Most basketball knows that Michael Jordan went 6-0 in the NBA Finals with the Chicago Bulls and three-peated twice. His perfect Finals record and performances on the NBA’s biggest stage are why most people call him the greatest player of all time.
Jordan prevented several Hall of Famers from winning championships, most notably Charles Barkley, Gary Payton, Karl Malone, and John Stockton. Payton eventually won a title in 2006 with the Miami Heat, but he was past his prime by then.
While Malone, Payton, and Stockton lost to Jordan in the Finals, they did manage to accomplish a rare feat against the Bulls legend.
Michael Jordan only lost two games in a row in the Finals twice
Jordan was 24-11 in the NBA Finals in his career. He only trailed a series twice and lost back-to-back games twice as well.
The Bulls lost back-to-back games against Payton in the 1996 Finals. The Seattle SuperSonics won Games 4 and 5 before losing Game 6 in Chicago. Meanwhile, in the 1997 Finals against Malone and Stockton, Jordan lost Games 3 and 4 in Utah before winning Games 5 and 6 to finish the series.
Jordan averaged 33.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in 35 Finals games. He won all six Finals MVPs and never had to play in a Game 7. The only two times Jordan trailed in a series were in 1991 and 1998, and he made sure his opponent didn’t get comfortable with the lead.
Michael Jordan trailed ’91 and ’98 Finals
The Bulls faced Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1991 Finals. It was Jordan’s first appearance in the Finals, and he was certainly excited to face Johnson since they were two of the best players in the league and close friends.
The Lakers won Game 1 in Chicago, putting the Bulls in an early deficit. However, Jordan didn’t panic since LA only won by two points. His Airness and Scottie Pippen led the Bulls to a 21-point win in Game 2, and the duo never looked back. Chicago won four straight games to win the Finals, with Jordan averaging 31.2 points in the series.
The other Finals Jordan trailed in was the 1998 series against the Utah Jazz. Malone and Stockton led the Jazz to a three-point win in Game 1, but the Bulls quickly erased their confidence by winning three straight, including a 42-point win in Game 3.
Utah won Game 5 in Chicago, preventing Jordan and his teammates from celebrating at home. It appeared the Jazz would win Game 6, too, since they were up by four with 41 seconds remaining. However, Jordan scored four points and recorded a steal in the final 41 seconds to lead the Bulls to an 87-86 win. His last shot with Chicago was a game-winning jumper over Bryon Russell with 5.0 seconds left.
Malone, Stockton, and Payton should take solace in the fact that they are the lone Hall of Famers to beat Jordan two games in a row in the Finals. After all, MJ only lost 11 total games in the Finals.
Bulls icon is fourth-leading scorer in Finals history
Additionally, with a scoring average of 33.6, Jordan is second in Finals history in points per game, trailing only the great Rick Barry. He’s also scored the second-most points in a Finals game (55). That came in Game 4 of the 1993 Finals against Barkley and the Phoenix Suns.
We may never see another player go undefeated in the Finals. Even the iconic Bill Russell, who won 11 championships, lost in the Finals twice. It’s why many basketball fans believe Jordan will always go down as the best player of all time.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.