Besides being known as an all-time great champion, Michael Jordan is also one of the NBA’s all-time great scorers. The Chicago Bulls legend won 10 scoring titles across 15 seasons, dominating in both the 1980s and ’90s. One player who experienced MJ’s dominance firsthand is Mark Jackson. Now with ESPN, Jackson recently sat down and explained how and why Jordan would be able to score at will in the modern NBA.
Michael Jordan is one of the NBA’s greatest scorers
From the day he came into the league up until the third and final time he left it, Michael Jordan could score and score some more. Jordan was an easy Rookie of the Year choice in 1984-85, averaging 28.2 points on 51.5% shooting. Two seasons later, the 24-year-old secured his first scoring title with what ended up being a career-high of 37.1 points. That season began a run of six straight scoring titles with an average of 32.5 per season.
Amazingly, there are only five seasons Jordan didn’t win a scoring title. There was his rookie season, which he began at 21 years old. There was the following year, where a broken foot cost him 64 games. MJ also didn’t win a scoring title in 1994-95, the year he came out of retirement. Yet he still managed to average 26.9 points in 17 games. And finally, there are his two career-ending seasons with the Washington Wizards, which started when His Airness was 38 and ended at 40.
Unsurprisingly, Jordan’s playoff numbers were even better. MJ averaged 33.4 points across 179 playoff games. He led all postseason scorers 10 times, including in all six of Chicago’s titles between 1991 and 1998.
Mark Jackson believes MJ would average whatever he wanted if he played in the modern era
Jackson, a 17-year veteran and one-time All-Star, is very familiar with Jordan. The ESPN color commentator spent five years battling Jordan with the rival New York Knicks and the better part of four seasons taking him on as a member of the Indiana Pacers.
In a sitdown interview with Shannon Sharpe on Club Shay Shay, Jackson got on the subject of Jordan when Sharpe asked how His Airness would fare in today’s NBA.
“I don’t think anybody’s averaging 60 or 70, those days are over with,” Jackson answered. “But I will say this: Michael Jordan would average whatever he wanna average.”
Could Jordan score 40 a night? The former Golden State Warriors coach doesn’t have a doubt in his mind (h/t Club Shay Shay).
“I’m not here to break it down and decipher it. I’m telling you as a witness, testifying on behalf of Michael Jeffrey Jordan, that he would average 40 a night. We see guys averaging 30 and 35, with all due respect, that don’t have the arsenal that he has offensively.”Mark Jackson
Jackson may be onto something. Last season, the average NBA team scored 112.1 points per game. When Jordan averaged 30.4 points in 1995-96, the team average was just 99.5.
Jordan would adjust to today’s NBA
No one would argue the NBA today isn’t different than in Jordan’s era. However, Jackson believes #23 would acclimate just fine.
“Jordan’s going to the free-throw line more [now] than he did back then,” Jackson explained to Sharpe. “Because back then, we were able to beat him up and it was ignored, to a certain extent. And he added the three-ball in his career. You watch him against the Blazers (in the 1992 NBA Finals) knock down threes. That wasn’t his specialty, but it wasn’t like he was a liability shooting the basketball. Michael Jordan would average whatever he’d wanna average.”
Jackson is likely correct in everything he has said. Jordan scored in bunches during the 1980s, where points were far more in line with today’s game than many realize. But he also found a way to score 30+ multiple times in the tough, physical ’90s, when scoring was simply at a premium.
Take a player of Jordan’s caliber, place him in an era with far less physicality and more offense, and chances are he’d put up scoring numbers that would make our collective heads spin.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.