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Michael Jordan looks on during a Chicago Bulls game

Michael Jordan Once Burned the Cleveland Cavaliers and Their ‘Jordan Stopper’ After an Ominous Warning From Dominique Wilkins

The Cleveland Cavaliers signed Gerald Wilkins to be a "Michael Jordan stopper" ahead of the 1992-93 season, and Wilkins fully bought into the idea ahead of a playoff showdown with the Bulls. Gerald's older brother, Dominique, warned against giving MJ extra fuel, but it was already too late.

Dominique Wilkins begged and pleaded with his younger brother, Gerald, not to buy into the idea of being a “Michael Jordan stopper” before a 1993 playoff matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. Gerald should have listened to his elder.

The Cavs signed the younger Wilkins for the specific purpose of guarding MJ come playoff time. But he’d soon find out that His Airness added him to the list of people he needed to destroy.

The Cavaliers acquired Gerald Wilkins to be a “Michael Jordan stopper” ahead of the 1992-93 season

Gerald Wilkins had plenty of experience playing against Michael Jordan as a member of the New York Knicks. The Cavaliers thought that experience could make an invaluable addition to their roster as they hoped to defeat Jordan and the Bulls.

Cleveland signed Wilkins in October 1992. The Cavs believed Wilkins’ size and length gave them a guy who could defend opposing 2-guards, with MJ being the primary target as the eminent superstar for Cleveland’s top division rival.

It was always interesting that the Cavs envisioned Wilkins as a defensive presence, because he was more of an offensive-minded guard with the Knicks. The Atlanta native averaged nearly 15 points in seven seasons in New York and infused the Knicks’ backcourt with scoring to complement one of the NBA’s top assist men in Mark Jackson.

Wilkins also had to adjust to a new role in Cleveland. He was the team’s sixth man for much of the 1992-93 season, starting in just 35 of his 80 appearances.

In any event, Wilkins helped that Cavs team to a 54-28 mark. Cleveland defeated the New Jersey Nets in a grueling, five-game first-round series, setting up a date with Jordan and the Bulls in the conference semifinals.

The media played into the idea of Wilkins being the “Jordan stopper” before the series began. But Gerald’s older brother, Dominique, understood it would be wise for his kin to avoid buying that narrative.

Dominique Wilkins warned his younger brother not to give MJ added motivation

Dominique Wilkins understood exactly how Michael Jordan’s mind worked. He had numerous battles with MJ as a member of the Atlanta Hawks, and the individual competition between the two even extended to the dunk contest.

The Hall of Fame swingman likely knew that MJ would gain energy from a matchup with the younger Wilkins. Somehow, Gerald didn’t seem quite as privy to the idea. Dominique told Dan Patrick earlier this year that he called his brother to ask why he would dare try to stoke Jordan’s fires.

“You know what, I called my brother when he said that [being the Jordan stopper] and I said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘You don’t want to awaken a sleeping giant, are you crazy?'”

–Dominique Wilkins on The Dan Patrick Show

According to Wilkins, Gerald tried to go the route of “Well, he puts on his pants just like I do!” Dominique wisely stated that if his younger brother were as sound a defender as he claimed to be, then he would let his play do the talking.

Unfortunately for Gerald and the Cavaliers, big brother’s warning came far too late. Wilkins had already lit the match, and Jordan once again made it his mission to punish Cleveland.

Michael Jordan dominated throughout the series as the Bulls swept the Cavs


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Michael Jordan made sure he and the Bulls made the Cavaliers pay for thinking Gerald Wilkins could live up to his billing as the “Jordan stopper.”

Jordan immediately set the tone in Game 1. He drove to the rim at will, scoring 43 points on 16-of-30 shooting while going a perfect 11-of-11 from the charity stripe. The performance included a legendary cameo (4:23 mark of this YouTube clip) in which MJ clearly mouthed, “He can’t guard me.”

That scoring display wasn’t even the definitive moment of the series. After the Cavs shackled Jordan in Game 2, MJ scored 32 points in Game 3. He emphatically closed the series in Game 4, drilling a game-winning buzzer-beater right in Wilkins’ face to send the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Jordan already had enough motivation entering these playoffs. He was chasing a three-peat, something none of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, or Isiah Tomas ever accomplished in their esteemed careers.

Needless to say, His Airness certainly didn’t need added fuel from Gerald Wilkins, who would have been better off listening to his big brother.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.