thus, these Pistons were known as the "Bad Boys."

The Pistons handily dispatched Jordan's Bulls 4-1 in the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals.



4. 1984-1985 Los Angeles Lakers

The 1984-85 Lakers had a cavalcade of Hall of Famers. This included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Jamaal Wilkes and Bob McAdoo. They also had a bunch of quality players in scorer Byron Scott, defensive ace Michael Cooper and hustle guy Kurt Rambis.

These Lakers were a powerhouse that finished with a 62-20 record in the regular season. They then demolished the Suns, Blazers and Nuggets on their way to the NBA Finals. There they dispatched the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics in six games in order to win the championship.

While the Bulls and Lakers split their regular season match-ups 1-1, the Bulls only won by 1 point (112-113).

As good as Jordan was in his rookie season, there was no way he was beating five Hall of Famers in a playoff series.



5. 1992-1993 Phoenix Suns

The 1992-1993 Phoenix Suns was a potent offensive team with many offensive options in Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Danny Ainge, Tom Chambers, Cedric Ceballos and Richard Dumas. The team boasted seven players who averaged double figures through the season, and they were the number 1 ranked offensive team that season.

This was Barkley's first season with the Suns and he quickly proved himself by winning the MVP award and by leading the Suns to the NBA Finals.

They could have won it all had it not been for Jordan.

Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic

6. 1994-1995 Orlando Magic

The 1994-1995 Orlando Magic had one of the best starting lineups in the league with all five starters being offensive threats. They had Shaquille O' Neil, Anfernee Hardaway, Dennis Scott, Nick Anderson and Horace Grant.

The team was the league's top offense that year and was one of the league's powerhouses.

The most memorable achievement of this team was dispatching a returning Jordan in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and reaching the NBA Finals.



7. 1992-1993 New York Knicks

The 1992-1993 New York Knicks were a tough team; they played a physical style similar to the Bad Boy Pistons. The Knicks had a good core of players with Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks, Anthony Mason and Charles Smith. They also had quality players such as Doc Rivers, Rolando Blackman and Tony Campbell.

The team won 60 games that season and was the league's top defensive team.

They gave Jordan all he could handle in the Eastern Conference Finals before losing in six games.



8. 1984-85 Philadelphia 76ers

The 1984-85 Philadelphia 76ers still had the core of the 1983 NBA Championship team while also having a promising rookie in Charles Barkley.

The Sixers had a core of Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Moses Malone and Andrew Toney. They were still a talented bunch.

While Erving was no longer in his prime, the Sixers had enough left to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost to the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics 1-4.



9. 1995-1996 Seattle Supersonics

The 1995-1996 Seattle Supersonics were an exciting team anchored by the duo of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.

They also had a great supporting cast of sharpshooters in Detlef Schrempf and Hersey Hawkins as well as defensive ace Nate McMillan.

The Sonics were the second-best defense in the league and the eighth-best offense.

They breezed through the playoffs until they faced the Utah Jazz. They won in seven games but found themselves in a 0-3 hole against the Bulls before losing in six games.

Utah Jazz

Utah Jazz

10. 1997-1998 Utah Jazz

The 1997-1998 Utah Jazz had one of the best duos of all time in Karl Malone and John Stockton. Their deadly pick and roll was one of the most efficient plays in the league. While the Jazz were not as talented as other teams, their success laid in their execution and the brilliant strategies used by their Hall of Fame coach, Jerry Sloan.

The Jazz had decent supporting players in Jeff Hornacek, Shandon Anderson and Bryon Russell. They were a very good team that won 62 games that season using their very efficient offense.

This team was vanquished by Jordan's game-winning jumper in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

© 2021 Jan Michael Ong