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NBA List Jam!: The Most Authoritative and Opinionated Rankingsby Pat Williams
TOP TEN MICHAEL JORDAN MOMENTS ** by Sam Smith
Author's Note: Sam Smith has covered the NBA and the Chicago Bulls for the Chicago Tribune, and now for the Chicago Bulls website, for over thirty years. In 2011, he was presented the Phil Jasner Lifetime Achievement Award for his careers contributions. In addition to his media responsibilities, he is the author of two books including the best-selling book The Jordan Rules.
10. June 16, 1993.
Jordan scores 55 points to give the Bulls a 3-1 Finals lead in what becomes a six game series with John Paxsons winner. Jordan sets the all-time Finals scoring record in the series, averaging 41 points, and more delicious because its not only against big talking buddy Charles Barkley but Jordan was guarded by Dan Majerle, a favorite of Jordan Bulls foil Jerry Krause, who always would tell Jordan about Majerles great defense.
9. February 12, 1985.
In the first game after the famous 1985 All Star game snub when Jordan allegedly was the victim of a freeze-out by Isiah Thomas and pals the Bulls hosted the Pistons and won in overtime. Jordan had 49 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and four steals, all team highs, while Thomas had a quiet 19 points and shot five for 15. It would be the first of many Jordan duels with Thomas and the Pistons and an early peek at Jordans driving motivation against various slights, perceived and otherwise.
8. March 28, 1995.
Jordan completes his dramatic comeback from almost two years in retirement to play baseball with 55 points in Madison Square Garden in his fifth game back, then assisting to Bill Wennington on the winning basket. For the biggest stage and the most media Jordan once again saves his best in ending the questioning about whether he could be as good as he once was.
7. June 3, 1992.
Jordans shrug after making his sixth three pointer in the first half on the way to 35 first half points and a domination of the Trailblazers that led to a six game Finals win for the Bulls second title. Although Jordan was voted MVP that season, some were saying Clyde Drexler did more for his team. And it was by having Drexler, the Trailblazers felt they could pass on Jordan in the 1984 draft for a center. Jordan always was one never to forget and always anxious to make his case. And points.
6. February 7, 1988.
Jordans unofficial acceptance of the mythical torch of league excellence and showmanship from Dr. J as Jordan dominated All Star weekend. He won the slam dunk contest with a Dr. J-style dunk taking off from the free throw line and then led the Eastern stars to victory with 40 points, the second most ever in an All Star game to Wilts 42 in 1962.
5. June 11, 1997.
Jordans 38 points and game winning three pointer while playing 44 minutes despite a devastating case of food poisoning from room service pizza in the pivotal Game 5 for a 3-2 Bulls Finals lead. Though one has to ask who orders pizza in Utah. The Bulls then returned to Chicago to wrap up their fifth championship as Jordan passed to Steve Kerr for the winner.
4. April 20, 1986.
The most prolific playoff scoring game ever, Jordans 63 points against the team many regard as the best ever, the 1986 Celtics. It was afterward Larry Bird famously said it was God disguised as Michael Jordan,” as Jordan established himself as the games greatest scorer since Wilt Chamberlain.
3. June 12, 1991.
Jordan finally gets that first, elusive title critics in the 80s who said he was too selfish and too much a scorer said he never would get. He celebrates in tears with his father, James. Dominating on court rival Magic Johnson throughout the series, Jordan has the famous switch hands layup in Game 2, the final shot to send the game into overtime in Game 3, and the seminal trust moment in Game 5 when Jordan passed repeatedly to John Paxson to thwart the Lakers pressure tactics. Jordan would score 30 points in Game 5 to average 31.2 in the series. But he also had five steals, two blocks and 10 assists and would average 11.4 assists in the series and become the versatile threat that would prove unbeatable in every Finals the rest of his career.
2. May 7, 1989.
The shot to win the first round series over the Cleveland Cavaliers. There may never have been a more frequently shown first round playoff series winner. But that win effectively launched the Bulls championship run. Magic Johnson had labeled those versatile Cavs the team of the 90s and they were 6-0 over the Bulls that season. The Bulls then would go onto the conference finals. But the talk had been if theyd lost in the first round the team could be broken up. Little remembered was Jordan missing two late free throws to lose Game 4, thus making Game 5 also another famous atonement.
1. June 14, 1998.
The shot to win the 1998 championship against the Utah Jazz. Has there ever been any better conclusion to a career (he didnt really come back to play for the Wizards, did he?). Maybe Ted Williams home run in his final at bat. But it wasnt just Jordans final shot. Jordan stole the ball from Karl Malone as Malone was attempting to effectively put the game away with a one point lead on the Jazz previous, and what would be, final possession. Jordan drove full court and hit the famous pull up over Bryon Russell.
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