Mark Strotman

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 22-6

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 22-6

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-45 and 44-23.

22. Jordan announces retirement from basketball, Oct. 6, 1993
The entire sports world watched in stunned silence as Jordan, on the heels of a third NBA title, announced his retirement from basketball at 30 years old. The true reasons behind the retirement will likely never be known, but in a press conference Jordan told those watching that he had lost a sense of motivation and felt he had nothing more to prove. His next step, he said, was to pursue his first passion – baseball – to honor his late father. The Bulls moved on from Jordan with Scottie Pippen running the show, but that day marked one of the darkest in Chicago sports history.

21. Jordan named league MVP for first time, May 25, 1988
Jordan had plenty of historic seasons, but his first MVP might have been his best. The raw numbers – 82 games, 35.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 3.2 steals, 1.6 blocks – were unbelievable. But also consider that Jordan shot 54 percent from the field, won Defensive Player of the Year and led the Bulls to 50 wins, their first winning season since 1977. Jordan’s PER was 31.71 that season. The only two higher PER seasons in NBA history to this day are Wilt Chamberlain in 1962 and 1963. In those seasons Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds, and 44.8 points and 24.3 rebounds. Yeah, solid company.

20. Jordan scores 30 points in Game 5 of NBA Finals to clinch Bulls’ first title, June 12, 1991

Jordan finally overcame the doubters when he stormed through the Eastern Conference Finals and then the L.A. Lakers to earn the Bulls their first title. The Bulls lost just twice in the postseason (both times by two points), and followed each with double-digit wins. Jordan was magnificent against Magic Johnson and the Lakers, averaging 31.2 points on 56 percent shooting while playing 44 minutes per game. He also had double-digit assists in four of the five games (and nine in the other). Fittingly enough, Jordan played all 48 minutes in Game 5 to earn his first title.
19. Bulls become first team in NBA history to win 70 games, beating Bucks, April 16, 1996

The Bulls, sitting at 69-9, had four opportunities to become the first team ever to reach 70 wins. It was a question of when, not if, they would make history. Still, it was a sight to behold when the Bulls came back from a nine-point halftime deficit to set the record in Milwaukee. They shot just 39 percent and trailed a Bucks team with a 24-55 record much of the evening, but they came back with a strong fourth quarter, with Jordan’s 22 points leading the way. It toppled the ‘71-72 Lakers’ NBA record of 69 wins.
18. Jordan clinches 5th title, scoring 39 points in Game 6, June 13, 1997

Seemingly the forgotten title (if there ever could be one), there wasn’t a 72-win team attached to this title, and it wasn’t MJ’s final win with the Bulls. But it was a big one nonetheless, as the Bulls were tied with the Jazz after splitting the first four games, the home team winners in each. So how did His Airness respond? By going for 38 points in Game 5 (more on that tomorrow) and 39 in the closeout game back at the United Center. The points were nice, but it was Jordan’s pass to Steve Kerr with 5 seconds left that clinched the game, and the title, for the Bulls. Jordan was named Finals MVP for a record fifth time, averaging 32.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

17. Jordan announces return to NBA with “I’m back” statement, scores 19 the next day, March 18, 1995

Perhaps the most famous words in Bulls history aside from Michael and Jordan are “I’m back.” That’s all Jordan’s statement read when he famously returned to the NBA late in the 1995 season. He showed some obvious rust in his first game, shooting 7-for-28 in a loss to the Pacers, but the fact that a 32-year-old Jordan was back and committed to a Bulls team still every bit a contender as when he left was the bigger story that day.
16. Jordan inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Sept. 11, 2009

Jordan’s global impact on basketball far outweighed what he did on the court, and we all know how much he accomplished on the hardwood. That’s why Jordan’s induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame was just as much about the six titles, scoring records and trophies as it was what he’s done for Nike, Jumpman and basketball around the world. The iconic 2009 class also included Jerry Sloan, John Stockton and David Robinson, among others. And yes, the Crying Jordan meme was birthed on this day.
15. Michael Jordan named NBA Rookie of the Year, May 16, 1985

Jordan earned 57.5 of the 78 first-place votes for NBA Rookie of the Year, with Hakeem Olajuwon earning the other 20.5. But it was hard to argue with Jordan winning the award. His 28.3 points were the most by a rookie since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar averaged 28.8 per game, and he was the seventh rookie ever to average 28 per game. The others? George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Walt Bellamy, Elvin Hayes and Kareem. That’s 7 of 7 Hall of Famers, if you’re counting at home. And since Jordan’s rookie campaign, only David Robinson has even eclipsed 24 points per game in his first season.
14. Jordan dunks over Patrick Ewing in Game 3 as Bulls sweep Knicks, April 30, 1991

You know the play. In what is perhaps Jordan’s most iconic in-game dunk, His Airness spun baseline out of a John Starks/Charles Oakley double team and took an elevator up and over a defending Patrick Ewing. Ewing didn’t stand a chance, and neither did the Knicks. Jordan wound up scoring 33 points in a Game 3 win at Madison Square Garden, sweeping the Knicks out of the first round. It may not have been Jordan’s biggest moment at the Garden, but it’s certainly his most memorable.
13. Jordan scores a career-high 69 points at Cleveland in overtime, March 28, 1990

The list wouldn’t be complete without including the highest scoring performance of Jordan’s career. At the time Jordan’s 69-point effort was the ninth highest in NBA history, and it was as remarkable as you would think. Jordan played 50 minutes, going 23 of 37 from the field and getting to the free throw line 23 times. He even made a pair of 3-pointers, and capped off his effort with a career-best 18 rebounds. Only four players have ever gone for 60 and 18 in a game: Wilt Chamberlain (7 times), Jordan, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal. Jordan scored seven of the Bulls’ 12 points in overtime as they pulled away for a four-point win.
12. Jordan scores 22 points in Gold Medal Game with Dream Team, August 8, 1992

It was only fitting that Jordan led the team in scoring as the Dream Team won gold in Barcelona. The journey of the greatest team ever assembled featured so many lasting memories, including the infamous scrimmage, MJ and Pippen defending Toni Kukoc, Charles Barkley predicting trouble for Angola, and John Stockton walking around the city with no one recognizing who he was. For the tournament, Jordan averaged 14.9 points and was the only Dream Teamer to start all eight games. It was Jordan’s second gold medal, as he had won one as a college player in 1984 at the Summer Games in Los Angeles.
11. 55 points at MSG in 5th game back in return to NBA, March 28, 1995

Jordan proclaimed he was back two weeks earlier, but everyone knew he was actually back once he arrived at Madison Square Garden. Jordan torched the Knicks for 55 points, making it look easy on 21-for-37 shooting. New York had no answer for No. 45, and it was almost fitting that Jordan found Bill Wennington wide open under the basket with 3.1 seconds remaining to break a 111-111 tie. Jordan only had two assists all night, but his scoring barrage and subsequent double team as the clock wound down made his second one his easiest. That night was proof that MJ still had it and that the Bulls were back, knocking off the 44-24 Knicks at home.
10. 55 points in Game 4 vs. Suns of 1993 NBA Finals, highest scoring average ever in Finals, June 16, 1993

Jordan’s best Finals performance might have been his third. The 41.0 points he averaged over the six-game series still stands as the highest in NBA Finals history. His lowest point total in the series was 31 points, and in four of the games he scored 40+. The average boomed in Game 4 when he dropped 55 in a crucial victory after the Suns had taken Game 3 in triple overtime. Those 55 points stand as tied for the second most in an NBA Finals game, behind only Elgin Baylor’s 61 in 1962. Jordan made 21 of 37 shots and got to the free throw line 18 times.
9. Jordan beats Dominique Wilkins in iconic 1988 Dunk Contest in Chicago Stadium, Feb. 6, 1988

Was Dominique robbed? That debate can happen on his birthday. Jordan won the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest on his home court thanks for a handful of iconic dunks, one of which became one of the most recognizable logos in all of sports. The two traded 50s on each of the first dunks in the final round. Wilkins tallied a 50 on his next dunk, and Jordan could only counter with a 47. But after Wilkins managed just a 45 on his third dunk, Jordan needed a 49 to repeat. Jordan did just that, finishing his dunk from the free-throw line to earn a perfect 50. He was the first player to ever repeat as champion, and since then only Jason Richardson, Nate Robinson and Zach LaVine have done so.
8. Jordan hits jumper vs. Georgetown to win NCAA title, March 29, 1982

The knock on Jordan in college was that he couldn’t hit jump shots. Well, he sure looked comfortable draining his first of what would become innumerable iconic shots. With 17 seconds left and the North Carolina trailing Patrick Ewing and Georgetown by one, Jordan hoisted up from the left corner and buried a 15-footer to put the Tar Heels ahead. His 15th and 16th points were all they needed to earn the program’s first title since 1957. Years later Jordan admitted that his shot to win it all “was the birth of Michael Jordan.”
7. Jordan switches hands in mid-air against Lakers, part of 33-point night in Game 2 of Finals, June 5, 1991

On his way to the first championship of his NBA career, Jordan went full acrobat during Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Jordan took a pass Cliff Levingston while cutting down the lane, took one dribble, gathered and took flight toward the rim. Both A.C. Green and Jordan’s college teammate Sam Perkins were waiting under the basket to defend the attempt. And while neither wound up jumping to contest the shot, Jordan made sure of it by switching the ball from his right to his left hand in mid-air and finishing high off the glass. The 33 points were a game-high and got the Bulls in the win column after the Lakers had taken Game 1.
6. Jordan’s Shot on Ehlo to win Game 5 of 1989 series against Cavs, May 7, 1989

The Bulls had actually defeated the Cavaliers in the playoffs the previous year in five games, but this shot still meant plenty. Jordan and the Bulls had been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round two of the previous three years, and they were on the verge of blowing a 2-1 series lead in Cleveland. Trailing by six, the Bulls clawed back in the final quarter and actually took a 99-98 lead with 6 seconds left on a Jordan jumper. Ehlo then scored a layup with 3 seconds left that pushed Cleveland’s lead back to 1. That’s when Jordan heroics took center stage, with No. 23 taking the inbounds pass from Brad Sellers, rising up from the free throw line and burying a 15-footer at the buzzer. “Bulls win, The Bulls win it!”

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 44-23

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 44-23

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-45.


44. Jordan scores in double figures in 788th straight game, passing Kareem, Dec. 30, 1997 (1997)

Beginning March 25, 1986, two days after being held to eight points in 16 minutes, Jordan began an historic run of consecutive games scoring in double figures. On this night Jordan poured in 33 points in a loss to the Timberwolves, giving him 788 straight games with 10 or more points. Jordan’s streak continued into his Washington days, and he ran his record to 866 straight games in double figures until a six-point outing in December 2001. LeBron James, as of this writing, stands at 846 consecutive games in double figures. He could break Jordan’s record in early April.

43. Jordan goes 2-for-5 effort at Wrigley Field in Windy City Classic, April 7, 1994

Jordan didn’t have too many highlights on the diamond, but he did save one of his best efforts playing against the Cubs in Wrigley Field at the Windy City Classic. Jordan singled, doubled and drove in two runs in a 4-4 tie in front of 37,825 at the Friendly Confines. Jordan also committed an error in right field and had a miscue on the base paths misreading a fly ball, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the most famous Chicago athlete playing in the most famous Chicago stadium. OK, back to the basketball.

42. “Be Like Mike” Gatorade campaign launches, Aug. 8, 1991

When Quaker Oats, owners of Gatorade, signed Jordan to a 10-year, $13.5 million endorsement deal, they envisioned His Airness, recently crowned an NBA champion, as leading the charge as the face of the sports drink. Advertising executive Bernie Pitzel originally wanted to have kids looking at Jordan while The Jungle Book’s “I Wan’na Be Like You” played. But Disney wanted too much money - $350,000 – so Pitzel and Gatorade came up with the lyrics and music to “Be Like Mike,” which became one of the most recognizable and memorable advertising campaigns of its time. The rest became history with Jordan and Gatorade.

41. Jordan’s first career triple-double, Jan. 14, 1985

It took Jordan just 38 games to record his first triple-double, and he did it in pretty impressive fashion. Jordan played all but five minutes, scoring 35 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and handing out 15 assists. He shot 11 of 16 from the field, which made him the only player in NBA history to log a 35-10-10 triple-double while shooting 60 percent or better from the field. And no rookie has ever done it since. Jordan hit the 40-point mark seven times as a rookie, but this triple-double may have been the highlight of his Rookie of the Year campaign.

40. Miami Heat retire Jordan’s No. 23 jersey, April 11, 2003

Not only did the Heat retire Jordan’s No. 23 jersey despite him never playing for Miami, they made him the first player in franchise history to receive the honor. Jordan played against the Heat 38 times, averaging 30.1 points on 51 percent shooting. Jordan also did plenty of damage against Riley’s Lakers and Knicks teams, too, and Riley told Jordan at the jersey retirement ceremony, “No one will ever wear No. 23 for the Miami Heat. You’re the best.” Jordan dominated Riley one last time that evening, scoring 25 points in a four-point Wizards win.

39. Jordan wins All-Star MVP with record 40 points at Chicago Stadium, Feb. 7, 1988

Jordan was named All-Star MVP three different seasons (1988, 1996, 1998) but his most memorable weekend came in Chicago. One day after winning arguably the greatest Slam Dunk Contest in league history, Jordan put on a show at Chicago Stadium, scoring 40 points (at that time an ASG record) and grabbing eight rebounds, and he earned MVP honors as the host team for just the 10th time in league history. Since then it’s been done just six other times.

38. Jordan becomes first player 40 or older to score 40 points in a game, Feb. 21, 2003

It’s easy to take Jordan’s longevity for granted. So consider this: When he scored 40 points against the New Jersey Nets in 2003, he became the first 40-year-old to score 30 points in a game. And he tacked on 10 more for good measure! The previous high by a 40-year-old was Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who scored 27 points in 1987. Abdul-Jabbar also scored 26 at age 40, and San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili scored 26 at age 40 in a game earlier this season. Outside of those three instances? Jordan has games of 43, 39, 35, 30, 27, 26 and 26 at age 40. Old man Jordan had plenty of game.

37. Jordan scores a UC-high 55 points vs. the Wizards in the playoffs, April 27, 1997

Jordan did plenty of damage at Chicago Stadium in his early days, and he was a nightmare on the road (just ask the fine folks of New York and Boston). But Jordan’s best night at the United Center came in the postseason when he dropped 55 on the Washington Bullets, shooting 22-for-35, making all 10 free throw attempts and even hitting a 3-pointer. Jordan accounted for more than half of the Bulls’ 109 points in the Game 2 win, and he closed out the Wizards by scoring 20 of the Bulls’ 23 points in the final period.

36. Jordan signs with Nike brand, changes the shoe game forever, Oct. 26, 1984

The history of basketball shoes changed forever when Jordan, who had worn Converse in college and preferred Adidas, signed a reported five-year, $2.5 million deal. Well, Nike wound up selling $70 million worth of Air Jordans in 1985, Tinker Hatfield collaborated with Jordan to produce the most famous basketball shoe line in history and in 1988, the famous Jumpman silhouette was introduced and Jumpman/Air Jordan brand took on a life of its own.

35. Jordan becomes Bulls’ all-time leading rebounder, March 14, 1998

Jordan was known as the league’s best scorer and a lockdown defender, but he also hit the glass well for a 6-foot-6 shooting guard. For his career Jordan averaged 6.2 rebounds per game, peaking in 1989 with 8.0 per game. And he passed Tom Boerwinkle as the Bulls’ all-time leading rebounder with a five-board effort in a win over the Spurs. Jordan remains the all-time leading rebounder in franchise history.

34. Jordan scores 52 in Pippen’s Charity Game, last game ever at Chicago Stadium, Sept. 9 1994

Though he was retired from basketball, Jordan returned to Chicago Stadium one last time to take part in Scottie Pippen’s charity game. Well, His Airness showed he still had it, scoring 52 points on 24 of 46 shooting, with his team beating Pippen’s by 37 points. Jordan said goodbye to the stadium he had won three titles in by kissing the red Bulls logo at midcourt before leaving for the last time. A little more than six months later he would be back to begin a new three-peat inside the United Center.

33. Jordan has jersey stolen, still scores 49 points wearing No. 12, Feb. 14, 1990

And here you thought Kirk Hinrich was the best Bulls player to wear No. 12. Actually it was Jordan, who allegedly had his jersey stolen prior to a game in Orlando. The Bulls didn’t have a backup No. 23 jersey, so instead Jordan was forced to wear a No. 12 jersey with no last name on it. Jordan certainly didn’t seem to mind, as he scored 49 points on 21 of 43 shooting in an overtime loss. Jordan went back to No. 23 the following game, and unlike Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey, Jordan’s uni was never recovered. Maybe someone received an awesome Valentine’s Day gift.

32. Jordan tallies first 40-point game, first double-double, Nov. 13, 1984

It didn’t take long for the basketball world to know Jordan was going to be special. In just his ninth NBA game he scored 45 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a win over the Spurs. The only players in league history to score 40+ earlier in their career were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (seventh career game), John Drew (third game), and Bernard King (seventh). Twenty-five years later Brandon Jennings would score 55 in his seventh career game. Jordan’s 45 and 10 game as a rookie was the first time that had been accomplished since Bob McAdoo in 1973, and Jordan would do it again in February. Since then only Shaquille O’Neal and Blake Griffin have reached those numbers in their first years.

31. Jordan signs with Washington Wizards, Sept. 25, 2001

We’ll get this one over quickly. Jordan returned “to the game I love” after a three-year hiatus in a management/ownership role with the Wizards. Jordan donated his two-year salary to relief efforts following the 9/11 tragedy, and there was cautious optimism he could return to the game and still contribute, considering he had retired after winning a scoring title, the NBA title and league MVP. The Wizards had won just 19 games the previous season but Jordan believed he could help them toward a playoff berth. Ultimately he failed to do so in two seasons, though he did average 21.5 points and make the All-Star Game both years. Moving along.

30. Jordan scores 33 points in Game 6, Bulls become first team in 25 years to three-peat, June 20, 1993

This one could be and should be higher on the list, but it’s tough to space out six titles. Jordan and the Bulls’ first three-peat came against MVP Charles Barkley and the Suns. Amazingly Jordan’s 33 points in the clincher were the second fewest points he scored in the six-game series. The Bulls were the first team since the 60s Celtics to three-peat (they won eight straight from 1959 to 1966), and since then only Jordan’s late 90s Bulls teams and the 2000-2002 Lakers have accomplished a three-peat.

29. Jordan returns to the United Center as an opponent, scoring 16 points, Jan. 19, 2002

Yes, he got the “From North Carolina, 6-6, Michael Jordan” and a minute-long standing ovation from the sellout United Center crowd. But this was almost too surreal, watching Jordan wave to the crowd while the No. 23 banner hung from the rafters. Jordan had played the Bulls once already, but his return to Chicago felt different. He scored 16 points but also missed 14 shots and had nine turnovers in 41 minutes. The Wizards won by eight in an ugly 77-69 affair, with Jordan grabbing the final rebound of the game. In six career games against the Bulls, Jordan averaged 16.2 points on 35.6 percent shooting.

28. Jordan’s “The Showdown” commercial with Larry Bird first airs, Jan. 31, 1993

What would you do for a Big Mac and fries? Well, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird played the greatest sudden death game of P-I-G for this famous McDonald’s commercial. Jordan was in the midst of a three-peat, and a 34-year-old Bird would soon be named to his 11th All-Star Game. And despite all the wild shots, Bird’s declaration of “no dunking” might be the best part. Rumor has it the game’s still going on to this day.

27. Jordan finally gets past the Pistons, May 27, 1991

The Bad Boys in Detroit had been a thorn in Jordan’s side. The Pistons knocked out the Bulls in five games in 1988, six games in 1989 and seven games in 1990. But a revamped Bulls roster and Jordan in the midst of his second MVP season scorched the Pistons in 1991, sweeping the Bad Boys to earn their first Eastern Conference title. Jordan was outstanding, averaging 29.8 points on 54 percent shooting, along with 5.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.8 blocks. He was everywhere, and it symbolically marked the passing of the torch from Detroit to Chicago. The Pistons were bounced in the first round the following year and didn’t win another playoff series until 2002. Sorry, Vincent Goodwill.

26. Michael Jordan records his seventh straight triple-double, April 6, 1989

He didn’t make history per se, but Jordan’s run of seven straight triple-doubles was something to behold at the time. In that famous stretch, he averaged 30.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 11.0 assists in 41.1 minutes. Jordan, of course, then missed a triple-double by three rebounds against the Pistons before reeling off three more in a row, giving him 10 in an 11-game span. The seven straight was second longest to Wilt Chamberlain (nine straight in 1968), and Jordan tied Oscar Robertson’s seven straight in the 60s. Last year Russell Westbrook also had seven straight during a season in which he averaged a triple-double. Still, this was historic stuff from Jordan.

25. Jordan dunks over Mutombo and gives him finger wag in East semifinals, May 13, 1997

Michael Jordan told a rookie Dikembe Mutombo he would be the first to dunk on the 7-foot shot blocker. Jordan might not have been the first to do it six years later, but he might have had the most memorable. As the Bulls were finishing up a five-game series win over the Hawks in the Eastern semifinals, Jordan took a baseline pass from Luc Longley and rose up over Mutombo, who was helping weak side. Jordan flushed home the dunk and sent Mutombo one of his own trademark finger wags. Jordan was T’d up for the trash talk, but the Bulls won by 15 to move on the to the conference finals. Well worth it.

24. Jordan scores 30,000th career point in first game against the Bulls, Jan. 4, 2002

Though it didn’t happen in Chicago, watching Jordan play against the Bulls must have been almost unbelievable. And it didn’t help matters that he accomplished such a significant feat wearing a different uniform. Alas, Jordan became the fifth player in NBA history to reach the 30,000-point mark, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Wilt Chamberlain. Since then Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James have joined the club. When asked about the achievement, Jordan simply said: “I take that and move on with it.” The Wizards won by six.

23. Bulls win 72nd game, an NBA record, as Jordan scores 26 in the win, April 21, 1996

A few days earlier the Bulls had become the first team in NBA history to win 70 games. But there was something special about the finished tally: 72. Phil Jackson was getting his players some additional rest for the postseason, but Jordan still managed 26 points in 24 minutes. He added four rebounds, four assists and four steals before a strong performance from the second unit pushed them to a win. The record, of course, was broken by Steph Curry and the Warriors two seasons ago, but Jordan and the Bulls’ 72 wins remain one of the great team accomplishments in NBA history.