Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan was booed in almost every road arena he played in because he was the best basketball player in the NBA and away crowds despised seeing him destroy their favorite team. As all elite competitors do, Jordan fed off crowds booing him because he knew he was doing something right and making non-Bulls fans upset.
The six-time champion also used the jeers as motivation to demolish his competition.
Michael Jordan used boos to give him more energy
Jordan played every game like it was his last. He always gave maximum effort on the floor and did everything in his power to win. His will to win became even greater when road arenas booed him.
“When they boo me, it’s a challenge that evidently I must be doing something right that they don’t like,” Jordan said back in the day. “So I gotta continue to do that. No player likes to be booed, but in that circumstance, I use it as energy for me to continue to play hard. They show that there are certain situations they don’t like the things that I do. It’s a competitive situation for me.”
Crowds usually boo the opposing team’s best player. Some athletes actually view booing as a sign of respect since the fans won’t waste their energy and boo a role player. Jordan embraced the jeers instead of shying away from them, and that attitude helped him flourish on the road.
Michael Jordan averaged 29.9 points on the road
Jordan played in 536 career road games with the Bulls and Washington Wizards. He averaged 29.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.1 assists while shooting 48.2% from the field, 30.0% from beyond the race, and 84.0% from the free-throw line.
Many players tend to struggle on the road because of the crowd noise. However, throughout his entire Hall of Fame career, Jordan proved that he didn’t crumble under the pressure of performing in toxic environments. He scored 69 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road and 63 versus the Boston Celtics in Beantown during the 1986 playoffs.
Jordan also won three championships on the road. He clinched the ’91, ’93, and ’98 Finals away from Chicago, leading the Bulls to tough, gritty wins in hostile territory. Some players are built for the big stage, and Jordan certainly was.
MJ loved playing at MSG
Jordan loved playing at Madison Square Garden. It was his favorite place to play, and he always put on a show for the New York Knicks crowd.
MJ averaged 31.8 points against the Knicks on the road in his career. His most famous performance at MSG came in 1995 when he dropped 55 points in his fifth game back from retirement. It’s known as the “Double-Nickel” game.
Jordan’s final game at MSG was on March 9, 2003. He scored 39 points at the age of 40 as a member of the Wizards. It was an incredible performance by His Airness, who shot 13-of-22 from the field and 13-of-15 from the free-throw line.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.