Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls faced Glen Rice and the Miami Heat in the first round of the 1992 playoffs. The Bulls were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, so they were heavy favorites to beat the Heat, who were the No. 8 seed.
The Bulls took every opponent seriously and never played down to the level of their competition, which helped them win six championships during the ’90s. However, Jordan did admit he and his teammates “toyed” with the Heat in the 1992 playoffs since they were so confident.
Michael Jordan: We toyed with the Heat in 1992
In NBA Entertainment’s Michael Jordan Air Time, Jordan talked about how he and his teammates knew they would knock out the Heat in the 1992 playoffs. The Bulls were more talkative and playful than usual and dominated the series from start to finish.
“We knew we was gonna win,” Jordan said. “It’s just a matter of how we were gonna win. So we kind of toyed with them. We were more talkative, more playful, more entertaining with them than any other team that we faced, but when it came down to where we had to put these guys away and move on, you know, we did.”
Not only did the Bulls sweep the Heat, but Jordan also went on a scoring tear and reminded everyone why he was the best player in the world.
Michael Jordan averaged 45.0 points
Jordan averaged 45.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists against the Heat while shooting 60.9% from the field. Miami had zero answers for Black Jesus, who scored a whopping 56 points in Game 3 to finish the series.
His Airness talked a lot of trash to Rice and Steve Smith, two of his friends. The five-time MVP knew no one on the Heat could stop him from dominating and had a lot of fun eliminating Miami. Former Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong, who won three titles with Jordan, said in ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries the UNC product was “just playing a different game than the rest of us” in 1991-92.
“Starting with that season, I felt Michael Jordan never played basketball anymore,” Armstrong said in Episode 5 of The Last Dance docuseries. “He just figured out how to win the game. He knew how to steer momentum. He knew how to get guys going. And not only was he that good on the offensive end, he was just as good on the defensive end. So he was just playing a different game than the rest of us. He’d led us play, but he was there to win the game, and he knew that, and once he figured that out, you couldn’t beat him.”
The Bulls ran into a little bit of trouble in the second round against the New York Knicks. Jordan and Co. needed seven games to get past Patrick Ewing’s group. After that, Chicago beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals in six games to advance to the NBA Finals, where Jordan would have to defeat Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers if he wanted to win back-to-back titles.
Bulls and Blazers played a tight series
The Bulls and Blazers were pretty evenly matched teams, which is why the series went six games. In the end, Jordan was too much for Portland. He averaged 35.8 points and attacked Drexler every game since pundits compared the Blazers guard to him.
During his postgame press conference after Game 6, an exhausted Jordan talked about the Bulls’ challenges to repeat.
“I can’t really express the way I feel right now,” Jordan said. “We withstood the challenge of trying to repeat. “A lot of teams threw everything they had at us, and it was a long year. We went through a long test of adversity, me as an individual and us as a team. But we stood tall at the end.”
The Heat franchise retired the No. 23 out of respect to Jordan’s contributions to the NBA. Some Miami fans may not have liked the move since the Bulls icon tormented them. However, it was a grand gesture.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference