During his legendary career, Chicago Bulls icon Michael Jordan had several big games against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The six-time Finals MVP averaged 30.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in 67 games versus the Cavaliers and eliminated them a few times in the playoffs.
While those were certainly two outstanding performances from Jordan, many fans tend to forget what he did against the Cavaliers in the 1993 playoffs after they signed the “Jordan Stopper.”
Cavaliers signed Gerald Wilkins to stop Michael Jordan
In the summer of 1992, the Cavaliers signed Gerald Wilkins to be their “Jordan Stopper.” The brother of Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins had good size and length and played Superman tough as a member of the New York Knicks.
The Bulls and Cavaliers faced each other five times during the 1992-93 season. Cleveland went 3-2, but Jordan had his way on offense, averaging 27.4 points while shooting 48.3% from the field.
Air Jordan likely heard all the chatter about Wilkins and how he was going to give him a hard time should the Bulls and Cavaliers meet in the postseason. Luckily for the superstar guard, Chicago and Cleveland met in the 1993 Eastern Conference semifinals, and Jordan showed the entire world there was no such thing as a “Jordan Stopper.”
Michael Jordan averaged 31.0 points vs. Cavaliers
Not only did the Bulls sweep the Cavaliers in the ’93 Eastern Conference semifinals, but Jordan also had a stellar series. The All-Star averaged 31.0 points in the four-game sweep and shot 49.0% from the field and 80.0% from the free-throw line.
During an interview for one of his popular home videos, Jordan talked about why he was so aggressive against Wilkins: “I wanted to prove to them that hey, no matter what you do, what changes you make, I’mma overcome that challenge.”
Jordan averaged 30.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in 39 games versus Wilkins in his career and had a record of 28-11. It’s foolish that Wilkins was even nicknamed the “Jordan Stopper” since Jordan had plenty of success against him. It would have been great to see Mike’s facial reaction when he first heard the nickname.
After beating the Cavaliers, the Bulls faced Wilkins’ old team, the Knicks, in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals. That series was much more difficult for Jordan, both on and off the court.
MJ was under heat on and off the floor
The Knicks had homecourt advantage in the ’93 Eastern Conference Finals and took advantage of it by winning Games 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden. Jordan not only shot 37.3% from the field through the first two games, but he also went to Atlantic City the night before Game 2 and gambled with his father.
A media firestorm followed Jordan after his Atlantic City trip. The public questioned whether he had a gambling problem and was throwing games. Jordan got so agitated that he stopped talking to the press.
The Bulls won Game 3 at home, but Jordan shot the ball terribly. He finished 3-of-18 from the floor. Fans began to wonder if the gambling controversy was getting to Jordan. However, Black Jesus came back to life in Game 4 by dropping 54 points in 39 minutes in a 10-point win.
Chicago won Games 5 and 6 as well to advance to the Finals, where it defeated the Phoenix Suns. Jordan retired prior to the start of the 1993-94 season, escaping the spotlight for a few months before playing baseball.
There were plenty of “Jordan Stoppers” in baseball, as the UNC product didn’t play well. However, there were zero to be found in basketball.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference