23 Things Michael Jordan Gave to NBA Fans

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2013

23 Things Michael Jordan Gave to NBA Fans

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    Michael Jordan is basketball greatness personified. 

    You can compare Jordan's game to superstars from every generation, but no one player has changed the game more than Jordan himself.

    Whether it was through iconic plays, branding, clutch performances, fashion choices or key moments in pop culture, Jordan revolutionized the way fans themselves watch and play basketball. 

    One quick note before we get started: This list was compiled based on things Jordan brought to fans that have defined his legacy today. For that reason, it is not a comprehensive list of his greatest moments or plays as a pro. 

Jordan Brand Sneakers

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    "It's gotta be the shoes." 

    Michael Jordan's original agreement with Nike evolved into the marketing juggernaut that is the Jordan Brand, one that now dominates the shoe game. 

    Not sure? Check out this information from Forbes

    The Jordan Brand, a division of Nike, is responsible for the vast majority of MJ’s earnings. Jordan partnered with Nike after being drafted by the Bulls out of North Carolina in 1984. The original five-year deal was worth $500,000 annually, plus royalties. The terms of Jordan’s current deal with Nike are a closely guarded secret, but royalties now generate more than $60 million annually for MJ, according to sources.

    Nearly 30 years later, the brand is still a marketing juggernaut. It controlled 58% of the U.S. basketball shoe market in 2012, according to research firm SportsOneSource. The Jordan Brand’s parent, Nike, was second with a 34% share, while Adidas (5.5%), Reebok (1.6%) and Under Armour (0.6%) divvied up the leftovers.

    Whether your favorite pair is the classic Air Jordan 1's, the 3's, 4's or 11's, there are countless models and colorways that fans of all ages have been able to enjoy for generations. 

Jumpman Logo

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    Without the Jumpman logo, the Jordan brand may not be the iconic symbol it currently is. 

    The logo depicts Jordan's historic free-throw line dunk from the 1987 slam dunk contest. And while Jordan didn't patent the dunk, the eloquence with which he completed it has gone unmatched to date. 

    Donning clothing or sneakers with the famed logo has become a sign of respect of sorts in basketball circles, whether it be on the playground or on the professional hardwood. 

    Players of all shapes and sizes take pride in boasting the Jumpman insignia, and it's the brand that may wind up enhancing Jordan's legacy in the eyes of future generations who were unable to watch greatness take shape before their eyes. 

Space Jam

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    If you're a basketball fan who's product of the 1990s like myself, then Space Jam has likely played a role in your eventual fandom and appreciation of Michael Jordan. 

    The film only received a 35 percent favorable rating according to Rotten Tomatoes, but the movie wasn't important for its achievements (or lackthereof) in cinema. 

    Space Jam made Jordan accessible to young basketball fans, and its mystique hasn't worn off since debuting in 1996. 

    And, in all honesty, a movie featuring cameos from Shawn Bradley, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird and Bill Murray (who doesn't play defense) deserves our respect. 

Tongue-Out, Switch-Handed Layup

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    Gravity-defying hang time was just one of the many qualities that defined Michael Jordan's greatness. 

    There's perhaps no greater example of said quality that his famous switch-handed layup against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 the 1991 NBA Finals. 

    Not only was the move itself unbelievable, but the fact that Jordan had his tongue out in signature fashion during the play was icing on the cake.  

    The Bulls went on to win the '91 Finals in five games, taking four straight games from the Lakers after falling in Game 1, 93-91. 

    Want to know just how special this play was? Check out Scott Williams' (No. 42) reaction after watching his teammate pull off the unthinkable. 

Life to the Slam Dunk Contest

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    Michael Jordan didn't bring the slam dunk contest out of the public's periphery all by himself, but his participation for several years in the 1980s certainly didn't hurt. 

    The contest of note—and one that's often referred to as the greatest of all time—was the 1988 edition which pitted Dominique Wilkins against Michael Jordan in a duel for the ages. 

    After falling to Wilkins in 1985, Jordan was out for redemption in '88, and can thank the home crowd and some friendly judging for his eventual triumph. 

    Jordan's lineup of dunks in '88 wasn't as impressive as in '87, but it was the elite competition he faced in Wilkins that brought the slam dunk contest to the forefront of the sporting world.   

An Appreciation for the Number 23

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    The number 23 has taken on a special meaning thanks to Michael Jordan. It's hard to look at any player who wears the No. 23 these days and not think that said player isn't paying homage to Jordan. 

    NBA players and fans alike cherish the ability to don 23, whether it's on the professional hardwood or in their local rec league, which shouldn't come as a surprise. 

    While No. 23 isn't reserved for the game's greatest players like No. 10 is in international soccer, choosing to wear the number shows a certain respect, not only for the game, but for Jordan in particular. 

The Shrug

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    Ever had one of those days in the gym where you simply can't miss? Sure, it may be a deviation from your normal pickup game performance, but you cherish that special zone while you can.

    The go-to move when you hit that questionable heat check shot? The patented Michael Jordan shoulder shrug. 

    In Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals, Jordan went simply ballistic from the three, hitting six treys in the first half. For the game, Jordan would finish with 39 points on 16-of-27 shooting (6-of-10 from three) and 11 assists en route to a 122-89 Chicago Bulls victory. 

    The Bulls would go on to win the series in six games. 

Countless Moves to Emulate

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    I previously mentioned two of the more memorable plays from Michael Jordan's legendary career, but the list of moves His Royal Airness has made famous is endless.  

    It would be easy to count down the great moves that professional players and fans alike have emulated for decades, but instead you should turn your attention to the video above, an advertisement for the Jordan XXI's. 

    Watch and enjoy. 

Baggy Shorts

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    Jordan Brand sneakers were a major player in the NBA's fashion revolution, but the evolution of baggy shorts—brought on by Michael Jordan—changed the way players (with the exception of John Stockton) took the court. 

    Shaun Powell of NBA.com has the details on the progression of NBA fashion: 

    But the real short-shorts stuck around until Jordan discovered he didn't have enough room to wear his University of North Carolina shorts underneath his Bulls shorts.

    The legend about Jordan and the shorts is mostly true: In order to stay close to his alma mater, so to speak, he needed more space. So he approached Champion, then the NBA's apparel-maker and outfitter, through the Bulls and asked that his shorts be wider and longer. Plus, since Jordan tugged at his shorts when he tired, he risked pulling them down below his waist. Although, in a coincidental twist, this is the fashion rage today: teenagers wearing sagging pants which expose more than we're willing to see.

    Thanks to Jordan, short shorts have essentially been eradicated from the pro ranks. Not only that, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a pickup game where the vast majority of players aren't wearing a variety of baggy shorts that have quickly become the norm for ballers of all ages.  

A First-Rate Franchise in Chicago

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    Younger fans of the game may be unaware, but prior to Michael Jordan's arrival in 1984, the Chicago Bulls were not a particularly successful franchise. 

    In the seven years prior to Jordan's rookie season (1984-85), the Bulls qualified for the playoffs once (1980-81), and were bounced in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The 1980-81 season was the only one during that seven year span in which the Bulls were over .500. 

    In the 14 seasons after Jordan was selected No. 2 overall, the Bulls qualified for the playoffs each and every season, winning six titles in the process. 

    Jordan and the Bulls pulled off the miraculous three-peat twice in that span, as well. 

    There were some rough years for the Bulls following Jordan's departure—they won 45 games combined in the three seasons after he retired the second time—but his time in Chicago put the Bulls on the map for good as a first-rate NBA franchise. 

A Short-Lived Baseball Career

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    If you've seen Space Jam (and if you haven't, shame on you), you know that Michael Jordan and his father both had an affinity for the game of baseball. 

    Needless to say, that affinity didn't make it any less of a surprise when Jordan abruptly announced his retirement from basketball following the 1992-93 season in order to pursue a career in baseball. 

    Jordan wound up with the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A affiliate for the Chicago White Sox. In his lone professional season, Jordan made 497 plate appearances in 127 games, compiling a batting average of .202 in the process. 

    In addition, Jordan knocked in 51 RBIs and smacked three home runs. Those 51 RBIs ranked fourth on the Barons that season, according to Baseball-Reference

Back-to-Back Titles for the Houston Rockets

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    Michael Jordan began his pursuit of a career in baseball prior to the 1993-94 season, shortly after the Chicago Bulls had captured their first three-peat in franchise history. 

    Jordan's first retirement subsequently opened the door for a new NBA power to emerge, and the Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, did just that. 

    The Rockets went on to win back-to-back titles, defeating the New York Knicks in the 1993-94 Finals and the Orlando Magic in the 1994-95 Finals.

    Not to belittle Houston's accomplishments, but it's hard to imagine the Rockets repeating as champions with Jordan holding down the fort in Chicago smack dab in the middle of his prime. 

    Jordan did return during the 1994-95 season, but only appeared in 17 games, averaging 26.9 points per game on a career-worst 41.1 percent shooting. 

The 4-5

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    We discussed the significance of the No. 23 earlier, so it's only fair that we make brief mention of Michael Jordan's No. 45. 

    By now, you've undoubtedly heard Jay-Z's lyrics in "Encore:" "When I come back like Jordan, wearing the 4-5/It ain't to play games with you, it's to aim at you, probably maim you."

    After announcing his first comeback in epic fashion, Jordan donned the No. 45 because his No. 23 had been retired by the Chicago Bulls.    

    Jordan, of course, wore the No. 45 during his time with the Birmingham Barons, making it an obvious second choice. 

    While his first few games back wearing a new jersey weren't spectacular, Jordan exploded in his fifth game wearing No. 45. 

    And the setting couldn't have been any more perfect.

    Jordan stepped back on the floor at Madison Square Garden for the first time since returning and promptly dropped 55 points on 21-of-37 shooting (3-of-4 from three) in a 113-111 victory. 

Two Three-Peats

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    Michael Jordan retired after his first three-peat with the Chicago Bulls. That would have been enough success for three lifetimes. 

    But Jordan picked up right where he left off upon his return, and the Bulls went on to capture three straight titles from 1995-1998. 

    Take that all in for a second. Jordan three-peated twice in the span of eight years. Can you imagine what he would have been able to accomplish had he not retired prematurely? 

    Considering Jordan's six titles are the barometer that many have set to evaluate the greatness of contemporary players, it's no wonder Kobe Bryant plans on playing a few more years in pursuit of his sixth ring.  

Not One, but Two Comebacks

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    After the Chicago Bulls' second three-peat in eight years, Michael Jordan's second retirement didn't come as a significant shock. 

    What was pleasantly surprising, however, was Jordan's return to the hardwood in 2001-02 with the Washington Wizards. 

    We'll delve deeper into Jordan's time with Washington in a moment, but for now it's time to appreciate what Jordan brought to fans as a member of the Wizards. 

    While the Wizards didn't qualify for the playoffs in Jordan's two seasons in Washington, he brought life to a franchise that bottomed out at 19 wins the year before his arrival. 

    In Jordan's first season, the Wizards posted an 18-game improvement in the win column and held steady the next season with a record of 37-45. 

    For Jordan to come out of retirement at age 38 and continue to average more than 20 points was astounding, but hardly shocking considering his laundry list of accomplishments. 

2003 All-Star Game Heroics

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    For a moment let's ignore the fact that Michael Jordan's spectacular fadeaway jumper over Shawn Marion in the 2003 NBA All-Star Game was put to waste thanks to a silly foul by Jermaine O'Neal with a second left in overtime. 

    With the game tied at 136 and the shot clock unplugged, there was no doubt that Jordan was going to have the ball in his hands for the East's final shot.

    In the 2003 contest at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Jordan scored 20 points on a sub-par 9-of-27 shooting.

    Fortunately, we don't remember those statistics so much as the clutch shot that Jordan hit over Marion's outstretched arm to put the East up 2 with 4.8 seconds to play.

Kwame Brown, No. 1 Overall Pick

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    While this list is mostly dominated by highlights of Michael Jordan's time in basketball, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention some of Jordan' failures as an owner and executive. 

    Jordan's tenure as part owner and President of Basketball Operations of the Washington Wizards commenced in January 2000, and was marred by the selection of Kwame Brown with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft. 

    Brown played a total of four seasons in the nation's capital, with his best season coming in 2003, when he averaged 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. 

    However, the Brown experiment ended when the Wizards pulled the trigger on a trade that sent the No. 1 overall bust to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Chucky Atkins and Caron Butler. 

The Charlotte Bobcats as We Now Know Them

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    Sadly, Michael Jordan's missteps from a management perspective continued after purchasing a minority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006. 

    Jordan is now the team's majority owner, and has made a habit of backing some questionable draft picks during his time with the franchise. 

    While the 2006 NBA draft lottery was loaded with busts (Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams and Patrick O'Bryant come to mind), there was arguably none bigger than Gonzaga's Adam Morrison. 

    Selected third overall in 2006, Morrison played three years in the NBA (sat out the 2007-08 season with a knee injury) and, like Kwame Brown in Washington, was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vladimir Radmanovic. 

    The Bobcats have posted one winning season in franchise history (2009-10 when they qualified for the playoffs as a No. 7 seed under Larry Brown) and have employed five coaches in their nine-year existence. 

The Flu Game

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    Michael Jordan is immortal in every sense of the word, and his performance in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz confirmed as much. 

    The ultimate competitor came up with the most legendary performance of his career in what's since been labeled as the "Flu Game."

    While mystery surrounds the reason for Jordan's illness (MJ's trainer, Tim Grover, believes Jordan was poisoned while Jalen Rose believes Air Jordan was hungover), there's no question that he was feeling under the weather that day in Salt Lake City. 

    What can easily be described as one of the greatest individual performances in NBA Finals history, Jordan battled through his ailment, posting a line of 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block in 44 minutes. 

    The Bulls went on to take Game 5, 90-88, and would close out the Jazz in Game 6 thanks to Jordan's clutch shot over Bryon Russell.  

The Dream Team

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    Even without Michael Jordan, Team USA would have captured gold at the 1992 Olympics. 

    But what made the Dream Team special was Jordan's presence, particularly on the defensive end.

    Jordan was also a defensive maven for the Dream Team, compiling a team-high 37 steals. That's 4.6 per game for those of you scoring at home. He also finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.9 points. 

    According to NBA.com, it was Charles Barkley who led Team USA in scoring, pouring in 18 points per contest while shooting 71.1 percent from the field. 

    Thanks to the defensive intensity of Jordan and his teammates, the Dream Team beat Olympic opponents by an average of 43.8 points per game and limited them to a field-goal percentage of 36.5. 

72 Wins

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    The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are the only team in NBA history to have ever won more than 70 games in a season. To be precise, Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen led the Bulls to a 72-10 record in 1995-96, the winningest season in the history of basketball. 

    Jordan came close to cracking 70 wins the following season, but fell just short with a record of 69-13. During the 1995-96 season, Jordan averaged 30.4 points per game, only the seventh-highest mark of his career. Now that's something. 

    It's nearly impossible to imagine a team tying or topping the record 72 wins that Jordan's Bulls posted, especially after watching a dominant Miami Heat team fall six wins shy last season after ripping off a 27-game winning streak. 

    Just for kicks, here's the list of teams who were fortunate enough to defeat the Bulls during the regular season prior to beating the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals: Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers (twice), Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Sonics and Toronto Raptors. 

    For the postseason, the Bulls lost just three games: two in the finals against the Sonics and one in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Knicks. 

A Standard by Which We Compare All Other Great Players

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    "Yeah, but he's no Jordan." 

    How often have you heard or spoken those words in a debate comparing one all-time great to another? 

    Regardless of how special someone contends a certain player is, Michael Jordan has set the bar for greatness. 

    So no matter how historically significant the careers of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James end up being, it will all come down to an exercise in comparing and contrasting their respective games to Jordan's. 

    And in all fairness, why shouldn't we? 

    Jordan has six rings (and six Finals MVPs to boot). He averaged 30.2 points per game. For his career. By comparison, Bryant is currently at a mark of 25.5 points per game (on three fewer field-goal attempts per game, it must be noted.) He's a 14-time All-Star, 10-time scoring champion and a recipient of 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year honors. The list goes on and on. 

    Guess what else? Jordan's career player efficiency rating stands at 27.9. James isn't far behind at 27.6, and to date both have the same number of seasons (four) with a PER over 30, according to Basketball-Reference

    Decades from now we'll be able to evaluate the games of Jordan, Kobe and LeBron side-by-side, but for now it's Jordan who's at the top all by himself. 

An Idol

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    More than anything, Michael Jordan was an idol for those who grew up during his 15-year NBA career.

    A transcendent figure both on and off the court, Jordan revolutionized the game of basketball as we now know it.

    Whether it was high-flying acrobatics, countless clutch performances, the shoes or the shorts, it's impossible to quantify Jordan's impact on the game because he so profoundly changed the way that the sport operates at all levels. 

    His name will forever be synonymous with basketball and with greatness, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a fan who came of age during the Jordan era who doesn't appreciate all that His Airness has done and continues to do for the game.  

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