50 Greatest Highlights of Michael Jordan's Career
Jordan absolutely dominated the game when he was on the court. It didn't matter how old he was, how sick he was or how long of a hiatus he was coming off of. The man was brilliant.
Nearly a decade removed from NBA action, highlights from his playing days are still replayed and heralded. During a time when we are being exposed to the brutal business side of the game, Jordan's on court heroics can serve as a reminder to us all who remain loyal to this league, even in times such as these.
With this in mind, let's take a look at the 50 greatest highlights of Jordan's career. A fair warning though, there are a few entire game accomplishments that serve as highlights because of how His Airness lit it up.
He was that spectacular at what he did.
No. 50: Master of the Reverse Layup
No one utilized the reverse layup quite like Jordan did, and no one executed it quite like him either.
Here in a game against the New Jersey Nets, Jordan makes a complicated move look routine. It is plays like this that were sometimes took for granted, but it gets the recognition it deserves here.
No. 49: Jordan Posterizes Bill Laimbeer
Despite being 6'11" there was nothing the Detroit Pistons' Bill Laimbeer could do to prevent himself from becoming another face on a Michael Jordan poster.
Laimbeer was known for getting dirty on the defensive end, but this time around, Jordan did him dirty, rendering his face expressionless. In fact, given Laimbeer's reputation, most would not have even tried to go up against him like that.
But as we know, Jordan was not most players.
No. 48: Two-Handed Cradle Against Sonics
The announcer says it best here when he notes this is what everyone came to see.
Jordan rocked the cradle many times through his career, this being one of the more impressive occurrences. He almost lost a handle on it, but to do so wouldn't be very Jordan like, which is why he ultimately didn't.
This move is very understated as he makes it look at lot easier than it actually is.
No. 47: Jordan Dunks Through Two Players
Opposing defensives create traffic in the paint, which most players consider a hindrance. Jordan on the other hand sees opportunity.
He makes the most of this opportunity here, dunking through two players and perfectly emulating what it means to be unstoppable.
No. 46: Jordan Ball-Fakes Reggie Miller
Jordan made Reggie Miller look like even more of a goof than usual by faking him out in the worst way.
Jordan looked left with the ball than switched promptly back to right before dishing it off to his left. Miller walked away from the play with a dazed and confused look on his face that only Jordan could have delivered.
That's what we call running in transition with style.
No. 45: Overtime Please
Jordan sent a game against the Portland Trail Blazers into overtime with this incredible move.
He hangs in the air for what seems to be forever and thrusts the ball every which way before eventually tossing it in the basket. This play not only defied the laws of gravity, but also the mobility of one's hand.
This is a freakishly unique play of Jordan's that definitely deserves a spot amongst his all-time best highlights.
No. 44: Jordan Fakes Malik Sealy
Cannot blame Malik Sealy for nearly hitting the floor on this ball-fake.
Jordan sold this fake like he was working on commission, an ability of his that often went overlooked because of his incredible fade aways and vertical leaping abilities.
We all know Jordan did what he had to in order to score, and if that involved confusing the hell out of his defender, then that is just what he would do.
No. 43: The Circus Is in Town
Jordan humiliated the Heat's defense with this circus style shot.
After realizing there was not much else for him to do while in mid-air, Jordan flipped the ball over his head with one hand, somehow clearing Keith Askins and finding its way into the basket.
Jordan had a knack for scoring without actually looking at the basket. It seems all he needed to know was that it was in the vicinity.
No. 42: Jordan Passes Up the Big Shot
What you have to love about Jordan was his ability to be unselfish, even in crunch time.
The Utah Jazz fully expected Jordan to take the final shot here, and even announcer Marv Albert proclaimed that it was "Michael Jordan Time." Jordan surprised everyone though.
Jordan started to go to work in the paint, but then kicked it out to Steve Kerr who was wide open and knocked down the shot.
His Airness' wasn't always fixated on the rim.
No. 41: Game Winner on a Fast Break
It isn't too often that a game winner comes off a fast break, but it happened for Jordan back in 1992 against the Charlotte Hornets.
Although Jordan took the Hornets down in transition, it was anything but an easy score. He hangs in the air, adjusts his shot, draws the foul and then gets the ball off.
Just another notch of amazing under Jordan's belt.
No. 40: Puts Cavalier Fans out of Their Misery
Sorry Clevelanders, but this will not be your only appearance on Jordan's highlight reel.
With the clock winding down, Jordan hit a fadeaway jumper, ensuring Chicago's sweep of the Cavaliers in the 1993 NBA Playoffs. Jordan holds onto the ball so long that it seems he may almost not get a shot off.
In reality though, he was just making it look more dramatic. He already knew how this was going to end.
No. 39: Jordan Giving Jazz a Taste of What's to Come
In Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Jordan didn't waste any time before boasting his crunch time expertise.
As time expired, Jordan stopped, faded and popped over Utah's Bryon Russell to give Chicago the victory in the first game of the series on their way to an NBA title.
The composure that Jordan exhibits here is amazing. He is so methodical in his offensive set as he patiently waits for an opening. Once he sees his opportunity, he takes it.
Another game, another buzzer beater.
No. 38: Jordan Blocks Shaq
In Jordan's first meeting against the enormous Shaquille O'Neal he was anything but intimidated.
Jordan wound up blocking the 7'1" O'Neal much to the big man's chagrin. He would go on to be one of the best shot-blocking guards to ever step on the court and it's nice to look back and see where it all began.
I wonder what was more embarrassing for O'Neal: Being blocked as a rookie by Jordan or getting stuffed by the 5'9" Nate Robinson?
No. 37: Jordan Going Retro
In his last game at Madison Square Garden as a member of the Bulls, Jordan donned a paired of Air Jordan I's from 1984.
As it turns out, those old kicks had some new tricks in them. Jordan went on to score 42 points, eight rebounds and six assists that night.
What's the highlight of choice for this outing? About seven minutes into the video Jordan pulls off an unbelievable circus and-one shot. He went up in the air, with the ball in one hand, bumped into Terry Cummings and threw the rock against the glass and in.
This prompted the announcers to agree that there was no other player in the history of the game with his level of artistry.
Hard to argue that notion.
No. 36: Jordan Posterizes Sam Perkins
Sam Perkins was naive enough to get in the way of one of Jordan's dunk attempts. The end result? An autographed poster mailed to Perkins a few days later.
Perkins stepped in just as Jordan took flight and Jordan responded by dunking over the head of the 6'9" forward. He came up hobbling after the monster jam, but he would be the first to say it was a small price to pay.
Oh, and I almost forgot, he drew the foul too.
No. 35: Jordan Posterizes Kent Benson
After pulling off a nasty crossover, Jordan humiliated the Detroit Pistons further by posterizing the 6'10" Kent Benson.
Height never seemed to hold Jordan back. He was 6'6" but he rose above the rest like he was eight-feet tall. He soared right over Benson and jammed it home emphatically.
Whenever Jordan took flight, there was a better than good chance that someone got posterized. In this case, Benson was the unsuspecting victim.
No. 34: Jordan's One-Handed Cradle Against Knicks
What's better than a two-handed cradle? Well, a one-handed cradle of course.
Jordan is one of the few visiting players that was able to draw praise from a brutal Madison Square Garden arena. He brought them to their feet with this one, which looked like it came right out of a slam dunk competition.
More often than not, Jordan turned regular season games into his own little slam dunk competition, pulling off unthinkable acrobatics during the most unlikely of times.
No. 33: Jordan One-Haned Alley-Oop
Was there anything that this guy could not do?
Jordan soars through the air toward the rim catching John Paxson's pass mid-air with one hand before stuffing it home. He was quite the acrobatic athlete, yet the jaw-dropping factor never left his game thanks to outlandish moves like these.
It also gets you wondering who Jordan loved to wreak havoc against more, the Cavs or the Knicks?
No. 32: Jordan Posterizes Glenn Robinson
Jordan makes Glenn the "Big Dog" Robinson come across as practically minuscule with the way he soars right over him for the emphatic jam.
Robinson, at 6'7" held a solid presence in the low-post, but if you watch closely, Jordan's tongue drops during his crossover, and as we know, nothing good for the opposition ever happens at that point.
Robinson may have been better off pulling a Charles Barkley and walking himself out of the play, allowing Jordan an easier slam. It would have saved him from being thrust into one of Jordan's many, many posters.
No. 31: Jordan Posterizes Moses Malone
Here Jordan beats Fred Roberts off the dribble causing Moses Malone to try and help out. Jordan doesn't care and dunks on the 6'10" Malone and his lengthy arms.
Malone was a presence to be feared in the low-post, a player few tried to go up against.
I guess Jordan never got that memo.
No. 30: Jordan Posterizes Alonzo Mourning
Alonzo Mourning is 6'10", but that didn't stop Jordan from posterizing him when he was a member of the Hornets.
As we all know, once Jordan stuck his tongue, there was usually nothing anyone could do to stop him. Regardless of how tall you were or how skilled you were defensively, the hanging tongue symbolized that the end was near.
No exception here.
No. 29: Jordan Throws It Down Against Tree Rollins
Tree Rollins stood at 7'1". This dunk indicates that Jordan didn't care.
Watch as Jordan takes to the air, to throw down a dunk in the face of one of the tallest big men to ever play the game.
Tree Rollins, meet Michael Jordan. You are going to wind up on a poster of his one day.
No. 28: Jordan Posterizes Kelly Tripucka
Not only does Jordan nab the steal, but he then takes the rock the distance of the court and clears the Hornets' Kelly Tripucka.
Tripucka only stood at 6'6", but Jordan soared over him as if he was smaller than Muggsy Bogues.
You can clearly see that Tripucka thought he was going to stop Jordan. You can also clearly see that he was mistaken, as at the very last second you could tell he could not remove himself from that play fast enough.
Oh well, maybe Jordan mailed him a poster as a consolation prize.
No. 27: Giving Dikembe Mutombo a Taste of His Own Medicine
Dikembe Mutombo came into this saying that Jordan had never dunked on him before. It wasn't long after that Jordan was able to cross that one off his bucket list.
This posterizing dunk—which can seen at the 1:15 mark—left Mutombo livid. Jordan added fuel to the fire by shaking the index finder at the volatile center, a trademark of Mutombo's.
I'm betting Mutombo wished he would have kept his mouth shut after this one.
No. 26: Jordan Palms the Ball Mid-Air
Watch closely, not because you will learn a thing or two—this is just too difficult to teach—but because you could miss it.
While in mid-air, Jordan not only catches the ball with one hand, but palms it too. The effortless way in which he pulls it down leads me to believe he may have had glue on his fingers.
This is just an incredible highlight.
No. 25: Jordan Posterizes Manute Bol
Jordan loved the reverse layup, but he loved the reverse dunk even more.
Here Jordan boxes out the big men on the court, grabs the rebound and proceeds to embarrass the likes of the 7'7" Manute Bol. Yes, you read right, he was listed as 7'7".
It seems Jordan truly did believe that he could fly.
No. 24: Over the Shoulder Dunk
We all know Jordan has had no problem going up against opposing defenses on his way to the rim, but it isn't everyday that he cleared one of them completely.
Jordan shows no fear here as he treats a living person like a hurdle on a track on his way to another prolific finish.
No. 23: Vince Carter Is No Jordan
Jordan came back to the NBA at a time when they were calling Vince Carter his protege.
After watching Jordan bring Carter to the floor, I'm left deciding between whether His Airness was showing him how much left he had to learn or giving the entire league some insight into what Carter's career would wind up like.
Maybe he was doing both.
No. 22: No Longer Thinking About the All-Star Game MVP
As the announcer said, this was just "Michael Jordan being Michael Jordan."
After being snubbed as the MVP for the 1997 NBA All-Star Game, Jordan followed up just days later by scoring 43 points and hitting a game winner (at the five minute mark) against the Charlotte Hornets.
Jordan never let yesterday get in the way of today or tomorrow, and this performance, fresh off an All-Star MVP snub proves just that.
No. 21: 1988 All-Star Game
Jordan routinely dropped 40 points in regular season games, but there was nothing routine about his 40-point performance at the 1988 NBA All-Star Game.
That night, Jordan put up 40 points to go along with eight rebounds, four steals, four blocks and three assists on his way to an MVP award. The fact he was able to do that on a court that boasted the best players in the game is nothing short of incredible.
This was simply Jordan proving early on that he was the best of the best.
No. 20: Blinded Free-Throw
At the request of Dikembe Mutombo, Jordan took a free-throw with his eyes closed.
Before shooting, Jordan told Mutombo "This one's for you baby."
Even without the luxury of sight, Jordan nailed the shot and backpedaled down the court as if it was no big deal.
Hopefully Mutombo cherished this highlight as much as we do.
No. 19: Reverse Dunk from Dotted Line
Jordan's reverse dunk from the dotted line was one for the ages.
Just when we thought it was going to be a routine, predictable high-flying one-handed dunk, Jordan added a reverse at the last second. It was Jordan's first slam dunk competition, but not his last.
Although he fell short, losing to Dominique Wilkins, Jordan would have his day not too long after.
To say this highlight was incredibly impressive would not do it justice. Astounding would be a better word.
No. 18: Shatters Backboard Overseas
It was only an exhibition game, but Jordan threw down a dunk for the ages, shattering the backboard and giving Italian fans something to cheer about.
Perhaps they manufactured the glass for the backboard differently in Europe. Or perhaps Jordan was just that incredible.
I'm inclined to go with the latter.
No. 17: 40 at 40
This whole game was one long highlight reel for the aging Jordan.
At the age of 40, Jordan dropped 43 points in 43 minutes against the New Jersey Nets, proving he was exempt from the limits of age.
Afterward, Jordan said that his desire to win will forever be young, no matter how old he gets.
It's hard to argue with that logic as he was the only 40-year-old in NBA history to score 40 or more points in a single game.
No. 16: Jordan Leads Dream Team to Gold
Jordan led the 1992 Dream Team with 17.1 points per game, sparking them to an Olympic Gold Medal in dominant fashion.
The portrayed clip is only just a taste of things he did on the court during that summer as he emerged as the star among stars.
After winning gold, Jordan said he entered a time in his life where he was unable to go anywhere in the world without being instantly recognized.
We all feel for you, buddy.
No. 15: Hits the Knicks Up for 42 in Game 7
Here we have another game that was one long reel of highlights for His Airness.
The Knicks and Bulls fought quite a battle in the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals series.
It would take seven games to decide the victor and unfortunately for the Knicks, Jordan owned the deciding game.
Jordan scored 42 points to go along with six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals, leading the Bulls to a 110-81 victory.
Looking for a specific highlight from that night? At about the six minute mark, Jordan hits a tough leaner, then steals the inbounding pass before having it stolen by John Starks. Starks passed it to Xavier McDaniel for what should have been an easy two in transition. Jordan chased him down though, for an improbable, yet clean block.
Jordan went on to say that he was mentally drained coming into that game.
He hid it well.
No. 14: Jordan Doesn't Discriminate on Dunks
After dunking on the tiny John Stockton (scroll to the 3:12 mark and watch from there), a Utah Jazz fan shouted at Jordan, telling him to pick on someone his own size.
A mere play or two later, Jordan responded by dunking on the 6'11" Mel Turpin, turning and asking the fan "Is he big enough?"
Jordan never discriminated who he dunked on. Big or small, everyone had an equal chance of being posterized.
No. 13: Jordan Turns a Missed Free-Throw into a Top-Play
Jordan loved to put a missed free-throw where he believed it belonged, which was through the basket.
This is one of his more emphatic put-backs. It makes you wonder not only how defenses allowed him to blaze through the lane like that, but also whether or not his teammates missed opportunities from the charity stripe on purpose just to see him fly.
No. 12: Oldest Player to Drop 50
Yet another game that is a highlight in its own right.
Less than two months away from his 39th birthday, Jordan saw it fit to defy the limits of age even further by dropping 51 points against the then Charlotte Hornets.
As the oldest player to score 50 points, Jordan only further solidified his legacy and gave us another stat for the record books.
Most players seem to taint their careers when they play into their twilight years. This performance by Jordan proves he was the exception.
No. 11: 55 Points in His Fifth Game Back
In only his fifth game back from his first retirement and still donning jersey No. 45, Jordan dropped 55 points against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Such a performance is one we routinely came to expect from Jordan, but the fact that he did it fresh off a hiatus and on the road is nothing short of incredible.
It sure does seem that Jordan saved some of his best stuff for games against the Patrick Ewing led Knicks.
No. 10: Jordan Shrugs It off
After hitting their sixth three-pointer of the half, most players would have screamed, jumped or even ran airplanes up and down the court, but Jordan was not most players.
Jordan simply shrugged as if to say he himself couldn't believe that he just hit his sixth straight three-point shot.
Any occurrence that can thrust Jordan into a state of amazement and disbelief is certainly noteworthy, and this feat proves to be no exception.
No. 9: 63 Points at the Boston Garden
Jordan gave the Celtics all they could handle in a 1986 playoff game, dropping 63 points against the Larry Bird led team.
Chicago went on to lose in double overtime, but Jordan's performance prompted Bird to state that this was "God disguised as Michael Jordan."
There isn't any higher praise than that.
No. 8: 1988 Slam Dunk Contest
Jordan defended his slam dunk title against Dominique Wilkins in 1988, and the madness that ensued during this competition has never been matched since.
Jordan and Wilkins threw down prolific dunk after dunk, grabbing numerous perfect scores to the delight of the crazed crowd.
In the end though, and as we became used to for the duration of his career, Jordan prevailed, leaving us with this free-throw line dunk to cherish.
No. 7: Father's Day
Jordan's fourth NBA title after the death of his father came on Fathers Day in 1996.
He was extremely emotional and grateful after the attainment of said title, and it is the symbolic value that this championship victory held, and still holds that makes it one of the greatest highlights in Jordan's career.
Jordan proclaimed that "I know he's watching" in regards to his father in a postgame interview, just before apologizing to the city of Chicago for his 18-month hiatus.
I don't think there has been a more powerfully inspiring postgame interview in the history of sports.
No. 6: Sorry, Ron Mercer
This may perhaps be the most underrated play of Jordan's career.
After Jordan had his shot blocked on the other end of the floor, he was fired up. So fired up that he looked as if he was prepared to do something destructive. Something destructive to the opposing team of course.
Ron Mercer was the unfortunate recipient of Jordan's distaste for being blocked.
Watch as he pins Mercer's shot up against the glass. Then watch again because it's worth a second look.
No. 5: Time to Switch It Up
At first glance, it seems that Jordan's decision to expose the ball as he took to the air was a little foolish.
As it turns out though, it made it easier for him to switch ball-bearing hands mid-air, and change what we all thought would have been an emphatic dunk, into the best layup the NBA has ever seen.
No. 4: The Flu
Going into Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Jordan was suffering from the flu and his status before the game was uncertain.
Against the advice of trainers, Jordan persevered through his symptoms and took the court. He went on to score 38 points, grab seven rebounds, dish out five assists, swipe three steals and block one shot.
In a game where the Jazz had won the previous two to tie the series and the Bulls were on the road, Jordan's heroics were nothing short of inspirational.
There were times when it looked like he could barely stand on the court, yet the ailing Jordan and this Chicago team prevailed, not only in Game 5, but in Game 6 too, taking home another title.
No. 3: The Shot on Ehlo
Back in 1989, Jordan hit a double-clutched game winner to push the Bulls past the Cavs in the first round of the playoffs.
Jordan seems to hang in the air forever as he ensures that he gets the best possible angle he can. It seriously is mesmerizing.
Over 20 years later this incredible shot still holds some serious weight—Craig Ehlo never got over it— and is one of the greatest highlights Jordan ever provided us with.
No. 2: Dunk on Patrick Ewing
After being boxed into a corner by John Starks and Charles Oakley, Jordan did the only logical thing left he could do: Dribble his way out of it and dunk over the 7'0'' Patrick Ewing.
Only Jordan could have pulled off a move like this. He burnt two of the games greatest defenders in Ewing and Oakley, and lived to tell the tale.
Going up against Ewing like that is the quintessential example of just how fearless Jordan was.
No. 1: The Last Shot
This was Jordan's last shot ever as a member of the Chicago Bulls, and the most unforgettable one of his career at that.
Jordan's ankle breaking heroics in the closing seconds of the 1998 NBA Finals secured his sixth NBA championship ring, furthered his reputation as the best to ever grace the court and went down as one of the greatest moments in NBA history.
Only Jordan could accomplish so much, in just one shot.
You can follow Dan Favale on Twitter here @Dan_Favale.