Posted February 15, 2013

Jordan Rules: 50 reasons why we’ll never forget Michael Jordan

Ben Golliver, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan, Rob Mahoney
Michael Jordan dunks

Six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan turns 50 on Sunday, Feb. 17. (Walter Iooss Jr./SI)

By Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney 

Michael Jordan, who won six NBA championships, five MVPs, 10 scoring titles and two Olympic gold medals, turns 50 on Sunday. Here are 50 reasons — from Air Jordans to the commercials to The Shot to The Shrug — why we’ll never forget His Airness.

1. Missing The Cut

In November 1978, a 15-year-old “Mike” Jordan tried out for the varsity team at Laney High in Wilmington, N.C. A 5-foot-10 sophomore, Jordan was just one of many competing for 15 spots on varsity and 15 more on junior varsity. Jordan didn’t make varsity, famously using the snub as fuel for his competitive fire.

But his coach tells a different story. “They criticized me for cutting Michael Jordan,” Clifton (Pop) Herring told Thomas Lake in the Jan. 16, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated. “[But] he was placed on the junior varsity level. He wasn’t cut away from the game that made him.” Jordan made varsity his junior and senior year, eventually earning a scholarship to North Carolina.

Michael Jordan appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated

Michael Jordan was a first-team All-America as a sophomore and junior at North Carolina. (Lane Stewart/SI)

2. 1982 National Championship Game

Jordan’s late jumper — which propelled North Carolina past Georgetown in the NCAA tournament final — served as the inception of his highlight-reel dominance. But in the confines of this clip, he barely resembles his future self.

Jordan, then a freshman, was an afterthought, empowered only by a slight hitch in the execution of the Hoyas’ Patrick Ewing-anchored zone defense. Even on the catch, Jordan doesn’t hang in the air, fade away or break his man down off the dribble in signature fashion. He simply rises and fires, operating with a shooting form that seems completely unfamiliar. All of this is to be expected from the formative Jordan, but the contrast in his play and role are part of what make this sequence so memorable.

Click here for a photo gallery of Jordan in college.

3. The Covers

Jordan appeared on his first Sports Illustrated cover in November 1983 as a 20-year-old junior at North Carolina. He appeared on 49 more covers under headlines such as “A Star Is Born” and “Bag It, Michael!” Find every cover here.

4. Blazers Pass On Jordan, Take Bowie

The Rockets and Trail Blazers flipped a coin for the right to select first in the 1984 draft and yet neither team had plans to use the pick on Jordan. Even more incredibly, the Blazers never considered Jordan at No. 2 once they lost the toss. Hakeem Olajuwon went first, Sam Bowie went second and Jordan was left for the Bulls at No. 3, setting up Bowie for a lifetime of punchlines and giving Jordan a major market from which to turn a league that valued big men over everything else on its head.

5. Air Jordan I

Jordan’s supremacy in shoe stores has rivaled his influence on the court. Forbes reported this week that Jordan Brand sneakers represented 58 percent of the basketball shoe market, even though it’s been nearly a decade since Jordan’s last NBA game. The company’s annual signature releases are highly anticipated, and the release of popular retro versions of the sneakers has prompted extreme acts of violence in recent years. Jordan’s signature shoes made waves from the beginning: The first iteration was banned by the NBA, which fined Jordan for wearing them. Can you imagine a better selling point to teenagers?

For photos of every Air Jordan model, click here.

Michael Jordan scored 63 points against the Celtics in 1986

Michael Jordan’s 63 points were not enough against a balanced Celtics team. (Via YouTube)

6. ‘God Disguised As Michael Jordan’

One month after returning from a broken right foot that limited him to 18 regular-season games in his second year, Jordan dropped a playoff-record 63 points on the Celtics in Game 2 of a 1986 first-round series. “I didn’t think anyone was capable of doing what Michael has done to us,” Larry Bird said. “I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.” But as spectacular as the performance was, the Bulls still fell to the Celtics 135-131 in double overtime en route to being swept 3-0.

“Looking back, Jordan had to be a loser that day in Boston a quarter-century ago,” SI‘s Alex Wolff wrote two years ago in assessing the significance of that playoff loss. “Indeed, as the best team of all time, those Celtics had to be the winners, in the face of the greatest individual playoff performance of all time, to further the young Michael’s education in that most essential of hoop truths: that, in the end, a full team will beat any single player, no matter how good.”

7. 31.89

No single statistical measure captures a player’s entire value, but the default measuring tool of choice is Player Efficiency Rating (PER). The metric, designed by former writer and current Grizzlies vice president John Hollinger, weighs usage, possession efficiency and box-score contributions to reach one point of reference. Since the NBA started tracking individual turnovers in 1973-74, no player has posted a PER higher than Jordan’s 31.89 mark in 1987-88, when he averaged 35 points (on 54 percent shooting), 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 3.2 steals. (Jordan won the first of his five MVP awards that season, his fourth in the league.)

And, as we well know, Jordan’s superiority hardly stops there. MJ’s ensuing three seasons all take spots in the top five in single-season PER, a stretch of dominance that may never be topped.

8. 1988 Dunk Contest

The greatest dunk contest of all time offered Jordan the opportunity to avenge his loss to Dominique Wilkins in 1985. More prepared, more focused and performing in front of his home crowd, Jordan pulled off the win thanks to an iconic free-throw-line dunk on his last attempt, pumping the ball behind his ear and kicking out his legs to help sell the majestic aerial feat. With his second title in a row, he rode off into the dunk-contest sunset.

Michael Jordan shots over Craig Ehlo

Michael Jordan’s gravity-defying buzzer-beater over Craig Ehlo ousted the favored Cavs in 1989. (Manny Millan/SI)

9. ‘The Shot’

Sam Smith, a longtime NBA writer who used to cover the Bulls for the Chicago Tribune, relayed this anecdote in an story about the decisive Game 5 of the 1989 first-round playoff series between Jordan’s Bulls and the favored Cavaliers:

Although it’s difficult to believe now, the Bulls still weren’t a major story in Chicago because few considered them championship contenders. So there was limited media traveling. The only regulars were myself, Lacy Banks from the Sun-Times and Kent McDill from the Daily Herald. We’d all picked against the Bulls before the series, Lacy in three and Kent in four. I thought Jordan could win two games, but not three. So I had Cavs in five. The game was about to start and Jordan was pacing in front of the Bulls bench and scorer’s table, where we were sitting. Jordan’s mood was buoyant, as if he knew. So he stops and first points to Lacy and says, “We took care of you,” meaning Lacy’s prediction. Then he moves over to Kent and points and says, “And we took care of you.” Then he stops in front of me and points and says with a seemingly knowing smile, “And today we take care of you.”

In dramatic fashion, no less. Chicago trailed by a point when Jordan’s gravity-defying buzzer-beater over Craig Ehlo eliminated the 57-win Cavaliers, who had gone 6-0 against the Bulls during the regular season and finished 10 games ahead of their Central Division rivals. Jordan’s pure jubilation at making “The Shot” was noteworthy, too. Long before the mythos of Jordan as a cold-blooded assassin had come to prominence, MJ was a fiery, exciting player unlike anything the NBA had ever seen. This play captures that perfectly, as MJ completes a move that few others could make and seals the occasion with a leaping display of unrestrained passion.

10. Jordan Rules

As crazy as it sounds, there once was a time when Jordan was written off as an all-hype, all-stats star incapable of carrying his team to postseason glory. The biggest impediment to his success were the Bad Boys Pistons and coach Chuck Daley’s “Jordan Rules” approach, which stressed extra defensive attention and an ultra-physical handling of the game’s best scorer. The Bulls were eliminated by the Pistons in 1988, 1989 and 1990 before finally sweeping Detroit in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals on their way to Jordan’s first title. The Pistons, soundly defeated, left the court without congratulating Jordan and the Bulls; it was the end of Detroit’s era and both teams knew it.

11. Mars Blackmon

Is it the shoes? So asked Mars Blackmon, Spike Lee’s fictional character, who became a mainstay alongside Jordan in a series of Nike Air Jordan commercials in the 1980s and ’90s. Though the ads were meant to focus on Jordan and his shoe, Blackmon often stole the show with his distinctive black, thick-framed glasses, upturned cap and thirst for knowledge.

12. ‘Republicans Buy Shoes, Too’

NBA players don’t have any responsibility to be spokesmen for sociopolitical issues, but Jordan should forever be remembered for his incredible avoidance of subjects bigger than basketball. It’s part of the great marketing genius behind Jordan that the game’s greatest player was turned into a blank slate. Jordan famously declined to endorse a black candidate, Democrat Harvey Gantt, in a 1990 North Carolina Senate race against Jesse Helms. “Republicans buy shoes, too,” Jordan told a friend, according to Sam Smith’s 1995 book, Second Coming. He was a competitor, a champion and a leader, but by refusing to take any kind of stance, Jordan was also whatever you wanted him to be.

13. The Layup

This is a fantastic display of coordination and a play that doubles as an interesting discussion point. Jordan has said he switched hands mid-air on this layup during Game 2 of the 1991 Finals to avoid a challenge by the Lakers’ Sam Perkins, and his maneuver could indeed be a preemptive measure made in the presence of a looming shot-blocker. But another read on the play is that of flair for flair’s sake. Perhaps this is assuming too much in a moment of instant reaction, but Jordan seems to rise up, recognize the grounded defense and convert an incredible finish in place of an impressive — but likely forgettable — dunk. Maybe he took an opportunity to coax a bit of immortality out of it, and really, isn’t that what Jordan’s brilliance is all about?

14. White House snub

On Oct. 1, 1991, the Bulls went to the White House to celebrate the franchise’s first title. Jordan, however, was a no-show for the session with George H.W. Bush, prompting teammate Horace Grant — who reportedly had a paid speaking appearance on the day of the White House visit canceled — to rail against a “double standard” and say, “I’m not going to let him destroy the team.”

Jordan wasn’t the first or last player to snub the president. Larry Bird skipped the Celtics’ White House trip seven years earlier. Several athletes (including the Bruins’ Tim Thomas, the Steelers’ James Harrison and the Red Sox’s Manny Ramirez) followed suit in the years to come.

15. The Shrug

The Blazers entered the 1992 Finals intent on proving that they weren’t getting the credit they deserved as the media fawned over Jordan and the Bulls. It took Jordan all of 24 minutes to remind Portland why the headlines tended to begin and end with him.

Though he had led the league in scoring for a sixth straight season, Jordan was not known for his range. He shot only 27 percent (27-of-100) on three-pointers in 1991-92, averaging barely more than one attempt per game. Those numbers went out the window in the first half against the Blazers, as he sank an NBA-record six threes.  The sharpshooting even surprised Jordan, who flashed the now-iconic shrug after hitting the sixth triple. His 35 points at halftime represented a Finals record, and he finished with 39 points and 11 assists in a 122-89 victory. Chicago took the series in six games for its second title in a row.

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson share a laugh in Barcelona

Don’t let this scene fool you: Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were fierce competitors at the 1992 Olympics.(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

16. Greatest Game Nobody Ever Saw

Team USA’s utter dominance at the 1992 Olympics is well-chronicled, but its intrasquad scrimmages outside of the limelight may have been just as interesting. “The written record of that team during the summer of ’92 is not particularly large,” Jack McCallum wrote in his 2012 book, Dream Team. “Much of the story is yet to be told, and the scrimmage in Monte Carlo [three days before the Barcelona Games] may be the most tantalizing episode of all.”

That particular scrimmage saw the world’s best players going head-to-head in a playoff-like atmosphere fueled by the competitiveness of Jordan and Magic Johnson. Jordan’s White Team, which included Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen and Larry Bird, rallied past Johnson’s and Charles Barkley’s Blue Team 40-36. Which was good for everyone involved. “Let me tell you something — it would’ve been worse for everybody if he lost,” Johnson told McCallum. “Because I could let something go after a while. But Michael? He’d never let it go. He never let anything go.

Jordan savored the victory, as McCallum wrote:

“Way to work, White,” Jordan yells, rubbing it in. He paces up and down, wiping himself with a towel, emperor of all he sees, as Magic, Barkley and [Christian] Laettner disconsolately shoot free throws.

“It was all about Michael Jordan,” says Magic. “That’s all it was.”

It’s no joke. Magic is angry.

Jordan continues to pace the sideline. He grabs a cup of Gatorade and sings, “Sometimes I dream….” Jordan has recently signed a multimillion-dollar deal to endorse Gatorade, and the ads feature a song inspired by I Wan’na Be like You, the Monkey Song in the animated film The Jungle Book. The Gatorade version’s lyrics are:

Sometimes I dream/That he is me/You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be/I dream I move, I dream I groove/Like Mike/If I could be like Mike.

As Magic looks on in this sticky-hot gym, sweat pouring off his body, towel around his neck, there is Jordan, captain of the winning team, singing a song written just for him, drinking a drink that’s raking in millions, rubbing it in as only Jordan can do. And on the bus back to the hotel? Jordan keeps singing, Be like Mike…. Be like Mike. …

The game would have reverberations in Barcelona as Michael and Magic relentlessly continued to try to get the verbal edge on each other. And in the years that followed, this intrasquad game became a part of basketball lore, “kind of like an urban legend,” as Laettner describes it.

17. Living The Dream

The 1992 Dream Team juxtaposed Jordan with other basketball giants, which, if anything, only served to clarify the divide between Jordan and the best of the rest. Over the years, we’ve heard tales of what the NBA’s brightest stars were up to off the court at the ’92 Olympics, and it’s in that regard that Jordan truly stands alone. Much of the team got its fill of Monaco and Barcelona, but Jordan regularly hosted marathon card-playing sessions the night before a game and still managed to squeeze in some golf before tip-off. He was an absolute freak whose competitive drive had eclipsed his need for sleep, and yet Jordan’s unfathomable schedule didn’t keep him from being as dominant on the court as any Dream Teamer.

18. Be Like Mike

The formula was simple: highlight-reel footage of Jordan, canned shots of MJ smiling or goofing around on a playground court, plenty of Gatorade logos and a percussion-driven ditty that is quintessentially ’90s. It could have gone down as just another commercial, but the song was catchy enough — and true enough, for a generation that idolized Jordan — that it came to be an improbable anthem for the Jordan zeitgeist.

19. All In

Jordan’s gambling habits were well-documented during his career. From high-stakes card games and golf matches with unsavory characters to casino jaunts, Jordan craved the action — and took some hits as a result.

Jordan made headlines in 1993 for leaving New York between Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals to gamble in Atlantic City. The New York Times reported that Jordan lost $5,000 playing blackjack until 2:30 a.m. before returning to the Big Apple for his team’s shootaround. Jordan scored 36 points that night but the Knicks won, taking a 2-0 series lead. The Knicks wouldn’t win again; the Bulls won the next four games, highlighted by Jordan’s 54-point outburst in Game 4. Chicago went on to defeat the Suns in the 1993 Finals, collecting their third straight title.

Michael Jordan drives on Charles Barkley

Michael Jordan (right) and Charles Barkley met three times in the postseason with the Bulls winning each matchup. (Manny Millan/SI)

20. A Relationship Built On Respect

Drafted two spots apart in 1984, Jordan and Charles Barkley shared a unique bond throughout their careers. “I love him. We met in ’84 at the Olympic trials and we just had a chemistry,” Barkley said of Jordan on Oprah in 2005. “People ask me this all the time and I think the one thing he appreciates about me is that I don’t bug him.”

The two met three times in the postseason — Jordan’s Bulls won each matchup, including knocking off regular-season MVP Barkley and the Suns in an entertaining 1993 Finals — but often shared their best moments on the golf course. “Basketball never comes up. All we do is talk about is golf,” Barkley said in 1991. “I like playing golf. He likes playing golf. We love to play for money.”

Though Jordan always appreciated Barkley’s candor (“I love Charles. He’s very honest. Sometimes brutally honest”), hearing the truth about himself sometimes hurt. “I love Michael, but he just has not done a good job,” Barkley said in 2012 of Jordan’s time as an NBA executive. “Even though he is one of my great friends, I can’t get on here and tell you he’s done a great job.” Ouch.

21. Batter up

Jordan retired from the NBA for the first time in October 1993 to play minor league baseball, where he batted .202 with three home runs, 51 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 127 games for the Chicago White Sox’s Class AA Birmingham Barons. For basketball fans, it’s a shame that the greatest player of all time took a sabbatical during his prime. But Jordan’s first retirement has become an important and colorful element of his narrative and legacy and introduces a bit of mystery into the otherwise open-and-shut case of his basketball greatness. Could Jordan and the Bulls really have won eight straight titles had Jordan remained in the NBA? Or did Jordan’s absence facilitate the growth of players such as Scottie Pippen, who would only become more crucial during Chicago’s second three-peat?

22. ‘I’m Back’

Jordan faced a wall of cameras when he announced his retirement from the NBA in 1993. But his re-entrance wasn’t met with the same pomp and circumstance. Eschewing a three-ring media circus, Jordan issued a simple two-word press release on March 18, 1995: “I’m Back.” He played the next night, scoring 19 points on 7-of-28 shooting in a loss at Indiana. He didn’t regain true top form until the following season, when the Bulls began their run toward a second three-peat.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan became synonymous with the No. 23. (John W. McDonough/SI)

23. No. 23

Jordan influenced a generation of players with his jersey number. He wasn’t the first to wear No. 23, of course, but he gave the number a new significance. Who else donned No. 23? Here’s a list of the most memorable, before and after Jordan:

Players Who Wore No. 23

Player Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Marcus Camby 9.6 9.8 1.9 1.0 2.4
Cedric Ceballos 14.3 5.3 1.2 0.7 0.3
Anthony Davis 12.5 7.5 0.9 1.2 1.9
Lou Hudson 20.2 4.4 2.7 1.4 0.3
LeBron James 27.6 7.2 6.9 1.7 0.8
Kevin Martin 18.0 3.3 2.0 0.9 0.1
Calvin Murphy 17.9 2.1 4.4 1.5 0.1
Frank Ramsey 13.4 5.5 1.8 N/A N/A
Jason Richardson 17.3 5.0 2.7 1.2 0.4

(Note: List is limited to players who wore No. 23 for the majority of their career. Figures represent career averages.)

24. The Tongue

The enduring images of Jordan’s infamous tongue wag almost all involve him soaring toward an emphatic dunk, but MJ was just as likely to let the tongue fly on a difficult jumper or a surge off the dribble. It’s as if one of basketball’s most gifted players was given a single deficiency in his otherwise impeccable body control; even as he flew, contorted and weaved his way to precise and spectacular plays, he was never quite able to contain his flopping tongue.

25. New York State Of Mind

Jordan unofficially announced his return from his first retirement with an electrifying performance at Madison Square Garden on March 28, 1995. Playing against the NBA’s stingiest defense in only his fifth game since coming back, Jordan went for 55 points on 21-of-37 shooting and made the winning — gasp! — assist to give the Bulls a 113-111 victory.

“That’s Michael Jordan. That’s why he’s the best,” New York guard John Starks said after the game.

Said Knicks coach Pat Riley: “Some players simply transcend every aspect of the game. No one in the history of this game has had the impact that he has had.”

26. 72-10

What makes the mythology surrounding Jordan so powerful is that he was able to combine individual greatness with unbelievable team success, a balance perhaps best encapsulated in the Bulls’ record-breaking 1995-96 season. MJ was phenomenal in his first full season after the baseball hiatus, but the Bulls as a whole were even more breathtaking, winning 72 of 82 games for an .878 win percentage en route to the first title in their second three-peat. No team before or since has even reached 70 wins, and with today’s coaches as conscious as ever about keeping players healthy and pacing for the playoffs, even the most dominant teams to come may not have a proper shot at unseating Jordan’s Bulls from the record books.

27. Father’s Day

Jordan endures because he was simultaneously a hero and someone with whom the average person could relate. His leaping ability made him legendary, but his expressive eyes made him human. He always let it all out during title celebrations — hugging the Larry O’Brien trophy tightly, dousing teammates with champagne, jumping up on the sideline tables, pumping his fists, raising the appropriate number of fingers in the air to the fans — and that unbridled emotion only drew millions of fans closer. The 1996 title celebration was different, of course, because Jordan’s tears came on Father’s Day, three years after his father’s senseless murder. For Jordan, this was a totally different type of release.

28. Space Jam

Jordan was a fixture in highlight tapes and commercials throughout the late 1980s and early ’90s, but in 1996 he took his talent to the big screen, starring in Space Jam. The film chronicles Jordan’s quest to use his basketball skills to free the Looney Tunes from the tyranny of criminal aliens. A seminal film for any young sports fan, the movie was met with mixed reviews. Here’s a sampling of what the critics thought:

• “It is difficult for an actor to work in movies that combine live action with animation, because much of the time he cannot see the other characters in a scene with him. But [Michael] Jordan has a natural ease and humor, an unforced charisma, that makes a good fit with the cartoon universe.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

• “It is no surprise to find the movie’s produced by Jordan’s agent, David Falk, who uses “Space Jam” to showcase his client, the products Jordan endorses, and the teams with which he is or was associated.”
– Rita Kempley, Washington Post

“Jordan, self-effacing and a striking screen presence, ultimately rules. And someday he might actually be the star of an all-human movie if the ball bounces that way in Hollywood.”
Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle

“[Space Jam] is both a frantic, innovative mixture of animation technologies and a fan magazine full of adulation for Michael Jordan. He handles this tribute with regal bearing and good grace.”
Janet Maslin, The New York Times

29. $30,000,000

Jordan entered the 1996 offseason as a free agent. The reigning regular-season and Finals MVP was coming off an eight-year, $25 million contract signed in ’88 and was looking for a raise. Well, he got one, signing a one-year, $30 million deal, the biggest single-season contract ever in American team sports. “It really didn’t take any negotiations, which is the way I wanted it,” Jordan told The Associated Press. “I’m very happy with the agreement we have.”

He exceeded that figure a year later when he signed another one-year deal, this time for $33 million. The figure has stood the test of time. In the years since, no NBA player has surpassed the $30 million mark, but Kobe Bryant is poised to earn $30.4 million from the Lakers in 2013-14.

30. The Finger Wag

A legendary trash-talker, Jordan didn’t always need words to make his point. Shot-blocking expert Dikembe Mutombo made the mistake of letting people know that Jordan had never dunked over him. During Game 5 of the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinals, Jordan posterized Mutombo, who was late in his attempt to protect the rim from the weak side. Jordan took the opportunity to remind Mutombo of his statement, co-opting Mutombo’s signature finger wag after finishing the slam.

“No, you don’t try to block me,” he seemed to be saying. “No, you don’t dare mention me ever again.” The Bulls closed out the Hawks that night and went on to win their fifth title of the Jordan era.

Michael Jordan receives treatment on the sidelines

An ailing Michael Jordan went for 38 points in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals. (John Biever/SI)

31. Flu Game

As with many components of the Michael Jordan narrative, the Flu Game has created a self-contained spiral of conversation and debate. But no matter where you stand on the seriousness of Jordan’s illness or the extent to which he may have played up his symptoms, you have to admit that his performance made for magnificent theater.

Just a day after being bed-ridden, Jordan put up 38 points, five assists and seven rebounds in a 90-88 victory that gave the Bulls a 3-2 series advantage over the Jazz in the 1997 Finals. The superhuman element certainly fits the most common characterizations of Jordan, and at some point the legend surrounding the game becomes, in a way, even more pertinent than the true extent of Jordan’s illness. The story is its own truth, and as important to defining the image of Jordan as any irrefutable statistic or direct quote.

32. Rivalry With Reggie

Most NBA rivalries manifest through a series of playoff engagements, but Jordan’s on-court relationship with Reggie Miller is a shining example of the contrary. Jordan and Miller met only once in the postseason — in a seven-game epic during MJ’s last season with the Bulls — and yet they formed a fun chemistry on the basis of their mutual irritation. Miller certainly gave Jordan a begrudging respect (he’s noted that Jordan is the one player he wouldn’t talk trash to for fear of what scoring torrent his remarks might bring), but that didn’t stop both players from lighting a fire under one another and bringing about a wonderful matchup of very different shooting guards.

33. 1998 Finals, Game 6

Want to boil a career of basketball genius down to 15 seconds? Look no further than the closing seconds of Game 6 of the 1998 Finals against the Jazz. Jordan secured the sixth and final title of his career with a sequence that displayed so many of his virtues: intelligence, instincts, confidence, calm, gamesmanship and clutch shooting.

With a little more than 20 seconds remaining and the Jazz leading 86-85, Jordan left his man to sneak up behind Karl Malone, stripping him cleanly. From there, he went into killer mode, briskly bringing the ball up the court to set up a go-ahead shot. He milked the clock, working on Utah’s Bryon Russell in isolation, before feinting a drive to his right into the paint. As Russell leaned back, Jordan gave him a famous love tap while slamming on the breaks, creating a clean look for himself without drawing an offensive foul. He rose up to shoot with about seven seconds left and everyone in the building knew the result before it left his hand: 87-86 Bulls. He held the release to stretch the unforgettable moment and there wasn’t a sound to be heard in the Salt Lake City gym. What a walk-off. He would retire soon afterward, though not permanently.

34. ‘I Hate Being Out There With Those Garbagemen’

The Jordan lore is littered with tales of his trash-talking and just as cluttered with stories of Jordan going off on opponents (or even teammates) who dared to agitate him. The talk was an inextricable part of the game for Jordan, a necessary soundtrack that served to motivate and manipulate, and ultimately give the game its character. It apparently took a little extra for a legend on a dominant team to remain engaged at times, and thus Jordan kept a thorough mental encyclopedia of short- and long-term grudges, filled with those who had said too much or did him wrong.

Here’s a sampling of Jordan’s best quips (the first two from Sam Smith’s The Jordan Rules and the third from a “Player X” column in ESPN The Magazine):

• “I hate being out there with those garbagemen,” Jordan said of Bulls teammates Dennis Hopson, Stacey King and B.J. Armstrong.

• “I hope there’s a jump shot in there,” Jordan told struggling rookie King as he walked into the locker room with a box.

• “The cars I got are just like yours. Except mine were free,” Jordan replied when Gary Payton said he drove a nicer car than Jordan.

35. Another Comeback

Jordan had the perfect ending to his career — that beautiful jumper in Utah — but he just couldn’t stay away. After sitting out three seasons from 1998-2001, Jordan dusted off the sneakers at age 38 to play his first game in anything other than a Bulls uniform. His comeback came with the Washington Wizards, a franchise for which he began serving as president in January 2000. He wasn’t the same old MJ but he wasn’t a bum, either. Jordan averaged 22.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists, playing a gravity-bound style that relied more heavily on jumpers.

Though his 2001-02 season was cut short by a knee injury, he returned to play all 82 games in the 2002-03 season, averaging 20 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Incredibly, Jordan topped 40 points three times, including a season-high 45 points against the Hornets. While fans ate up Jordan’s return, the Wizards didn’t make the playoffs either season. Finally, enough was enough, and Jordan played his last NBA game on April 16, 2003.

36. A Final All-Star Appearance

Jordan appeared in 13 All-Star Games, including 2002 and 2003, during his bon voyage tour with the Wizards. His final appearance nearly wound up as another Jordan miracle. Just days shy of his 40th birthday, Jordan went toe-to-toe with players who were barely more than half his age. Jordan finished with 20 points, including a go-ahead jumper in the closing seconds of overtime, which nearly delivered the East a dramatic win in Atlanta. Instead, Kobe Bryant played the role of spoiler, tying the game and sending it into a second OT, where the West prevailed 155-145.

The night was capped by a halftime performance from Mariah Carey — dressed in a Jordan jersey dress, of course — and with Jordan passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most points in All-Star Game history, with 262. “I leave the game in good hands,” Jordan told the crowd.

37. Greatest Hits

We’d be remiss if we didn’t give some space to Jordan’s best alley-oops and slams (outside of the dunk contest). These posterizations didn’t alter the NBA landscape like some other moments on this list, but, boy, are they fun. Enjoy.

38. Fadeaway J

Jordan didn’t invent the fadeaway jumper, but he may be the first to perfect it. The combination was ideal: Jordan was strong enough to create the post-up foundation necessary to fade; he had a stable enough handle to fade off the dribble when necessary; and he had a shooting form with the requisite balance to consistently attack opponents on a lean. A series of short jumpers may seem unspectacular relative to his amazing collection of highlights, but the fadeaway proved to be an invaluable half-court vehicle for Jordan and the Bulls to create reliable offense.

39. One Last Hurrah

For 13 seasons, Jordan called Chicago home as a member of the Bulls. On Jan. 24, 2003, he made one final trip to Chicago as a member of … the Wizards. The jersey on his back didn’t seem to matter, though, as the 23,215 in attendance cheered Jordan all the same, giving him a four-minute standing ovation after player introductions.

“Thank you,” Jordan said, momentarily interrupting the cheers. “Thank you. It has truly been a pleasure. You guys have given me great pleasure to play here in the city of Chicago. I love you all.”

40. Kwame and MJ

As Wizards president, Jordan made the final call on selecting Kwame Brown with the first pick in the 2001 draft — only to then join Brown on the Wizards’ roster a few months later. That turn gave Jordan’s relationship with Brown an odd flavor, and serves to partially explain some of their dynamic.

On the one hand, many accounts describe Jordan as being inclusive and patient with Brown, behavior that likely went against every fiber of Jordan’s hyper-competitive being. On the other, it didn’t take long for Jordan to begin humiliating Brown in front of his teammates, breaking down the confidence of a fragile rookie even further.

It seemed as though Jordan knew that his tact with Brown needed to be different — gentler — than it had been with past teammates, but his commitment to that idea wavered. As a result, their relationship was increasingly dysfunctional on all fronts, with Jordan waffling in his role as a quasi-mentor and Brown left confused and hurt by Jordan’s treatment. As such, it’s no surprise that their false friendship may well have caused Brown’s undoing, thereby making his selection and improper cultivation one of Jordan’s greatest failures as a general manager.

41. $168 Million Divorce

In 2006, Jordan and wife Juanita split after 17 years of marriage. Juanita previously filed for divorce in January 2002 but withdrew her petition a month later when the coupled attempted a reconciliation. A year after the divorce, the pair settled for $168 million, making it one of the most expensive celebrity divorces in history. “Marriage is hard for any couple,” family friend Les Coney told People Magazine at the time, “and if you add celebrity to that, it’s even harder.”

42. Air Force Jordan

Air Force One has nothing on Air Jordan. Customized to his specifications, Jordan’s private plane features North Carolina blue, the “Jumpman” logo and numbers near and dear to Jordan’s heart (23 for his jersey; 6 for his number of rings).

43. Out Of Style

Jordan’s impact on fashion can’t be understated. Look no further than his Air Jordan shoes. But Jordan’s style since he hung up his sneakers has gotten quite … bizarre. So bizarre, in fact, that it has inspired a blog named “What The F*** Is Michael Jordan Wearing?” Here’s a gallery of our favorite looks.

44. Struggling ‘Cats

After a fallout with former Wizards owner Abe Pollin, which resulted in his firing as president in 2003, Jordan stepped away from the NBA. But he didn’t stay away for long. In 2006, he became a Charlotte Bobcats minority owner, a natural fit given his college ties to North Carolina. Jordan purchased majority control of the Bobcats in 2010, making him the first former NBA player to own his team.

The Bobcats entered the NBA as an expansion team in 2004-05 and have just one playoff appearance and one winning season. Jordan has been widely mocked for the Bobcats’ struggles, drawing criticism for employing longtime friends and associates in key management and coaching positions. In 2011, Jordan hired Rich Cho as general manager to help lead a full-scale rebuilding effort. The Bobcats finished with the worst winning percentage in NBA history in 2011-12 and currently have the worst record in the league. Jordan occasionally works out with players but generally forces himself to watch games from a luxury box, where his frustration with their struggles isn’t quite as visible.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan picked out a new number after returning to the NBA in 1995. (David E. Klutho/SI)

45. No. 45

When Jordan returned from retirement in 1995, he wore No. 45, as No. 23 had been retired in his honor in 1994. Who else has donned No. 45? Here’s a list of the most notable, before and after Jordan:

Players Who Wore No. 45

Player Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
DeJuan Blair 8.0 6.0 0.9 0.9 0.4
A.C. Green 9.6 7.4 1.1 0.8 0.4
Raef LaFrentz 10.1 6.1 1.1 0.5 1.6
Chuck Person 14.7 5.1 2.8 0.7 0.2
Geoff Petrie 21.8 2.8 4.6 1.1 0.1
Purvis Short 17.3 4.3 2.5 1.0 0.2
Rik Smits 14.8 6.1 1.4 0.4 1.3
Rudy Tomjanovich 17.4 8.1 2.0 0.7 0.3

(List is limited to players who wore No. 45 for the majority of their career. Figures represent career averages.)

46. Name-Dropped

Jordan may be the most referenced athlete in hip-hop history. From Jay-Z to Ice Cube, it seems like every rapper has dropped a Jordan line at some point. Here’s a sampling of our favorites:

• “Yeah, you know my flava/Rip this whole jam apart/F— around and have your heart/Like Jordan had Starks”
– A Tribe Called Quest, Baby Phife’s Return

“Rebounding, outstanding, no one surrounding/I’m screwing and doing like I was Ewing/The only one soaring and scoring is Jordan/He must of had his Wheaties this morning.”
– The Notorious B.I.G., Jam Session

“Jay’s status appears to be at an all-time high/Perfect time to say goodbye/When I come back like Jordan/Wearin’ the 4-5/It ain’t to play games witchu/It’s to aim at you.”
– Jay-Z, Encore

• “Don’t be mad cause you can’t do what I can/Like when Jordan went up, took that shot and switched hands.”
– Pete Rock, Don’t Be Mad

• “What if hate ran through me?/And what if Portland would’ve drafted Jordan, instead of Sam Bowie?”
– Jadakiss, What If?

47. ‘Oh …’

Sharing a name with a celebrity is never easy, as this ESPN ad perfectly illustrates. It chronicles the life of one Michael Jordan, a middle-aged white man constantly disappointing those expecting the world’s greatest basketball player.

48. A Comedy Of Errors

Great players don’t always make great coaches or great executives. That NBA maxim applies even for the Greatest Of All Time, whose career as a front-office executive is remembered most for his selection of high schooler Kwame Brown with the No. 1 pick in 2001 and his selection of Adam Morrison with the No. 3 pick in 2006. Neither player panned out for the Wizards and Bobcats, respectively.

“People are going to point out the mistakes,” Jordan said in 2009. “Very rarely do they point out the successes. I understand that. It’s part of the game.”

49. Greener Pastures

Jordan once called golf “a battle with myself,” and it’s one he wages regularly (sometimes, apparently, in inappropriate attire). His affinity for the links is no secret, but it wasn’t love at first sight.

“When I first played, I thought it was a sissy sport, and then I found out it was difficult,” Jordan told the Chicago Tribune in 1990. “When I made a couple of pars, I thought it was easy, but I’ve found out it isn’t. I tried to make 18 pars the next time I played and I’m still trying. I never thought I’d love it like I do.”

50. Hall Of Fame Speech

You were fooling yourself if you thought Jordan would thank his parents, thank God and walk off the stage during his 2009 Hall of Fame acceptance speech. The rambling 20-minute talk was pure bravado: Jordan relived old grudges, rubbed salt in wounds, told candid stories and explained why he was so driven by the game. He brought Leroy Smith, the high schooler who beat him out for the last spot on the varsity team, so that he could relive his famous “cut” story. He talked trash to Bryon Russell, whom he had already destroyed in the 1998 Finals. Critics were right to call it petty, a bit strange and reflective of a man who was having difficulty, even after all these years, letting go of the game.

It was authentic Jordan, though; no one disputed that. How could you, when he was busy hinting at another comeback. “Don’t laugh,” he instructed the audience full of basketball legends. Even today, on the eve of his 50th birthday, there are those who think he could still get it done.

CROTHERS: Jordan legacy began with one fateful shot
WOLFF: A message to Jordan on his 50th birthday
WINN: Taking a deeper look at Jordan’s college years | College photos
SI‘s 100 greatest Jordan pictures | Jordan’s 50 SI covers
Pictures from baseball
| Air Jordans | Top playoff moments


Hosstyle; awe the dreams we have.


Hosstyle; I din't contradict myself, just a little to deep for you to understand. Alot of fans that watched games in the 60's know exactly what I'm talking about. But hey I respect your oppinion because mine or yours that is all it is.


Tito; your right, just like now you can't find a great center in basketball. The centers of yesterday protected the key and no one would get away of the lane running like Jordan did. Lambier, Russel, Unseld, Reed Cowens, Sikma, and Chamberlain would have put him on his butt. And the blocking fouls you saw Jordan get would have been called charges. This is why they bring these guys up. The centers you mentioned weren't even in the class of the 60's to early 70s. That's why Jordan worshippers get so tight when older people don't worship him. Stern changed the game for offense and seriously, watch the tape of Jordan and what is allowed today is carrying the ball every trip down the court. Stockton was the last pointguard that actually played by the rules. todays centers don't know how to blockout, how to set a pick, or defend the key. Hell I'm a Celtics fan and Garrnett makes me cringe when they talk about how great he is. Even at PF Dave Debusschere would have killed him. They took basketball and turned it into a highlight film for ESPN so the young fans could go wowwww! This isn't about being pissed, it's about the way sports evolve and comparing apples to oranges. Jordan played in a celebrete/star oriented era when basketball was being marketed for the TV and money was the name of the game. Money this time thanks to Stern kills any game, Jordan playing in the 60's would have been a good player, limited, and that's just a fact. Those Celtics, Knicks, Lakers, even the Bullets teams were better than the Bulls. And as far as Jackson goes, he only took teams that were built and primed. Auerbach out coached and GM'ed him as did West. Jackson is a product of Sterns league.



 You know you totally discredit everything you say when you state an opinion and then follow it with the words "and that's just a fact".


Assuming you know the definition of the word fact.


And I'm an old guy who thinks Jordan was the best.  The only person who I think was his match in the old days was Elgin Baylor.  He doesn't get enough credit.


If I was starting an All-Time team I'd take Jordan or Wilt.  If Wilt had a better attitude I'd take him first no question - but his attitude was "off" a bit.  But compare those two as players - meaning how they play the game?  It's Jordan - no question.  Wilt was dominate because he was 7 feet tall and a freak athelete (he was a high jumper who was very, very good).  He was also a smart player (when he wanted to be.)  Jordan wasn't taller than most players.  He didn't have the highest vertical when the played.  He wasn't the strongest.  He wasn't the best shooter.  So why was he so good?  Because he was good at all of them, he dedicated himself to defense, he was smart and knew the game - and his will to practice and practice and practice were unmatched.


That's why he was the best, man.


There's a lot of weird people here.  Hard to even seriously argue with a lot of these posts.  Anyway, there's a great interview of Craig Ehlo on the web.  Go look it up.  He talks about how it was to guard Jordan (he guarded him more than any other player) and how Jordan was always respectful to him on and off the court.


For the guy spouting about how the NBA "rigged" the rules to help Jordan - it's funny how you never hear the players say that.  They'll say he got calls a lot - but never that there was some conspiracy by the NBA.  Those same players will say other stars got calls too.


It's just weird to see people come up with all these foil-hat theories to justify their hate of Jordan.  I'm not a Bulls fan - but I got to watch almost every game Jordan played (WGN was on my cable package back then).  He was amazingly focused on winning.  Every game.  Every year.  Relentlessly.


And for the guy spouting about his gambling - yes, a guy making hundreds of millions of dollars enjoyed gambling with his friends.  Legally.  I never heard of him gambling on NBA games or games he played in.  Hell, I think most rich people like to play the tables at Vegas when they have the time.  And I haven't been on a golf course where people WEREN'T making bets.  What's so bad about a guy with loads of money doing it?  Sure, it scared the hell outta Stern, but that's because Stern was just worried about the NBA's image.


Anway, I'll let this go.  And I was going to respond to the guy with the Brazilian Flag - but 3 other people destroyed him before I could get a chance.  No need to follow that one up.  It's done.


 @HossStyle In regards to the gambling. We know about the gambling some legal some a gentleman's bet of course. However nobody has come forward with serious evidence that Jordan gambled on NBA games but their was serious suspicion. The most genuine evidence to back the claim that Jordan bet on games is one mans word against another. For arguments sake that can not hold up. Is he a bad gambler? Absolutely! Is he the greatest basketball player ever probably. Is Jordan the myth of a role model created by marketing campaigns? YES without a doubt.


Don't forget when you say the league wasn't as tough. Ali loss to Spinks! That's about the same as Jordan beating the competition he had. Michael was a fantastic player that didn't know the meaning of team. Those rings came against a 90's era that was very supar. That doesn't take away from Jordans ability, but basketball is about team. Sure he had other good players, but when you have to sucumb your offense to one player it kills you. Russel and cousey involved everyone, Magic made that team better even when Kareem went down, and Bird instantly elevated the 81 Celtics. Comparing players come down to when they played, the competition, and how they made the team flow. McHale was the blackhole, but Jordan was even worse. McHales percentage made it a pretty sure bet. Baylor, West, Chamberlain, and a lakers team that was packed failed against Russel and a great team defense. People forget about the teams of the 70's and they were about the teams that Michael faced. Most of these negative pieces about Jordan are on the money. And like I've said Referee Gate could have happened years earlier when Stern decided to market the player over the team. That's not on Jordan but he benefited from it. You'll never hear Magic or Bird badmouth Jordan because it would be suicide. Bird was amazed at Jordans ability, but he also said that 1 player can't beat a team. 60-70 points and you still loose because they just have to shut down 4 other players. How true is that, Bird and Mchale scored in the 60's and won, but their focus was on team. Bird also said of Dennis Johnson that he was the smartest player he ever played with. Johnson had 3 rings 2 teams. Not flashy, he just realized it takes 5 players to win.



You're contradicting yourself.  You say:

"It takes 5 players to win"


Either you are wrong - and Jordan won with his 5 teammates to the tune of 6 titles so he did "team play" (you say he didn't)




You're really wrong - and you think Jordan didn't "team play" yet he still won 6 titles. (You say you can't win alone).


Either way - you're wrong.


And if you keep on with this "Jordan didn't face tough competition" I'm going to get irritated and spend some time showing you the Hall of Famers the Celtics beat and the Lakers, as well.  Then we'll look at the Hall of Famers Jordan beat.


And Jordan did it for 6 years (would've been 8 since he took two years off).


Just stop it man.  Please.



This race-whining one-trick pony has done nothing successfully since he retired from baseball.  Kobe who?

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This is friggin' ridiculous! When the guy dies is the earth going to stop spinning? 


This thread is full of one person making the same point under different names and different "personas," in order to get a rise out of people. This person attacks historic players (many African American), with the claim that they weren't the best in their era, and he usually cites a player from the previous era who was supposedly better. Amongst his favorite targets on this and other legendary hate-filled posts on other forums are Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and apparently Michael Jordan. This poster makes many outlandish claims, usually that (insert name) is an arrogant jerk, that they never won titles until their competition got old, and that they benefitted from the weakest era in the history of (insert sport). 


This poster also has "special insight" because he apparently runs in very elite circles in his personal life, and most alarmingly, makes many thinly veiled racist comments about black players, often using animal analogies. 


It is hard to come to grips that your childhood hero is an obnoxious egocentric who cared only about one thing, WINNING! Don't agree well I don't blame you.


While we who follow sports way to closely embrace the TRUTH of Michael Jordan (unlike the MYTH of BABE RUTH) but keep in mind he wasn't great because he was the most athletic. No that isn't it at all and in many, many, ways Scottie Pippen was a much more physical and dominant athlete but that is neither here or there. What set Jordan apart was his attitude.


Jordan was a jerk but you probably never noticed due to that ever popular Nike, Gatorade, and Chevy media presence. Who could forget that song, “I Want to Be like Mike”? We all wanted to be like Mike in more ways than one.


The truth was and still is that Jordan is a compulsive gambler who used to shoot pool just a block away from house in the late 80’s at Big Boppers bar. He would come in and challenge patrons to a game of pool and the opening game was $500. Some games escalated to as high as $2000 according to some witness. I thought he made just one visit to this hole in the wall bar but patrons remember Jordan making several appearances to try to win back what he had lost.


However you look at it Jordan’s spotless image was more myth then truth. The truth is if you believe that Jordan walked away from basketball to play baseball you’re kidding yourself. Jordan’s gambling compulsion made headlines back in 93’ after it came to light that he had lost $900,000 in a golf bet to businessman (LOL) Richard Equinas. It also just happened to also occur at the same time Jordan was spotted the night before game two of the Eastern Conference Finals in an Atlantic City casino gambling until morning.


You still think he just walked away? Leaving the game to pursue a childhood dream of making in the show, really?


The truth it was an unofficial suspension that was best if not acknowledged by David Stern or Jerry Reinsdorf. Reinsdorf and Jordan actually made money on the suspension selling baseball jerseys!

No matter what you think of Jordan and what allegations have been made the ultimate evidence of his egocentric attitude was on display at his 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech. He was in full, ‘YOU SHOULD ALL KISS MY ASS MODE’ and even belittled his own children.


I like Michael Jordan the player for what he did for the Bulls and the city of Chicago but Jordan the man is the reincarnation of Ty Cobb. The difference Cobb had no media machine to hide his ego enter George Herman Ruth the myth.


Jordan did have the media machine to spin wheels but he and Cobb are still the greatest players in their era! No matter how much of a jerk they are.



Hi hi wizzla761, it was commercial! Ali/Frazier, Russel/Wilt, Kareem/Dr J. ,Celtics/Lakers, Lakers/Philly, Magic/Bird, Lakers/Pistons, Magic/Thomas, BadBoys/Bulls & Thomas/Jordan...that was NBA in the '80. Golden Era of Basketball. Magic/Kareem = 4 rings; Bird = 3 rings; Dr J. = 1 ring; Thomas = 2 rings; Jordan = 0 ring, nada nothing. SI and Nike tell us another story. "A vaincre sans peril,on triomphe sans gloire...!" Lakers, Celtics and Pistons were better. In the '90 Jordan without adversity won his 6 rings. I remember following the MJ's.. speech as a HOFer was a shame! A shame for a great champion...! David Stern wasn't amused and i don't understand why SI celebrate it. It was a foul against coach...teamates...and others...! Look at the tape, the last play in '98 final versus Bryon Russell was was a foul...! The stars of '80...Kareem Abdul Jabbar..Dr J...Moses Malone...Magic Johnson...Larry Bird...Isiah Thomas...Michael Jordan...Dominique Wilkins...Ewing...Barkley...Karl Malone...Drexler...Olajuwon...! The troika of Stern (Magic, Bird & MJ) have adversity. Magic, Bird won it and MJ don't.


Michael Jordan was the most overrated player next to Roger Federer!!! Like Federer, Jordan played in the weak dogsh**T era of men's tennis... er basketball. Jordan only one because Bird and Magic got old. If Jordan played in Wilt's era, he would have gotten one, maybe two rings. Blah blah blah blah blah, rinse recycle, repeat.  


Beercrates,Sman, humdrum, Mike Tuck et al.



Humdrumdrumhumming;  I'm glad that you get it. I just don't understand the love of the one on one game. Jordan couldn't face teams period, but then the game changed with referees being guided by Stern to the point B-bal is hard to recognize, I cringe at watching every back court player carring the ball as Jordan did with his first step. You can get around anyone if allowed to carry the ball. And the blocking fouls called against teams were hilarious when Jordan had the ball. My piece was more than about Jordan, it's the way Stern has changed the game to the individual instead of team play. Which the Jazz would have beat the Bulls if the Jordan Rules weren't in affect. But your point is well taken and I loved Kareem, and Wilt. The Lakers brought out the best in the Celtics and Visa-Versa, I have total repect for those teams. Hornacek, by the way was the best man to shoot off a screen I've seen. Todays screens are moving everytime, the pick and roll is great when done right, todays guys don't hold the screens long enough and should be called for it. Fundementals in basketball are being taught in the NCAA at the best schools, but the NBA has ignored them and has a 3 ring circus to show for it. Rules are fairly black and white, that's why we bitch at the ref's is Sterns version is mighty grey, so think about the ring leader when you start to argue a call. How may honest lawyers do you know? 



Not bitter; just look at the game changes, if you take a serius look at basketball from it's onset to what we have today the game is far different. The referees call a hard foul today that people would laugh at in the 60's. And yes Jordan beat Magic after he'd gone through hell with the aides bit and for your pleasure look at the team roster.  Wizzla761 I lost you at basketball, Cred what a joke, have you been watching for the las 5 years. Chickenwolf, I agree, Jordan was one of the best players to grace the hardwood. I just got tired ogf the Superhuman Jordan, and it wasn't him it was Stern. It just went to Jordans head and that's why he's failed at everything else. The NCAA teaches for the most part great fundemental basketball, when they open the door to anyone who could dunk out of high school they changed the rules with them. I love the Pistons beating the bulls even though they were thugs. The Jazz should have beat the Bulls and would have if the Jordan Rules weren't in effect.


Nike..Nike.. Nike... the tape don't lie. What about MJ versus Zeke? Zeke had beaten MJ 3-times in playoff and SI  don't mentioned that. What a shame! Go "BadBoys" For Nike MJ is the "GOAT" of Basketball. Zeke beat Bird, Jordan and Magic in 1989. No Barkley, No Ewing, No Malone, No Drexler.../Dreamteamer..! In 1990 East final game 7, Zeke beat MJ & the Bulls. SI tell us the truth...Forever Detroit Pistons!!  Pippen & MJ don't want ZEKE in 92 Dreamteam...MJ we know now why. Zeke/MJ = 3-1. The tape don't lie...NIKE ! 


Here's a copy paste from the article

"The Bulls were eliminated by the Pistons in 1988, 1989 and 1990 before finally sweeping Detroit in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals"

Did you even read it.

And nobody wanted Thomas on the Dream team. not just MJ


hey, have i been there yet?


Two things I think should be considered when saying who is the best. One if you had the first pick of anyone who ever played the game, who would you pick? Second, the overall game of the player. In my opinion most people would take Chamberlin if they had the first pick. He made you an instant contender. Of course look at the Lakers when they got Baylor. They went from bums to battling the Celtics year after year. Also Baylor was not just a scoring machine but was in the top rebounders every year and he was only 6'5". Too many people remember Baylor when he had to lose 20 lbs because of his knees but in his prime he could sky with Jordan and at 225 lbs was a magnificent human being.


All I have to say is thank you, SI, for the greatest trip down memory lane of the greatest player to ever grace the hardwood!


Why is everyone so hateful on this board? Jordan was a great player. Being a basketball lover, its fun to celebrate the great players that have played this game. I dont understand why people feel the need to bash the guy just because his career is being celebrated. Enjoy your lives, stop hating on people you dont even know, and go watch some Jordan highlights.


Now let me set the record straight for the young fan of Jordan - Kobe today. I hear all the talk that the players are bigger, faster, and the Russel era players would be torn to shreds by todays players. #1 let's have a game where Jordan and Kobe or any of todays PG's dribbler the ball from 3 or 9 oclock to 12 oclock as per the rules. The new teams would have so many turnovers the old guys would have the ball forever. The new era of players can't block out under the boards to save their lives, Barkley, Russel, Kareem, Walton, or Bird and Magic would get every secound shot due to grabbing loose balls. The old players refereed themselves when it came to hard fouls or rough play. You did that to our players we owe you one, and they all wanted to stay on the floor so there was alot more respect for the other teams. I didn't say they liked each other, there was alot of hated rivals up through the 80's but the respect was there. They didn't need referees deciding the game for the players, the Commisn and the Refs were in the shadows watching closely. Now Ref's are the game and the Commish is king and decides how the games are to be called. Lawyers love control, then they steer the ship. Yesterdays players studied fundemental B-ball, players were part of a team and played a role that made the team at it's best. Today is about the player, more money you bring to the game the better you'll be granted untouchable. Merchandising is king.  Chris Paul, Rondo, and all the so-called great PTG in the league are cellebrated. Rondo has the only ring. But on the 80's Celtics, Johnson was just another player, ( yes and he won 3 Championships on 2 different teams) and you never hear his name as a great player. He never sold any Jerseys, so he was just a part of a team. Bird and Johnson made their teams better and it effected their numbers. Cousey and Russel were the same core, players who stepped up and made the difference in a Championship were celebrated as much as the team leader. I'm using Celtics because I'm a Fan, but I love B-ball first. Someone that isn't a Seattle Sonics Fan, tell me who was on the Championship team in 79. Can't, that's because names didn't win Championships, teams did. The Commish sees that this doesn't happen now. He can't pick his teams but he sure can put the ball in their court most of the time.

    The NCAA is now being tainted by money, but it's still closer than the NBA has been since Stern and his Bulls redirected the path the game would take. Basketball is the ultimate team sport, but it's been watered down by increasing the size, it's ben watered down by changing the rules to fit the players, and it's been watered down by the salarys dictating the sport instead of visa-versa. The old tems would be beat to death by the new rules, but in a pure Basketball Game in which rules dictated the way you played the old guys wouldn't have todays players on the court.


I'm not questioning Jordan's abilitys on the court, he still would have been one of the best basketball players ever. But if we're grading on individuals let's look at Pete Maracich, his numbers were astronomical and had no help on a empty team, yet here is one of the most talented men basketball ever saw.

   Now then, basketball was dead, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were two plays, 2 basketball minds that brought basketball back to the forfront. Why, they understood the team concept and elevated everybodys game on their team by getting them involved. Stern grabbed the riens and had a great ride. In the later 80's Bird's back and Magics aide's ( so-called scare) was leaving a hole in the huge following B-ball had. So the Jordan Rules were now being created, if Michael ran over a player - no foul, if Michael took 4 steps - it's good, if someone touched Michael - it's a foul, intentional even. This wasn't Michaels doing, Stern saw the big picture and had the referees change the game, marketing was slipping and they needed a new hero. Jordan didn't need help, but he got plenty and then some. B-ball was back and money was the name of the game. Merchindising was formost the important part of B-ball and Stern was going to make a hero. Jordan couldn't beat the Celtics with 60+ points and he couldn't beat the Lakers without Magic. But it was saw to that it happened and Jordan Carried the ball into the 90's and was deemed untouchable.

   Proof to all this is when he left Shaq went to Orlando and then Orlando was being built via a curious drafting plan that saw them get a great head start. It didn't work so Kobe came and the Lakers were put together " then Jackson took the team" because now it was a sure thing, The Jordan rules were in play again only were getting alot of referee help. Sacramento was cheated out of a Western Championship and possible crown. Dallas was cheated out of a Crown ( they had referees and Sterns thorn in the side, owner Mark Cuban, calling out the comish on the refereeing in the NBA. Oh yeah, then the scandle with Donahue being hushed up quickly making it a one man scandal, whew Stern was almost caught. He was to the everyday fan, but money runs the game now.

  Anyway the Jordan Rules are still here today and it makes the Commish the most powerfull man in sports, why not he's a lawyer with ties.


You waisted a lot of time typing cause you lost any clout you might think you have when you said MJ only beat LA after Magic left.  MJ beat Magic in 91

P0is0nedKoolA1 3 Like

I was the biggest Knicks fan in the 90's . I loved them all from Starks , Ewing Oak to Bonner & Herb Williams




It was an honor to watch MJ. 

No defense could stop him, no player put fear in him. No obstacle could stop him


Rodman ejected for headbutting the ref vs the Nets, MJ simply gets his career high in rebounds

Flu has MJ dehydrated before game 5 of the 97 Finals, MJ plays and hits the 3 that puts them over the top


I could go on


Hate Jordan all you want, blame the teams he played in the finals, a "weak" league & all the other silly reasons you can come up with , but ask yourself why didn't any other player dominate the league like MJ when he left? 

I'll wait


MJ 6 Final appearance, 6 titles , 6 finals mvps , led the league in scoring every year he won a ring

never had a real point guard or Center


The end 


Sick of hearing about MJ. It is over for him! His time is passed! He spends all day in the mammary bars on floridas east coast---what pride that evokes!

Tito1 1 Like

@Andi1 well if you sick of hearing about him, then why are you hear? I hate Lebron and I don't bother reading articles about him... Whatever he does on his time is his business not yours


Crap.....he's been gone for 10 years and writers with nothing to write aboout is the only reason his name keeps coming up.  Give it a rest.  He's retired.  Write about todays athletes........


That's how great Jordan is, people never forget his greatness and it's his 50th birthday. :-)

Tito1 1 Like

@jweller3 and what's wrong with giving a tribute to a real legend? Don't they write enough about today's spoiled athletes for your taste?


no mention of mj, tiger, and barkley bangn everything that moves ?


what about sorry azz coach, gm, and owner ?


I'll remember Jordan as the most overrated athlete in the history of sports.


He's clearly an incredible player ONE OF THE GREATEST EVER but as StevenKeys pointed out the Bulls never beat a single great team in the finals!!!!   (The Jazz were not a great team Ostertag, Hornacek and Bryon Russell were 3 of their 5 starters).  The greatest winner ever in basketball is Russell with 11 rings, the most dominant individual was Wilt and the greatest combination of the two was Kareem who is also the greatest high school and college playe of all time - but nobody wants to hear it because they're "big men" with boring games.


I played division one  basketball and not a day goes by when people don't ask me about my "freakish height" -- i'm the exact same height as Jordan. 


Jordan faced a dominant INTERIOR center once in his career in the playoffs, and lost to a young Shaquille O'Neal. Hakeem would've fouled out Jordan's entire frontline.


The only thing MJ should be remembered as the unequivocal best at was teaching other young athletes how to make money, monetizing sports, and raising the price of your sneakers. Take a look at ticket prices, sodas, Nikes sweats and gear pre-Jordan and post-Jordan and ask yourself if we should really be so grateful for the greatest shooting guard of all time..




reality check


Ok so you say other players are were better .K you have the right to your opinion.

BUT what does it say about your opinion when theplayers you think were better all call him the greatest ever?


 @humdrumdrumhumming The Bulls faced Patrick Ewing (top 50 player) regularly in the playoffs.  In 1996 the Bulls SWEPT the Magic with Shaq in the conference Finals.


@humdrumdrumhumming you just sound like a underachiever, pissed off, resented former "ball player". Compare rec league??? You must be an expert! So yeah, Jordan did not face a quality center in the Finals, but what about in the regular season? Ewing, Morning, Robinson, Shaq, Olajuwon. And tell me the centers the Bulls had? Longley, Purdue, Catwright, Parish, Salley, Edwards, Williams, Stacey King (!!!). And why are comparing Jordan to only centers? Last time I checked he was a guard... Anyways, keep enjoying the Haterade you're drinking...

P0is0nedKoolA1 3 Like

 @humdrumdrumhumming lol. typical chump with half truths. Who did the Bulls have to go through the season? Hakeem, Robinson, Ewing, Shaq, Mourning, Mutmobo. The forwards: Barkley, Malone, LJ, Kemp, Coleman, Webber, Howard. Point guards: Stockton, Thomas, Kenny Anderson, Mark Jackson, Blaylock, Mark Price, Hardways, KJ , Payton. 


So , with Longley, Stacey King, BJ Armstrong , Horace Grant, Jason Caffey , Steve Kerr & the other mediocre players , MJ and Pip took their weak roster (Rodman was later) & pushed them to the next level. They went 72-10 , 69-13 in back to back years with MJ in his mid-30's against the whole league. 

Any answer for that?


You're a typical Jordan hater.  A guy who can't deal with fact that MJ was the greatest player on both sides of the court, could post, jumpshot & drive on any defense whenever he wanted. He was the best 2 guard and had to cover many great 2 guards of his time. 


it's interesting how you have these excuses of  no"super teams" to beat in the finals, however, if those teams were so great , why didn't they make it to the finals with MJ? Why was Houston not champs till MJ left and gone when MJ returned? 

Should I continue? 


Hate MJ, that's fine. You have the right

Rewriting history though is an embarrassment. 


@P0is0nedKoolA1 @humdrumdrumhumming well said!


 @humdrumdrumhumming You sound like a bitter ex girlfriend.......... You probably mad that he did not sign your autograph book back in 1989

humdrumdrumhumming 1 Like

here are a list of the centers the Bulls faced in the finals  a 22yr old Vlade Divac, Greg Ostertag (twice), Kevin Duckworth, Mark West,  and Seattle's combo of Ervin Johnson and Frank Brickowski


seriously... those are the starting centers that Jordan is celebrated for beating... 


Ewing was a jump shooter, Shaq's young and inexperienced team rolled past Jordan's bulls when he was just 22, before getting swept by the Rockets.


If you want to say Jordan is "just as good as anybody that ever played", fine.... 


just don't say he's better than anybody that ever played

StevenKeys 2 Like

Reason #51 "why we'll never forget Michael Jordan": It's never been tested.


Nobody, not Ruth, Gehrig, Mays, Mantle, Koufax, Gibson, Lombardi, Butkus, Brown, Montana, Howe or Gretzky, have been put on as high a pedestal as has Mr. Jordan.


Nike was wise to hook-up with MJ for he and his Bulls were truly a dominant team (once Phil Jackson arrived).  But more than dominance, greatness is measured in large part by the level of competition faced.  MJ and his Bulls fall short of 'greatest' when judged by that standard, as opposed to Russell & Chamberlain, Magic & Bird.


@StevenKeys so having the best record of all time doesn't count??? Wilt and Russell only had to beat each other, name other superstar of that era... Magic and Bird had other competition, but still not even close. Jordan had to beat Thomas and the bad boys, Drexler, Barkley, Shaq and Penny at the beginning of their prime, Payton and Kemp, Stockton and Malone, Hardaway and Morning, Reggie Miller, Ewing and the Knicks, Robinson, Wilkins


 @Tito1  @StevenKeys "(B)est record," sure it counts.  But that number might just bolster my point about lesser competition Jordan faced.  And "best record" can be misleading.  The Seattle Mariners tied MLB's wins record (116) few years back and got bounced 1st round.


Russell & Wilt "only had to beat eachother."  That's cute.  Michael would get a good laugh outta' that one.  


"(N)ame other superstar of that era": Willis Reed, Nate Thurmond, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, etcetera.  Don't waste our time, Tito1.  Read some history if you're gonna' debate 'the greatest.'


Magic & Bird beat Detroit until they got tired & bored, Chicago, until they got tired & bored (and Phil Jackson came along), Philly (Moses & Dr. J), Bucks (Lanier & Moncrief) and eachother, of course.


In the Jordan era, the names you listed, Drexler, Barkley, Penny, Payton, Kemp, Stockton, Karl Malone, Tim Hardaway, Mourning, Reggie, Ewing, David Robinson, Wilkins and Shaq, won zero (0) NBA titles.  Titles aren't everything, but they're big.  Michael would agree.








 @StevenKeys lol . It's always funny how the league was "weak" but no other team could match MJ's feats. All those "weak players" like Robnson, Hakeem, Malone, Stockton, Ewing, Barkley, Drex & on and on. 


lol MJ owned the league when it was at it's dirtiest. He came back after 18 months then dominated for 3 years straight. 


You can't deal with reality & I'll respect that



 @P0is0nedKoolA1 You wrote it ("weak"), I didn't.


Using MJ's standard, per LeBron:

 Robnson (David Robinson?): Didn't win a title till Tim Duncan arrived (Truck Robinson would've moved David off the court);

 Hakeem (2) & Drexler (1): Won their titles after Jordan retired the first time;

 Malone & Stockton: never won an NBA title;

 Ewing: never won a title;

 Barkley; never won a title;


The Jim Jones led mass suicide / massacre in Jonestown & Georgetown, Guyana in '78 left 918 people dead.  Why the name, PKA1?


HossStyle 1 Like



What is it today?  Only the haters posting?

Guest what?  You name Magic and Bird.  I love them both, too.  You say they played better competition.  Why?  What there is no "why" about is that Bird called Jordan "God disguised as Michael Jordan".  Magic says Jordan was the best he ever played against.  Both say he is the greatest they ever saw OR played against.


And remember - the competion Jordan faced might not be considered "great" by you - but it's because he wouldn't LET those other teams be great.  Look how many teams led by Hall of Famers that Jordan keep from getting that title.  If he wasn't there then all those guys would have rings and Jordan's era would be considered one of the best of all time.  The competiton was top notch.  Jordan just kept us from remembering that today.


 @HossStyle Not "haters" HS, just debaters.


Jordan comes in at # 5 on my list of all-time greats: Magic, Russell, Wilt, Larry and then Michael.  Not too shabby, any place on that short list.



Thats funny cause the guys on your list ahead of MJ all have him as #1 on their list.


l.czolgosz66 1 Like

 @HossStyle  @StevenKeys You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. You are aware that Jordan did not win a title in his first seven seasons, right? The reason is that his team could never get past the Pistons or the Celtics. It was only after the Lakers, Pistons and Celtics got old and those dynasties broke up that he started to win. Really, study before you speak. Jordan beat the legendary Suns, Blazers and Jazz teams of the 1990s, also-rans. The East was a cakewalk as well. Look, Magic and Bird had their teams in the Finals instantly, took Jordan eight years. His "dominance" came about in the weakest era ever. Of course Magic praises Jordan, he has humility, something Jordan has none of.


 @l.czolgosz66  @HossStyle  @StevenKeys The only reason Jordan won any titles is because Pete Sampras got old. He played in the DOGSH*T era of men's ten... er basketball. Jordan was not as good as Larry Bird because Jordan couldn't win his titles until AFTER the greats like Bird, Magic, etc. got old or retired. So Pete Sampras is better than Roger Fe.... er Jordan. Weak era, veiled racist comments, blah blah.


@l.czolgosz66 you should study before you speak. So Jordan was supposed to beat those teams himself? What about him not having the right team? The Piston were not old when the Bulls beat them. Maybe the Celtics, but there's a reason why the Lakers made to the Finals in 91 (cause if they would had been old, they would had never made it). Blazer also-rans? They had Drexler who in second in the MVP vote in 91. Suns? They only had one of the most prolific players of its generation and the MVP of the 93 season. Stockton and Malone? Stockton the all time assist AND steal leader, and Malone only the second biggest scorer in the history of NBA... Get your facts straight before you start hating....

ChipWelch 1 Like

 @l.czolgosz66  @HossStyle  @StevenKeys Bird and Magic dominated early on because they had teams already in place.  How many titles did Bird win without McHale and Parrish?  How many titles did Magic win without Kareem?  Who did Jordan have during his first eight years?  It took Scottie four years to mature and same with Horace.  The Pistons were not "old" when Jordan beat them for the first title run.  They were the defending champions.  Isaiah was 30 when the Bulls beat them.  Rodman was 30 and Joe Dumars was 28.  The core of the team was in their prime.  Magic Johnson was 32 and still in his prime.  James Worthy was 30.  Both were in their prime.  

You might want to take your own advice.