To many, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan is the greatest player in NBA history. In this piece, we’ll take a look back at some of the more interesting moments from his illustrious career — both on and off the court.
Eight steals in a half
Michael Jordan was a prolific scorer, to be sure, but he was also a hound on the defensive end of the floor. In fact, at 2,514, he ranks 3rd on the NBA’s all-time steals list to this day, behind only John Stockton and Jason Kidd. Furthermore, MJ earned nine All-Defensive First Team nods over the course of his career, proving that he is truly one of the best defenders the NBA has ever known.
In a road game against the Celtics in 1988, Jordan’s defensive prowess was on full display. Remarkably, the six-time champion recorded a whopping 52 points and nine steals, eight of which came in the first half alone. This is no casual feat, especially when considering the fact that Boston had a roster consisting of greats like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish at that time.
Thanks to Jordan’s defensive efforts, the Bulls held a 53-47 advantage over the Celtics heading into the halftime locker room:
Michael Jordan vs. Reggie Miller
Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller shared a quarrelsome relationship, with plenty of trash talking over the years. As a result, the Bulls and Pacers became Central Division rivals.
Before we go any further, it’s worth noting that Miller, a known antagonist in his day, was one of the few players who could get under Jordan’s skin.
In February of 1993, tempers came to a boil. Miller, whose Pacers were serving as hosts to the Bulls, sank a put-back layup over Jordan. Ordinarily, this would be a routine play in the NBA — no need for agitation. Reggie, being the button pusher that he was, though, decided to bump into Michael under the stanchion after the play.
Jordan immediately took offense to Reggie’s bump and chased him down the court. The two players met face-to-face near midcourt. After some hands to the face, as well as a few choice words, His Airness landed a punch to Miller’s jowl.
As you might expect, benches from both teams joined the fray. Interestingly, though, it was Miller who was ejected instead of Jordan. After further investigation, however, the NBA later decided to suspend Michael for one game.
Years later, Jordan noted that his on-court incident with Miller was like “chicken fighting with a woman:”
“It’s like chicken-fighting with a woman,” Michael Jordan said of his spat with Miller, via Bleacher Report. “His game is all this flopping-type thing. He weighs only 185 pounds, so you have to be careful, don’t touch him, or it’s a foul. On offense I use all my 215 pounds and just move him out. But he has his hands on you all the time, like a woman holding your waist. I just want to beat his hands off because it’s illegal. It irritates me.”
Extreme trash talk
Jordan was clearly a supreme athlete, but he was not afraid to engage in a bit of trash talking with his opponents. In fact, it often fueled his competitive fire.
During a first-round matchup against the Charlotte Hornets in the 1995 Eastern Conference Playoffs, Jordan’s ruthless banter was in full effect. On what was one of the bigger plays of Game 5, Michael began taunting Hornets point guard Muggsy Bogues, daring him to take a shot.
The series was tied at two games apiece, and it was likely the biggest possession of the game. Muggsy obliged, taking a shot. Unfortunately, though, he missed. He later noted that this single play “ruined his career.”
Former Bulls assistant coach Johny Bach recanted the scene in an interview with Deadspin:
“On the biggest possession of the game, Mugsy [sic] had the ball with the Hornets down 1. Jordan backed off of him and told him: ‘shoot it you f***ing midget.’ Muggsy shot it, didn’t come close. A year later Mugsy actually told Johnny Bach that he believes that single play ruined his career. His shot never recovered.”
Michael Jordan enjoyed many great seasons, but the 1995-96 campaign was arguably his best. The former UNC Tar Heels standout led the Bulls to a record 72-win season, then went on to claim his fourth NBA championship with a new cast of teammates, defeating the Seattle Supersonics in six games. Along the way, he earned a record fourth Finals MVP and became the league’s leading scorer.
It was Jordan’s first championship since returning from baseball. He finished Game 6 with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
The flu game
Ah, yes, the famous flu game. It was June 11, 1997, and the Bulls were squaring off against Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Though he was experiencing some serious symptoms, Jordan willed himself to play in Game 5. He didn’t just play, though. He logged 44 minutes, scoring 38 points in a 90-88 victory.
Jordan looked out of sorts in the first quarter, but he recovered with 17 points in the second. He then struggled in the third, but came alive in the fourth, scoring seven points in a 10-0 run and erasing Utah’s 77-69 lead. His 3-pointer in the closing seconds gave Chicago the lead for good.
“Probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” Michael Jordan said afterward, via NBA.com. “I almost played myself into passing out just to win a basketball game.”
A betting man
Jordan is a competitive guy, be it on the court or other settings. While playing in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in 2011, Jordan accepted a wager from a heckling fan. The spectator bet that the NBA legend couldn’t hit the green in one shot on a par 3, but he was sadly mistaken.
After his shot landed safely, Jordan hurried over to collect his money:
Claiming a sixth championship
We’ll end this catalog of Jordan stories on a championship note — six of them, to be exact.
Jordan hit what has now become known as “The last shot” while playing the Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals — a 17-footer with 5.2 seconds remaining that gave the Bulls an 87-86 victory and a second three-peat.
The scene was straight out of a fairy tale, a storybook ending to Jordan’s all-time great legacy with the Bulls.
Jordan came away with a steal with roughly 17 seconds remaining on the game clock. His Bulls were trailing by one point, 86-85. After dribbling the ball around the perimeter for a bit, His Airness dished out one of the nastiest crossovers in NBA history, sending his defender, Bryon Russell, straight to the floor. Jordan then proceeded to knock down the game-winning jumper from the free-throw line.
“When the crowd gets quiet, the moment is there,” Michael Jordan said, via ballislife.com. “Once you get into the moment, when you know you are there, things start to get quiet, and you start to read the court very well. When Russell reached, I knew the moment was there.”
Jordan led his team against the Jazz in Game 6, scoring 45 points and four steals.
In the end, there may never be enough time to tell all of Jordan’s great stories. One thing is clear, though: fans around the globe still hold him in the highest regard.