Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 55-45

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 55-45

Over the next four days we'll be 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.

55. Jordan becomes first player to record ASG triple-double, Feb. 9, 1997

Jordan received nearly 2.5 million votes – more than 500,000 more than Charles Barkley – and was named an All-Star starter for the 10th time. He didn’t disappoint the Cleveland fan base, contributing everywhere with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in 26 minutes. He didn’t earn MVP honors – Glen Rice’s then-record 20-point third quarter earned him the award – but Jordan made history. Since then, only LeBron James (2011), Dwyane Wade (2012) and Kevin Durant (2017) have logged triple-doubles, and all needed more than Jordan’s 26 minutes to do so.

54. Jordan makes blind free throw, taunting rookie Dikembe Mutombo, Nov. 23, 1991

Jordan was putting the finishing touches on a masterpiece against the hapless Nuggets when he stepped to the line with 3.5 seconds remaining. Chuckling, Jordan listened as rookie Dikembe Mutombo attempted some last-minute trash talk. Jordan calmly sank the first free throw and then told the rookie to “watch this.” He closed his eyes, rose up and sunk the second free throw. The two shared a high five walking off the court, Jordan the victor having gone for 37 points and a perfect 7-for-7 from the stripe.

53.  NBA Board approves Jordan’s purchase of the Charlotte Bobcats, March 17, 2010

Jordan made history even after his playing days, becoming the first ex-player in NBA history to become a majority owner of a team. His $275 million bid to buy the Charlotte Hornets was unanimously approved, a steep price consider the six-year-old Bobcats had one winning season and zero playoff series wins. Today the Charlotte franchise – now the Hornets – is still under Jordan’s control, and while they’re still in search of their first playoff series win they’re now valued by Forbes at $1.05 billion

52. Jordan drops 51 points on Knicks while spatting with Jeff Van Gundy, Jan. 21, 1997

Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy poked the bear by accusing Jordan of softening up players by befriending them before trying to destroy them on the court. Well, Jordan read the quotes in the newspaper and responded by scoring 51 points on 18-for-30 shooting, five 3-pointers and 10-for-11 from the free throw line. He scored 12 of the Bulls’ 14 fourth-quarter points – including their final eight – in an 88-87 victory, and told reporters after the game “I guess I didn’t make any friends out there tonight.”

51. Jordan passes Bob Love to become Bulls’ all-time leading scorer, Jan. 26, 1990

Jordan entered his sixth NBA season needing 1,360 points to pass Love as the all-time leading scorer. He wasted no time getting there, scoring 54 points on Opening Night and averaging 33.3 points through 40 games. That put him 29 points away from Love’s record as the Bulls traveled to Philadelphia against a Sixers team that had held him to 16 points the previous month. But Jordan wasn’t denied making history, scoring 31 points in a losing effort. Jordan, of course, added to that all-time mark, finishing his Bulls’ career with 29,277 career points. Now we wait and see how long it takes for Lauri Markkanen to topple it.

50. Space Jam released in theaters, Nov. 15, 1996

Jordan took his talents to the big screen, teaming up with Warner Bros. on a full-length film featuring the NBA star attempting to get his friends’ basketball talent back while still retired. He joins forces with Bugs and Daffy Duck to battle Swackhammer and the Monstars, and between Bill Murray and Larry Bird cameos, R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” and Jordan ultimately winning the final game on a ridiculous dunk from half court, this movie had it all. It made $230 million at the box office and much more in merchandise. And no, we don’t expect a sequel involving LeBron James coming anytime soon.

49. Jordan scores a historic 61 points to finish the year with 3,000 points, April 16, 1987

With four games left in the regular season Jordan needed 137 points to become the second player in league history to score 3,000 points in a season. He began with 53 against the Pacers, then the next night went for 50 in Milwaukee. Three days later he scored 61 points, including 23 straight, against the Hawks to surpass the 3,000-point milestone. In the process he became the first since Wilt Chamberlain to reach that, and he also became the first since Wilt to score 50+ in three straight games. No player has topped 3,000 points since…Jordan never did again, either. In fact, the closest player to Wilt and Michael’s 3,000-point club was Kobe Bryant, who had 2,832 in 2005-06.

48. Jordan becomes oldest player in NBA history to score 50 points in a game, Dec. 29, 2001

In his first of two seasons with the Wizards, Jordan averaged 22.9 points, but what he did right before New Year’s Day was simply remarkable. The 38-year-old (and 315 days) poured in 51 points, making 21 of 38 shots in 38 minutes. Twenty-four of those came in the first quarter when he made nine of his first 11 attempts. He cooled off after that (relatively speaking), adding 10 in the second, 11 in the third and a respectable six in the fourth before sitting the final 3:08. He topped Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s 46-point outing at age 38 in 1986, and no one has even come close to Jordan’s 51 spot. And the best part? Two days later Jordan scored 45 points in a win over the Nets.

47. “The Chicago Bulls pick Michael Jordan, from the University of North Carolina,” June 19, 1984

Those famous words from Commissioner David Stern changed the face of the Bulls franchise, and the game of basketball, forever. After the Rockets selected Akeem Olajuwon with the first pick the Blazers opted for Kentucky center Sam Bowie, leaving the Bulls with the chance to select the 6-foot-6 shooting guard who had just won a national championship under Dean Smith. Said Jordan on draft night, “I just want to go in and contribute the best way I could.” Safe to say he did just that.

46. Jordan drops 33 in Game 6 as the Bulls win back-to-back titles

We’re going out of order here, but roll with it. The Bulls proved they weren’t just a flash in a pan after their first title, rolling through the Eastern Conference before making quick work of the Blazers in six games. Jordan’s Game 5 will always be the memorable one, but 33 points on 54 percent shooting in a closeout game ain’t half bad, either. Jordan finished the series with averages of 35.8 points on 53 percent shooting, 43 percent from deep and 89 percent from the foul line. It was then that the talk of a potential dynasty began festering…

45. Jordan scores 15 points against Sixers in last NBA game, April 16, 2003

Jordan’s third retirement wound up being his final one. Jordan scored 15 points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out four assists in 28 minutes, including re-entering the game with 3 minutes remaining a sellout Sixers crowd chanted “We want Mike.” Jordan entered the game and made a pair of free throws with 1:45 remaining. He was then subbed out for Tyronn Lue, ending an illustrious, Hall of Fame, and Greatest of All-Time career.

There's more questions than answers with Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen


There's more questions than answers with Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen

When the Bulls’ season ends in a couple weeks, there’s a good chance the biggest question will go unanswered, thus creating an uneasy feeling headed into the summer.

To the fault of no one, it’s possible we’ve seen the last minutes of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn together. Dunn is in a walking boot while LaVine’s knee tendinitis will keep him out for at least another week, and considering the way he’s played or been deployed, there’s not much for him to gain from playing again.

Markkanen could return in the next couple days if his back loosens up, but his greatest value in these final weeks was seeing how he meshed with his two co-stars.

The minutes they’ve played together haven’t provided any clear answers as to a pecking order, or even if there’s any effectiveness.

Yes, Markkanen has been a revelation and has more room to grow than the other two, while Dunn reclaimed his name after being labeled a bust following a disappointing rookie season.

And it’s probably unfair to judge LaVine on anything considering most evidence shows it takes at least 18 months to get back to full health from an ACL surgery. But given the objective of the season, the Bulls will likely walk away with an “incomplete” on their report card—and that’s probably optimistic.

The small sample size has shown moments but those moments have occurred when one was missing from the three. Dunn’s signature stretch was when LaVine had yet to debut, and LaVine’s flashes of control happened when Dunn was out with a concussion.

They’ve only played 12 games together and to the eye, it’s looked disjointed. The mismatch lineups certainly play a part in things looking so scattered, but even a closer look hasn’t shown more than a mixed bag.

According to NBA.com, the 3-man lineup has an offensive rating of 97.5 points per 100 possessions and a defensive rating of 119.2 points per 100 possessions. Even if you’re not into the advanced stats the way some are, it’s hard to ignore the numbers when the eye isn’t giving you much to combat it.

“I don't take too much into it just because of the fact Zach really joined the team full time with not many reps with that group,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Most of his contact practices were with Windy City. I am confident when we get all those guys together, especially this summer headed into training camp, we'll be a lot further ahead of where we were this year.”

Their collective plus-minus is minus-21.8 points and so much of that can be attributed to the trio not creating easy looks for each other. Dunn and Markkanen developed a decent chemistry, especially in December when Nikola Mirotic fueled a surge that saved the Bulls from temporary embarrassment.

“He was playing at such a high level,” Hoiberg said. “You look at his numbers during that stretch when I think we won 10 of 12, and went 15-11 I want to say in that six-week stretch in December and into January, and then unfortunately he had the bad concussion in the fall against Golden State.”

It also probably saved them from a sure-fire top three pick in the draft this summer, as they’ll resort to leaning on lottery luck to obtain a true franchise changer. LaVine was the centerpiece of the trade that delivered the trio to Chicago, and he’s admitted to frustration—which is to be expected given his recovery putting him behind from the start.

“I’ve had some parts where I’ve been frustrated, and I’ve had some parts where I’ve been happy with my play and the team’s play,” LaVine said earlier this week. “But I didn’t have any expectations really coming into it. I was excited to get back on the court and get back out here and playing, stuff like that. It’s been good overall just from the standpoint of me playing, and getting my rhythm back, getting with the team.”

LaVine and Dunn are in a unique situation where it appears both need the ball to be most effective, while also struggling to play without it. Will Dunn develop an outside shot respectable enough to allow LaVine easier driving lanes to the basket? And will LaVine find a way to make himself a threat off the ball to unlock a more deadly Dunn-Markkanen pick-and-roll?

He (Dunn) had a little bit of success, we put the ball in Zach’s hands a lot in that Minnesota game, and put Kris in the left corner where he did hit a couple shots playing off of Zach,” Hoiberg said. “Zach’s a guy that’s going to be a guy that has the ball in his hands quite a bit with the make-up of the team, and Kris has to be a guy that can be a reliable shooter.”

Markkanen will undoubtedly take another step in the offseason, even if he doesn’t play another minute this season. He doesn’t need to, anyways.

The wayward looks on the Bulls faces of their 135-102 drubbing at the hands of the Denver Nuggets said it all. Human nature is kicking in with this bunch, even if some of them have an opportunity to make names for themselves on an individual level.

The collective spirit has taken a few punches but by and large they’ve competed all season and should be commended. Wednesday night could be called an aberration of sorts.

“These guys are getting an unbelievable opportunity right now, to come out and prove they belong in this league, prove they belong in the rotation and prove they belong long-term with the organization,” Hoiberg said. “And we’re just obviously way too inconsistent with it. You can’t take it for granted. You got to go out, you got to fight, you got to scrap, do a lot of the little things. We’re not doing that.”

And even though Hoiberg is right, if everything revolves around Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen, how can the ancillary parts be truly assessed when they’re not out there to play off?

Denzel Valentine’s career night against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers last Saturday would be easier to place into context if he were playing alongside Dunn or LaVine or Markkanen, hitting eight triples by finding the open spots in the defense.

Instead, one could merely write it off as the same type of aberration as a 30-point loss to a Nuggets team desperate to stay in the Western Conference playoff hunt.

“It’s different because personally, I’ve been through a lot of roles: Starting, coming off the bench, back starting without those three guys," Valentine said. "It’s definitely been challenging but at the same time I have to come out and play better. And we can compete a little bit better.”

And even with 11 games remaining, the images produced won’t provide much answers for the true big picture.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Would Jordan's Bulls have won 8 straight titles?


Bulls Talk Podcast: Would Jordan's Bulls have won 8 straight titles?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Vincent Goodwill look past the Bulls loss to the Knicks and debate if free agents Isaiah Thomas or Jabari Parker be a good fit on the Bulls. Plus why Fred Hoiberg is in the midst of his best coaching in his Bulls tenure. Kendall also explains why he’s not convinced that Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine can coexist on the court together. And is Collin Sexton the right or wrong player for the team come draft time? Plus the debate between KG and Vincent on IF the Bulls would have won 8 straight titles had Jordan not retired.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.