Everyone basketball fan knows Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan is one of the greatest offensive players in NBA history. The five-time MVP is the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game both in the regular season and playoffs.
Because Jordan was such a dominant offensive player, it’s easy to forget how elite he was on defense. The Hall of Famer was such an excellent two-way stud that three-time All-Star Kevin Johnson once said MJ’s defensive ability is what really took away opposing team’s belief they could beat the Bulls.
Kevin Johnson on Michael Jordan: He dominates the game on both ends of the floor
In NBA Entertainment’s Michael Jordan’s Playground, Johnson talked about how Jordan’s impact on defense took away opposing team’s confidence during games. Not only could His Airness take over a game offensively, but he could also do it defensively.
“He dominates the game on the offensive end of the court, but he also dominates the game on the defensive end of the court, “Johnson said about Jordan. “And that does more, not just for his team, but takes more away from the other team’s confidence than anything that he can do offensively.”
There’s a reason Jordan is one of three players in NBA history to win MVP and DPOY in the same season (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Hakeem Olajuwon are the other two.) The six-time champion took defense seriously and did everything in his power to stop his opponents from scoring.
Michael Jordan made nine All-Defensive teams
Jordan made nine All-Defensive teams during his legendary career. He also won three steals titles and the 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year Award. In Michael Jordan’s Playground, Superman talked about his mindset on defense.
“When I’m playing defense, I wanna break down my opponent mentally,” Jordan said. “Not just the man I’m guarding. I want everyone on the other team to be looking over his shoulder, watching for me, thinking about where I am.”
Jordan not only had the physical gifts to be a pest on defense, but he was also an intelligent player who watched hours and hours of film. Both of these facets were on display in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals when Jordan recorded arguably the biggest steal in NBA Finals history.
MJ stole the ball from Karl Malone
With 18.0 seconds left in regulation, Captain Marvel stole the ball from Malone right in front of the Bulls’ bench. He knew exactly what play Utah would run.
“I knew they were gonna run their patented play though Karl Malone,” Jordan said in ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries. “They ran that play a couple times prior, and Dennis [Rodman] and Malone had been fighting all game, and Karl just totally forgot that I was on the weak side.”
Jordan used his large hands to steal the ball from Malone. He then hit a game-winning jumper over Bryon Russell to give the Bulls a one-point lead with 5.0 seconds remaining. The Jazz missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and Chicago won its sixth championship in eight years.
Even at the age of 35, Jordan was still dominating games offensively and defensively. He finished Game 6 with 45 points and four steals in 43 minutes of action. It was his final game in a Bulls uniform, and he left on top of the basketball world.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference