Michael Jordan was booed every time he played against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City during his final years with the Chicago Bulls. Jazz fans hated the Bulls superstar since he was a thorn in their favorite basketball team’s side. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James receives that same treatment now since he’s 21-13 versus Utah in his career.
However, it wasn’t always that way.
During the 2005-06 season in his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron actually received a standing ovation from the Jazz crowd after putting on a spectacular show at the young age of 21.
LeBron James scored 51 points in Utah
On January 21, 2006, LeBron torched the Jazz for 51 points to lead the Cavs to a 108-90 victory. The King shot 19-of-35 from the field, 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line in 42 minutes of action.
Along with his 51 points, LeBron also had five rebounds and eight assists. He was the best player on the floor despite being only 21 years old and gave the Jazz fans an incredible display of basketball from start to finish.
Cavs head coach Mike Brown took LeBron out of the game at the 1:35 mark of the fourth quarter. As the small forward walked to his bench, the Jazz crowd gave him an unbelievable gesture.
Jazz crowd gave LeBron James standing ovation
LeBron got a standing ovation from the Delta Center crowd as he exited the game. It was a sign of respect from the Jazz fans, who clearly appreciated the basketball brilliance of LeBron.
Like Jordan did with the Bulls, LeBron enjoys playing against Utah. In 34 career games against the Jazz, the four-time MVP is averaging 28.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. Jordan won two championships versus Utah in 1997 and 1998, although he did have a losing record (11-15) against them in the regular season.
LeBron finished the 2005-06 season with stellar averages of 31.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.6 assists. He guided the Cavs to 50 wins and a first-round playoff series win over the Washington Wizards before losing to the Detroit Pistons in the second round.
It took several years for LeBron to join Jordan as a champion and Finals MVP. However, once he won his first ring, the Chosen One became hungrier for more success.
LBJ is a four-time champion and four-time Finals MVP
Jordan was LeBron’s idol growing up in Akron, Ohio. LBJ desperately wanted to join His Airness in the championship ranks, and he finally entered it in 2012. The swingman has racked up four titles and four Finals MVPs, and he’s the only player in NBA history to win three Finals MVPs with three different teams.
LeBron is two championships and two Finals MVPs away from tying Jordan, who went a perfect 6-0 in the Finals. Since the Lakers and Jazz are both in the Western Conference, LeBron can’t face Utah in the Finals as Jordan did.
However, he could possibly face them in the Western Conference playoffs and get reacquainted with the Salt Lake City fans.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.