Michael Jordan Was Among the Top 5 NBA Scorers in the 1990s but Isn’t No. 1
When thinking about or discussing the NBA in the 1990s, I’d venture to guess that most start with Michael Jordan. And why wouldn’t you, right? After all, MJ won all six of his NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s and added four of his five NBA MVP awards and seven of his 10 scoring titles.
But you might be surprised to know His Airness did not score the most points in the NBA during that incredible decade. At least during regular-season play, that is. Discuss the postseason, and we’ve got a whole different ballgame. But that’s what happens when you’re constantly getting those extra rounds and six appearances in the NBA Finals.
So we’ll stick to the regular season here in an attempt to keep things somewhat fair. But it also must be noted that Jordan missed one entire season, played only 17 games in another, and didn’t play in 1999. So the fact that he’s still in second place on this list is all the more impressive.
Now, I will tell you that we’re cheating just a touch here as we’re looking at the 10-year period that starts with the 1989-90 season and ends with the lockout-shortened 1999 campaign. Most look at things that way when discussing an NBA season anyway. You typically don’t hear people say Michael Jordan won his first title in 1990-91. It’s Michael Jordan won his first title in 1991. See what I mean?
So let’s take a look at the top five NBA scorers from the 1990s.
5. Mitch Richmond
Despite six consecutive NBA All-Star Game appearances in the 1990s (1993-98), Mitch Richmond is easily the most underrated player on this list. Yes, I’m aware that he’s in the Hall of Fame. But, seriously, how often is his name mentioned as one of the great players of the decade? Not enough is the answer to that question, by the way.
Richmond played 722 games for the Warriors, Kings, and Wizards during the decade and scored 16,613 points, which averages out to 23.0 per game. He shot 45.9% from the floor, 39.3% from the 3-point line, and 85.0% from the foul line.
4. David Robinson
David Robinson’s Hall of Fame career with the San Antonio Spurs began with the 1989-90 campaign, and he had quite the decade, making eight appearances in the NBA All-Star Game and earning eight All-NBA selections (four First Team, two Second Team, two Third Team). He was also named NBA MVP in 1995.
And “The Admiral” certainly closed out the ’90s in style by winning the first of his two NBA titles in 1999.
Robinson played 685 regular-season games for the Spurs during this stretch and scored 16,715 points, which averages out to 24.4 per game. He shot 52.3% from the floor, a surprising 25.8% from beyond the arc, and 74.0% from the charity stripe.
3. Patrick Ewing
Patrick Ewing was undoubtedly another one of the great centers of the 1990s and twice took the New York Knicks to the NBA Finals, losing both, the second to Robinson and the Spurs in 1999. He also lost in 1994 to arguably the greatest center of the decade, Hakeem Olajuwon, who just missed our countdown at No. 6.
Ewing, an All-Star every year from 1990 to 1997, played 702 games for the Knicks during the decade and scored 16,914 points, which averages out to 24.1 per game. He shot 50.3% from the floor, 19.2% from the 3-point line, and 74.8% from the free-throw line.
2. Michael Jordan
And here’s Michael Jordan at No. 2.
MJ played 585 regular-season games for the Bulls during the decade, 100 fewer than the next-closest player on this list (Robinson’s 685), and still managed to score 18,014 points. That averages out to 30.8 points per game, easily the highest average on our countdown.
Jordan shot 50.1% from the floor, 35.9% from beyond the arc, and 83.0% from the foul line. For those wondering, he also scored 4,678 of his 5,987 career postseason points during this stretch.
1. Karl Malone
Coming in as the top NBA scorer of the 1990s is none other than Karl Malone, who was a two-time NBA MVP during the decade and the only multiple-time winner of the award not named Michael Jordan.
Malone was an NBA All-Star every year throughout the ’90s (there was no game in 1999) and was an All-NBA First Team selection every year as well.
“The Mailman” played 785 regular-season games for the Utah Jazz during the decade and scored 21,370 points, which averages out to 27.2 per game. He shot 53.1% from the floor, 28.2% from the 3-point line, and 75.1% from the free-throw line.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference