A Look Back at Michael Jordan’s Historically Awful Performance in the NBA Three-Point Contest

It’s no secret that Michael Jordan is a very competitive person. Stories of his desire to be the best at every single thing he does have become legendary tales throughout the years. In 1985, he lost the Slam Dunk Contest to Dominique Wilkins. When he was healthy enough to try again in 1987, he came back, avenged that defeat, and then won again in 1988. When the Chicago Bulls couldn’t get past the Detroit Pistons in the NBA playoffs in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Jordan worked harder and eventually led his team past their hated rival en route to his first NBA title.

When Michael Jordan came back to the NBA the first time in 1995, he lost his first playoff series in five years to the Orlando Magic. So, again, he made himself work harder and then simply led the Bulls to a 72-10 record and started a second three-peat. Michael Jordan wins. That’s just what he does. But nobody wins everything, right? Jordan is great at a lot of things. But three-point shooting was really never one of them, minus one incredible night in the 1992 NBA Finals anyway. But he was so competitive in 1990 that he wanted to try his luck at the Three-Point Contest over All-Star Weekend and things did not go well whatsoever.

Michael Jordan’s 1989-1990 season

When the 1989-1990 NBA season began, the Chicago Bulls had a new look to them as this was Phil Jackson’s first year as the head coach of the team. Michael Jordan was still seen as the future of the NBA but hadn’t yet made it to the NBA Finals. But he had another great year in terms of statistics. He led the NBA in scoring for the fourth consecutive year, averaging 33.6 points per game, and also led the NBA in steals with 2.8 per contest. This was also the season in which he scored a career-high 69 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But there was something else that happened that season. Michael Jordan started shooting and making more three-point shots than ever before. In his first five seasons in the NBA, he had never attempted more than 100 three-pointers in a season and his highest three-point percentage had been 27.6% in 1988-1989 when he went 27-for-98 from beyond the arc. But he was putting them up like crazy in 1989-1990. In fact, he attempted nearly as many threes that season (245) than he had in his first five years combined (287). And they were going in at a decent pace. Jordan shot a then-career-high 37.6% from the three-point line that year and decided to try something new, the Three-Point Shootout over All-Star Weekend.

Michael Jordan’s attempt at the Three-Point Shootout was a disaster

When All-Star Weekend rolled around in 1990, Michael Jordan was shooting 39% from the three-point line and he wanted to try the Three-Point Shootout, something he’d never done before. Okay, that makes sense with his competitiveness. I’m sure the network was fine with that as anything that MJ was involved in at that time was ratings gold. It just looked very strange back then as people were used to seeing him in the Slam Dunk Contest, not the Three-Point Contest. He should’ve stuck with the other one.

The other seven competitors that year were Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Craig Ehlo, Bobby Hansen, Mark Price, Jon Sunvold, and Jordan’s teammate, Craig Hodges. Look at that list and it’s easy to see that those are names you’d usually associate with three-point shooting. Back then, two people shot at the same time as a time-saver and Jordan and Hodges were up. Hodges did what Hodges did in those contests, scoring 20 points out of a possible 30. Michael Jordan didn’t fare quite as well.

He had a historically awful performance, scoring just five points, the worst score the contest has ever seen. It’s rare to see Michael Jordan struggle but that was brutal to watch as shot after shot after shot missed the mark. MJ scored just five points, the worst score the contest has ever seen. Only Detlef Schrempf in 1988 has been as bad as Jordan was that night in Miami. Jordan was easily eliminated after the first round. Hodges went on to win, the first of three consecutive victories from 1990-1992.

MJ never tried the Three-Point Contest again but did get better from beyond the arc

It’s honestly a bit surprising that Michael Jordan never tried the Three-Point Contest again as it’s really not like him to just give up. Perhaps he didn’t want to go through that type of embarrassment again. But he did get better from beyond the arc as his career moved along. He didn’t shoot as many threes for a couple of years but he eventually got back to shooting over 200 per season and did improve. In the 1995-1996 season, the season Chicago went 72-10, Jordan was 111-for-260 for a career-high clip of 42.7%, which was good for 11th in the league that season. He ended his career with a 32.7% mark.