Michael Jordan didn’t become the greatest basketball player of all time because he could jump the highest or run the fastest. Although it helped that he could jump out of the gym during his prime, he dominated his opponents during the Chicago Bulls’ second three-peat by mastering the mid-range jump shot.
Not only did Jordan have flawless basketball fundamentals, but his large hands allowed him to become an almost perfect player.
Michael Jordan is the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game
In 1,072 games with the Bulls and Washington Wizards, Jordan averaged 30.1 points. He’s the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game.
With the Bulls, Jordan led the league in scoring 10 times. The most points he averaged in a season were 37.1 during the 1986-87 campaign. He also scored at least 30.0 points per game in a season eight times.
What made Jordan so special was that he was the best player in the NBA on offense and defense during his prime years in Chicago. He won MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1987-88. Only three players in NBA history (Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Giannis Antetokounmpo) have won MVP and DPOY in the same season.
As he got older, Jordan started to dominate his opponents by using his shooting touch. The five-time MVP had a beautiful mid-range jump shot, and his big hands helped him become the king of the mid-range jumper.
Michael Jordan talks about his shooting hand
During an interview with Gene Siskel in 1996, Jordan talked about his large hands and how his wide thumb being away from his first finger allowed him to grip the ball and move the ball like a paintbrush.
“I have a wide thumb away from my first finger, which gives me the grip of grabbing the ball and being able to move the ball. It’s like having a paintbrush. Being able to create. If you can move the ball and move your instrument, it’s very rare in this game,” Jordan said. “Dr. J did this…I have very long fingers. I can sense a good shot and a bad shot.”
Jordan shot 49.7% from the field during his Hall of Fame career and hit several game-winning jump shots. Thanks to his large shooting hand and sense of touch on the basketball, he knew all of his big shots were going in before anyone else.
Kawhi Leonard is like MJ
Kawhi Leonard has massive hands like Jordan. He’s also mastered the art of the mid-range jump shot.
During the 2019 Finals, Doc Rivers said Leonard is the “most like” Jordan that he’s seen. It was a bold statement since the late great Kobe Bryant is universally recognized as the closest thing to MJ we’ll ever see.
Leonard is a two-time Finals MVP and two-time Defensive Player of the Year. He has a long way to go to catch Jordan in terms of legacy and points, but there is no debating that he plays a little bit like His Airness.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.