Michael Jordan’s playing career was nothing short of amazing. He’s a legend that will never be forgotten, even though he hasn’t stepped onto an NBA court in nearly 14 years. Jordan represents the standards by which all are judged. But what, exactly, makes him so great? Most of us are operating on memories alone when we’re discussing Jordan’s history with the Chicago Bulls, but the magic of the internet helps bring us the statistics and information that may have been forgotten over the years. Here are the 20 greatest games of Jordan’s career.
20. 2003 Wizards vs. Nets
In the final season of his career, Jordan was hitting the stretch run with the Washington Wizards sitting a few games below .500 and not really playing for anything but an outside shot at the number eight seed in the East. But just four days after turning 40 years old, Jordan put together one final memorable performance. Playing at home against the New Jersey Nets, Jordan dropped 43 points on 18-for-30 shooting, as well as grabbing 10 rebounds with four steals and three assists. The Wizards won the game, and it ended up being Jordan’s final 40-plus point game in an NBA uniform.
19. 1989 Bulls at Pacers
Despite ending up with a loss for his efforts, this game needs to be on this list. The Chicago Bulls were taking on the Indiana Pacers late in the 1988-89 season, with Chicago vying for playoff positioning and the Pacers just playing out the string. Jordan posted a triple-double, scoring 47 points with 13 assists and 11 rebounds in the game. But a balanced attack from the Pacers, who were led by 25 points from Reggie Miller, was too much and the Bulls ended up losing, 109-105.
18. 1988 Bulls at Pistons
Down the stretch in 1988, the Bulls and Pistons were battling each other for playoff seeding and trying to assert dominance over one another heading into a possible postseason pairing. The rest of Jordan’s team wasn’t doing a whole lot offensively, with the other four starters combining for 46 points on 18-for-41 from the field. But the Bulls’ superstar kept Chicago in the game and ended up being the major difference in a 112-110 victory in Detroit, scoring 59 points on an amazing 21-for-27 from the field and 17-for-19 from the free throw line.
17. 1987 Nets at Bulls
Back in 1987, the Bulls were Michael Jordan and not a lot else. His supporting cast of Charles Oakley, John Paxson, and Dave Corzine wasn’t exactly going to be good enough to win any championships. But the Bulls were still playoff contenders, thanks to the eyepopping numbers that Jordan put up on a nightly basis. On a February night against the Nets, his performance would be no different. The Bulls beat New Jersey, 128-113, with Jordan exploding for 58 points that included 26-for-27 shooting from the free throw line.
16. 1997 Knicks at Bulls
In January of 1997, the Bulls and Knicks played another classic in their rivalry at the United Center in Chicago. The Bulls were shorthanded, limited to just eight players and starting reserve players Randy Brown and Jason Caffey. The Knicks tried to go right at Jordan, but he had none of it. The Bulls guard went off for 51 points on 18-for-30 shooting, 5-for-8 from three-point range, and a big shot at the end of the game to seal the Knicks’ fate. After locking up the victory, Jordan helped himself to some trash talk pointed in the direction of New York head coach Jeff Van Gundy.
15. 1996 Pistons at Bulls
It was just another one of Jordan’s classic games, coming later in his career with the Bulls. With the 1996 season winding down (in which the Bulls won 72 regular season games), the Bulls took on the Detroit Pistons in Chicago. Despite an off night from Scottie Pippen, Jordan was able to give the Bulls a spectacular effort and help them pull away from the Pistons late in the game, scoring 53 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He was 21-for-28 from the field, taking the Bulls to 54-6 on the season.
14. 1992 Bullets at Bulls
Early in the 1992-93 season, the Washington Bullets went into the old Chicago Stadium to take on the reigning two-time champion Bulls. A balanced attack of Harvey Grant, Tom Gugliotta, and Michael Adams kept Washington in the game while Pippen, Horace Grant, and the Bulls supporting cast struggled to put much momentum together. But Jordan was otherworldly, dropping 57 points, 10 assists, and a shooting line of 22-for-37 from the field and 6-for-8 from three-point range. The Bulls won, 107-98.
13. 1989 Pistons at Bulls, Game 3 Eastern Conference Finals
In the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals, the Bulls and Pistons met up for Game 3 in Chicago with the series tied, 1-1. While Pistons star Isiah Thomas ended up with just five points on 2-for-8 shooting, Jordan dropped 46 on 16-for-26 shooting — 14-for-15 from the free throw line. Jordan also grabbed seven rebounds, dished five assists, and stole the ball five times in the Bulls’ 99-97 victory. Despite taking the 2-1 lead, however, the Bulls would lose the next three games and the series.
12. 1993 Knicks at Bulls, Game 4 Eastern Conference Finals
In the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, the New York Knicks took a 2-0 lead on the Bulls with victories in Madison Square Garden. With the defending champions looking at possibly being knocked out of the playoffs, Jordan took over. After a Game 3 victory in Chicago, the Bulls tied the series in Game 4, 105-95, behind a massive effort from Jordan. He shot 18-for-30 from the field, including 6-for-9 from beyond the arc, and put together a 54-point effort. Chicago would go on to win the next two games, closing out the Knicks in six games.
11. 1989 Cavaliers at Bulls
On opening night in the NBA in 1989, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Bulls played a classic. Jordan went head-to-head with Cavs guard Ron Harper, who shot 14-for-27 from the field and scored 36 points. But Jordan scored 54 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and collected six assists for the Bulls, who forced the Cavs into overtime and then took the game, 124-119. It was a classic effort from Jordan, who was beginning to become a major thorn in the side of Cleveland.
10. 1997 Bullets at Bulls, Game 2 First Round
In the second game of the first round in 1997, the Washington Bullets were playing well and took a 65-58 halftime lead in Chicago over the Bulls, who had been 69-13 in the regular season. With the rest of his team struggling once again, Jordan took it upon himself to put Washington away in this one. He dropped 55 points, shooting 22-for-35 from the field and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line. The Bulls got away with a 109-104 win, taking a 2-0 series lead that would turn into a sweep after a Game 3 victory.
9. 1996 Knicks at Bulls, Game 1 Conference Semi-Finals
After handily sweeping the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs in 1996, the Bulls squared off with a tougher opponent in the Knicks. In Game 1 of the series, Chicago was having a tough time putting the ball in the basket. Pippen, Harper, Toni Kukoc, and Luc Longley were a combined 11-for-40 from the field with just 30 total points. But Jordan kept the Bulls afloat, shooting 17-for-35 from the field and dropping 44 points on a stunned Knicks team. Chicago squeaked out a victory, 91-84, and ended up taking the series in five games.
8. 1996 Bulls at Magic, Game 4 Eastern Conference Finals
After Jordan returned to the Bulls toward the end of the 1994-95 season, Chicago had their season ended at the hands of the Orlando Magic. So it was especially sweet for the Bulls to draw the Magic again the next season in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls went into Game 4 in Orlando with a 3-0 series lead, needing just one win to sweep the Magic out of the playoffs. While Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway each had good games with 28 points, Jordan was relentless. He scored 45 points on 16-for-23 from the field, giving the Bulls a 106-101 victory and closing out the series.
7. 1986 Bulls at Celtics, Game 2 First Round
In his second season as a professional, Jordan missed the majority of the year with a broken foot. He was able to get back on the court in time for the playoffs, however, with his Bulls meeting up with the top-seeded Boston Celtics in the first round. Chicago was no match for the Celtics, who would eventually win the title, but that didn’t stop Jordan from putting on a show. In Game 2 in Boston, the Bulls and Celtics went to double-overtime as Jordan scored a playoff career-high 63 points. The downside is that Chicago lost the game, 135-131.
6. 1992 Bulls at Heat, Game 3 First Round
In Game 3 of the opening round of the playoffs in 1992, the Bulls were leading the Heat 2-0 in the series and looking to close things out in Miami. Heading into the fourth quarter, Chicago trailed 80-79 as the Heat clung to their slim playoff hopes against the reigning champions. Not only did Jordan have an amazing performance in stealing this game, but he and Pippen were fantastic as a duo. The two players scored 87 combined points (56 coming from Jordan) as they stole the game 119-114 and eliminated the Heat from the playoffs.
5. 1989 Bulls at Cavaliers, Game 5 First Round
The Bulls and Cavs played a classic series in 1989, even if it was the first round of the playoffs. Cleveland finished 57-25 with the No. 3 seed in the East while the Bulls were 47-35 and No. 6. The Bulls were trailing 100-99 in the final seconds of the deciding Game 5 in Cleveland, when Jordan hit the game-winner at the buzzer that would become known only as “The Shot.” That gave him a 44-point effort in the victory with nine rebounds and six assists. It’s just one of the many ways in which Jordan has tormented the Cavaliers franchise.
4. 1990 Bulls at Cavaliers
Less than a year after hitting “The Shot,” Jordan would have his best ever regular season game against the Cavs. The game went into overtime, with the Bulls pulling out a tough 117-113 win on the road. Jordan played 50 minutes in the game, shooting 23-for-37 from the field and 21-for-23 from the free throw line. He scored a career-high 69 points, and usually overlooked in the greatness of this game is that the guard also grabbed 18 rebounds. It may not have had playoff implications, but this is probably Jordan’s greatest individual effort of his career.
3. 1993 Suns at Bulls, Game 4 NBA Finals
After winning the first two games of the 1993 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Chicago lost Game 3 in Phoenix and tried to avoid allowing the Suns to tie the series in Game 4. Charles Barkley had an excellent effort for the Suns, scoring 32 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists for a triple-double. Jordan was just a little better, scoring 55 points on 21-for-37 shooting while adding eight rebounds and four assists. The Bulls scored a 111-105 win, taking a 3-1 series lead.
2. 1995 Bulls at Knicks
After Jordan returned from his retirement in 1995, the Bulls were just fighting to stay in the playoff picture while the New York Knicks were trying to build off of their trip to the NBA Finals the season before. It was just Jordan’s fifth game back in the NBA when the Bulls traveled to Madison Square Garden to take on the Knicks, with the Chicago star now wearing No. 45. He would do 10 better than his jersey number in this one, dropping 55 points on the Knicks and coming away with the game-winning assist on a dunk by Bill Wennington, as the Bulls beat the Knicks 113-111.
1. 1998 Bulls at Jazz, Game 6 NBA Finals
It’s fitting that Jordan’s final game in a Bulls uniform can also be considered his greatest game ever. It may not be the game in which he posted the greatest statistics, but the way this one went down makes it a thing of legend. Jordan played 44 minutes, shooting 15-for-35 from the field and 12-for-15 from the free throw line. He dropped 45 points on the Utah Jazz, who needed a victory to push the ’98 NBA Finals to a seventh game. Jordan scored the final two baskets for the Bulls in the last 36 seconds of the game — including a beautiful game-winner. That turned a three-point lead for the Jazz into an 87-86 loss.
All stats and information courtesy of basketball-reference.com.