Jordan’s toughness and will to win were on full display during his second season when he fractured a bone in his left foot and came back earlier than he was supposed to. The Chicago Bulls legend wanted to play and lead the team to the playoffs despite doctors advising him to remain sidelined.
The six-time Finals MVP also showed off his fortitude in Game 4 of the 1991 Finals by dunking on his former college teammate at UNC despite dealing with a painful injury.
Michael Jordan dunked on Sam Perkins despite dealing with painful toe injury
Jordan suffered a bruised right toe in Game 3 of the ’91 Finals after landing awkwardly on his game-tying jumper with 3.4 seconds left in regulation. He didn’t practice before Game 4, causing some Bulls fans to worry about his availability moving forward.
However, in classic Jordan fashion, the Bulls icon played in Game 4 and had a spectacular outing. He played 44 minutes and finished with 28 points, five rebounds, and 13 assists while shooting 11-of-20 from the field. His Airness also had a terrific dunk on Sam Perkins, one of his closest friends in the league since the two played together at UNC.
After dunking on Perkins, Jordan came up hobbling because he landed on his right big toe. It certainly took courage and grit to go up for a dunk attempt while having a painful injury, but Jordan was willing to give up his body for a championship, and it all worked out in the end.
Michael Jordan beat Magic Johnson to capture his first ring
Despite dealing with the right toe injury, Jordan scored 28 points in Game 4 and 30 in Game 5 to clinch his first title. He did it against Magic Johnson, one of the greatest players in NBA history.
Jordan finished his first Finals with stellar averages of 31.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 11.4 assists. He led the Bulls to four straight wins over the Los Angeles Lakers on the NBA’s brightest stage, a feat easier said than done, and firmly established himself as the best player in the NBA.
Playing through injury isn’t easy. If it were, every NBA star would do it. It takes high pain tolerance and strong mental focus to play at a high level while dealing with an injury, and Jordan was the master of it. He hated missing games, which is why he played in all 82 regular-season games nine times.
MJ was the definition of durability
The foot injury in 1985-86 was the only serious ailment Jordan dealt with. His high pain tolerance and commitment to his body helped him lead the league in minutes played per game twice during his Hall of Fame career. The ninth time he played in all 82 games took place during his final season in the NBA when he was 39.
With the Bulls and Washington Wizards, Jordan appeared in 1,072 games. That number would be higher had he not retired for the first time after his third title in 1993 following the tragic murder of his father.
Nevertheless, Jordan is the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game and player efficiency rating. He’s also fifth in points and third in steals.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.