Whenever the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks faced each other, Jordan and Wilkins had some memorable battles. The Human Highlight Film always brought the best out of MJ, which is why the Bulls superstar loved playing against the Hawks wing.
Michael Jordan on Dominique Wilkins: He makes me rise to the occasion
In NBA Entertainment’s Michael Jordan’s Playground, Jordan, Wilkins, and Isiah Thomas talk about the matchups between His Airness and Nique. The Bulls legend admits that the Hawks icon is the one player who makes him rise to the occasion. Wilkins and Thomas also discuss the epic clashes.
“Of all the guys I play against, there’s one who definitely makes me rise to the occasion,” Jordan said. Added Wilkins: “We love to play against each other, and it’s a thrill to watch him play. When we play against each other, we have some serious battles.”
Jordan and Wilkins faced each other 45 times in the regular season. Both players put up spectacular numbers, but only one guy left with bragging rights.
Michael Jordan had a record of 27-18 versus Dominique Wilkins
Jordan went 27-18 against Wilkins during his career. The five-time MVP averaged 31.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 6.2 assists while shooting 52.0% from the field. Meanwhile, Wilkins put up 29.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game and shot 47.8% overall.
The Bulls and Hawks met in the first round of the 1993 playoffs. Chicago swept Atlanta in three games. Jordan averaged 34.3 points, and Wilkins put up 30.0 points per game. The All-Stars never played against each other in the playoffs again.
A case could be made that the greatest Jordan-Wilkins battle took place in 1988 at All-Star Weekend in Chicago. During the Slam Dunk Contest, Jordan and Wilkins put on a fantastic show at the Chicago Stadium. However, there was some controversy.
MJ beat Nique
Jordan and Wilkins made it to the Finals of the Slam Dunk Contest. The latter got a score of 45 on a windmill dunk off two feet, and he knew the fix was in from there.
“It was just a two-hand windmill off two feet,” Wilkins told NBC Sports Chicago in 2020. “And I brought it from my knees. It ain’t too many guys who can do that. I got a 45. And I’m like, ‘Uh oh. Is the fix in?’ I knew I was in trouble. 45? I would’ve been happy with a 47 or 48. But a 45? C’mon, man.”
Jordan won the contest after dunking from the free-throw line. He told reporters in 1988 that if the contest weren’t in Chicago, Wilkins might have won.
“The judging was tough all day,” Jordan said. “It’s incredible how some dunks got rated. I feel if this wasn’t in Chicago, it might have gone the other way. The home crowd helped me. The adrenaline gave me extra energy.”
Since he’s a fierce competitor, Wilkins was upset he lost to Jordan. However, he’s aware of how vital that dunk contest was for future dunkers.
“Of course we both thought we won,” Wilkins said. “No matter who won, the fans got their money’s worth. And that’s what I tell people. Do I think I won? Yeah. But it didn’t matter at that point because we entertained for the fans. The fact we’re talking about it 30 years later lets you know how important that dunk contest was.”
Wilkins finished his career with averages of 24.8 points and 6.7 rebounds. He never won a championship, but he did make nine All-Star and seven All-NBA teams. The Georgia product was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Meanwhile, Jordan won six championships and six Finals MVPs with the Bulls. He’s the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game and player efficiency rating. Superman joined Wilkins in the Hall of Fame in 2009.