Fans called Michael Jordan “His Airness” and “Superman” because he made it seem like he could fly. The Chicago Bulls legend had incredible jumping skills during his prime and routinely dunked on shot-blocking centers.
Los Angeles Lakers icon Magic Johnson was close friends with Jordan during his playing days. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the iconic point guard paid MJ extraordinary flattery for his ability to fly and finish at the rim in heavy traffic.
Magic Johnson on Michael Jordan: “He’s special”
Magic was one of the players who talked about Jordan in NBA Entertainment’s Michael Jordan’s Playground. The five-time champion said the Bulls superstar’s ability to hang in the air and score around the rim was unique.
“He’s special, and I think there’s only a few players that come around that are special,” Magic said about Jordan. “Once he get up there, then he say well, I don’t know if I wanna shoot it yet, maybe I’ll just hang up here for a while up in the air and just sit back and wait until everybody come down and then he say well, I don’t know what move imma make, all the time he’s still up in the air and then all of a sudden well, maybe I 360. Nah, I changed my mind. Maybe I’ll go up under on the other side. He’s just incredible.”
Obviously, no human can fly like a plane or helicopter. However, Jordan believed he flew for “a split second” when he jumped in the air.
Michael Jordan: “When I’m up in the air, sometimes I feel that I don’t ever have to come down”
In Michael Jordan’s Playground, Jordan spoke about his aerial skills and how he believed he did fly during games.
“People ask me, do you really believe you can fly? I said, ‘Yeah, for a little while. It may be a split second, but it’s flying.’ I don’t know whether I fly or not,” Jordan said. “But I do know that when I’m up in the air, sometimes I feel that I don’t ever have to come down.”
Jordan dunked from the free-throw line in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest in Chicago. He also hung in the air during his incredible layup against Magic and the Lakers in Game 2 of the 1991 Finals, a series the Bulls won in five games despite getting off to a bad start.
Bulls beat Magic Johnson in 1991 Finals
Jordan and the Bulls faced Magic and the Lakers in the 1991 Finals. It was Chicago’s first Finals in franchise history, and Jordan admitted in ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries that he and his teammates were nervous in Game 1.
The Bulls lost Game 1 by two points. Veteran NBA reporter David Aldridge said in The Last Dance that he thought the Lakers would easily win the series after Game 1. However, Jordan and Scottie Pippen had other ideas. Phil Jackson put Pippen on Magic in Game 2, and the All-NBA forward limited the floor general to 14 points. Magic also turned the ball over four times.
Behind Jordan and Pippen, the Bulls won Games 2, 3, 4, and 5 to clinch their first championship. Jordan won Finals MVP and hugged Magic in the hallway after the series ended. The two remained close friends after the Finals and helped Team USA win the 1992 gold medal in Barcelona.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference