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.