Michael Jordan is beyond legendary. By most accounts he's the greatest player ever. It's in the totality of his career, but it's also in the individual moments that are contained within it. Some of the most amazing, eye-popping, oh-wow-how-in-the-world-did-he-do-that moments in the history of the NBA came from Michael Jordan.
His commercial success was astronomical, and his jersey sales were colossal. In 2008 the NBA released a list of jersey sales for the last decade, and the leader was Michael Jordan. In spite of the fact that he was only with the Bulls for one of those 10 years, and only with the Wizards for two, he still outsold LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. His number was 23 (for the four or five people in the universe who don't know).
So here is the list of the 23 greatest moments of Jordan's career.
Admittedly, while this was a sweet pass it's probably not the 23rd greatest moment, but it gave me a chance to include Stacey King in a highlight. Jordan's court vision was amazing though, and how he even knew to pass that ball is beyond me.
One of the things about Jordan that made him so great was his competitive fire, and it was on full display when his shot got blocked. He chased down the ensuing fast break and got the block-steal or "bleal" as Woody Paige would call it in a spectacular display of athleticism and will, especially for a guy over 40.
When he came back as a Wizard there were some calling Vince Carter the "next Michael Jordan." Jordan apparently wanted Carter to know whose shadow he was living in, and left him no room for doubt in this particularly devastating ankle breaking move. If he's going to help him to his seat, the least he could do is pull up a chair!
As several of the commenters on this video point out, even the glass respects Jordan, waiting until he is safely out of harm's way before raining on the unfortunate opponents. This one came in a Nike Exhibition game in Italy in 1986 in case you're wondering what that orange uniform is all about.
Some have argued that with today's rule changes that Jordan could average 40 points per game. It's fair, he did have a 42 point game with today's rules. Of course he was 40 at the time, so you have to cut him a little slack for not averaging that over the course of the season. It's the only 40 point game by a 40 year old in NBA history.
Filling in the blanks:
Dikembe Motumbo: "I bet you can't make it with your eyes closed."
Michael Jordan: "This one's for you baby."
My favorite part on this one is watching the Trail Blazers getting ready to jump for the rebound and then there's that moment where they're trying to absorb that the ball's in the basket. Just saying, if that was easy, everyone would be doing it.
This is a representative play of Jordan's dunking ability. It highlights his ability to move with the ball, thread traffic and get to the rim all combined. Not too many players have posters with Ewing on the wrong side of the dunk, but Jordan was one.
It's probably not the best all time posterization of Ewing though. That distinction goes to Scottie Pippen.
Shortly after his first comeback John Starks made a comment about how he was looking forward to guarding Michael Jordan, and while I can't find the quote, I seem to recall the word "old" being tossed out.
Whatever it was, it was throwing down the gauntlet, not a wise move when facing Jordan. Jordan responded with a double nickel.
Ahhhh!!! Remember when the Slam Dunk Contest was a contest between the NBA's great players? Not so much anymore. This was arguably the greatest of the contests and harkens back to when it was about dunking more than props.
Against the then Charlotte Hornets Michael Jordan dropped half a century plus one just 50 days shy of his 39th birthday, making him the oldest player to ever score 50 in a game.
When you think of that, and consider the time he didn't play do to his two retirements you really have to figure he'd be the all time scoring leader right now if he had just played through.
In the first half of Game One of the 1992 finals, Jordan had what is probably the greatest single half in postseason history, ripping 35 points in the first half alone. Jordan was six for six from behind the arc, and after the last one shrugged his shoulders on the way back down the court as though to say, "Sometimes I amaze even me."
In a physical series against the Knicks the Bulls were going to need to beat New York at home to get a chance to repeat their title in 1992. Jordan scored 42 points on 15-for-29 shooting from the field and 12-of-13 from the line. He added 6 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks. The Bulls blew out the Knicks 110-81.
The Detroit Pistons had sent home the Chicago Bulls three years in a row. Jordan took it to heart and changed his play from being just a scoring champion to being a team leader providing whatever the team needed to win, and involving his teammates.
It was the final hurdle. In 1991 they met for a fourth time. It wasn't even close as the the Bulls swept the Pistons. For the duration of his career as a Bull, Jordan never played a complete season and lost a postseason series.
To be sung to the tune of "Hello"
Ehlo! Is it you I'm looking for.
You can see it in my eyes
As I send you to the floor.
Cause you haven't got a clue
How to guard me—
It is true!!
Ehlo!! Ha ha! Ehlo
Jordan set a playoff record scoring 63 points against the Boston Celtics. After the game Larry "The Legend" Bird described him as "God disguised as Michael Jordan."
One of the truly great things about Michael Jordan was his willingness to trust his teammates and share the limelight. In the three championships they won at the buzzer, Jordan had the opportunity to take the shot or pass it to a teammate all three times. He passed twice and shot once. All three went in. This was the first of those chances.
In what is arguably the greatest game of the three point era, Jordan had 69 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, four steals and one block to lead the Bulls past the Cavaliers. Some argue that Kobe's 81 point game is better. I disagree.
MJ's game came against a top 10 defensive team and playoff team in the hand check era. Kobe's came against a moribund No. 29 ranked defensive team that was routinely beaten in an era when the hand check was illegal. While he had 12 more points, he had 12 fewer rebounds.
Give me the Jordan game.
When you have a move that has the opponent raving about it after a loss, it's impressive. When that opponent is Magic Johnson, it's more impressive. When that opponent is Magic Johnson in the NBA Finals that's most impressive.
If Magic thinks it's magic, it's magic.
One of the truly great things about Michael Jordan was his willingness to trust his teammates and share the limelight. In the three championships they won at the buzzer, Jordan had the opportunity to take the shot or pass it to a teammate all three times. He passed twice and shot once. All three went in. This was the second of those chances.
If you're a sports' fan, you've heard the expression, it comes down to who wants it more.
In the legendary "Flu Game" Jordan had either a stomach virus or food poisoning, and was told by the doctors there was no way he could play.
In a game where it seemed impossible through most of it that he could take another step he not only stepped, he stepped up. He played 44 minutes. He finished the game with 38 points including an impressive putback dunk, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block. Finally, with the game in hand he virtually collapsed into Scottie Pippen's arms.
Jordan sums it up in the ultimate postgame understatement, "I wanted it really bad."
On July 23, 1993, Michael Jordan's father was murdered. Jordan's decision to retire and play baseball was based in large part on his father's dream that he play baseball.
In his first championship series since his father's death, on Father's Day, Jordan led the Bulls to a win. In what is in my opinion, the most unguarded, purely emotional moments of Jordan's entire career, and perhaps in all of NBA history, Jordan, prone on the floor, wept openly while holding the game ball.
If you can go to the 8:47 marker of this video and not tear up you are just a cold, cold human being.
At the time it was the last shot of his career. Now it's just his last shot as a Bull, but is there a better way to go out? His final shot secured his sixth ring, and his legacy as the greatest of all time. In the last of his three game winning opportunities, Jordan took the shot and made it.
This is how he describes the play.
"As soon as Russell reached, he gave me a clear lane. I made my initial drive, and he bit on it, and I stopped, pulled up and I had an easy jump shot," Jordan said. "I had a great look, and it went in. Once it went in I knew from that point on, we've been hanging around long enough, it was the game-winning basket, and it was a matter of playing solid defense. Our defense has held us strong all series, we wouldn't be in this scenario without the defense. All we had to do was play defense for 5.8 seconds, and I knew we could do that."