On April 20, 1986, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan made NBA history against the Boston Celtics. In only his sixth career playoff game, MJ scored 63 points, the most points ever scored in a postseason game.
The Celtics were a stacked group led by Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, Dennis Johnson, Robert Parish, and Bill Walton. However, according to Walton, everyone on the team was scared to guard Jordan.
Celtics were frightened to guard Michael Jordan
Walton told Hall of Fame Bulls writer Sam Smith that no one on the Celtics wanted the challenge of guarding Jordan during his 63-point game. Smith talked about Walton’s message to him during an interview with Will Gottlieb of Bleacher Report in 2020.
“Walton had told me,” Smith said, “it was late in the game, maybe the first overtime, and the coach, K.C. Jones, looks down the bench and said, ‘Who’s got him?’ And Walton said they all looked away. Nobody wanted to deal with him anymore.”
The Celtics may have swept the Bulls in the first round of the 1986 playoffs, but Jordan left no doubt that he was the best scorer in the NBA — and maybe the top player.
Larry Bird: ‘I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan’
Jordan was simply on another level during his 63-point outing. He shot 22-of-41 from the field and 19-of-21 from the free-throw line in 53 minutes of action. His Airness also recorded five rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
After the game, Bird couldn’t believe what Jordan had done. The NBA icon basically dubbed the Bulls superstar the best player in the world.
“I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan,” Bird said. “He is the most awesome player in the NBA. Today in Boston Garden, on national TV, in the playoffs, he put on one of the greatest shows of all time.”
Jordan averaged 43.7 points against the Celtics in the three-game series. It was impressive, considering he only played in 18 games during the regular season after breaking his left foot.
The Celtics wound up winning the 1986 championship over the Houston Rockets in six games. Jordan was upset that he got swept by Bird and Co., but his time was coming.
Bulls dominated the ’90s
Chicago won six championships in the ’90s and never lost in the Finals. Behind Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Bulls three-peated twice and won 72 games during the 1995-96 season. They are undoubtedly one of the top dynasties in sports history.
From 1990-91 to 1997-98, Jordan averaged 30.3 points. He won all six Finals MVPs for the Bulls and never played in a Game 7 in the Finals. Superman put up 33.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game on that big stage and prevented Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and John Stockton from winning titles.
It will be fascinating to see if anyone can top Jordan’s record of 63 points in a playoff game. It’s certainly easier to score in today’s NBA due to the 3-point line and hand-check rules, so someone like Kevin Durant could possibly do it. Knowing the type of competitor Jordan is, he’s probably hoping that his record remains intact.