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.