When players matched up against Michael Jordan for the first time in the NBA, the majority of them were intimidated. After all, they were facing the man whose nickname was Black Jesus.
Jordan was an assassin on the basketball court. His main goals were to win the game at any cost and impose his will by dominating both sides of the ball.
The UNC product, who won five MVPs during his Hall of Fame career, was aesthetically pleasing to watch on TV. However, the NBA icon was a nightmare to guard, and one rookie found that out the hard way during the 1990-91 season.
Michael Jordan surprised Kendall Gill
Kendall Gill was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Although he watched Jordan while he was in high school and college, the swingman couldn’t believe how athletic His Airness was in person.
“Just his speed and his strength. I did not know he was as fast and as strong as he was,” Gill told Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein. “Most guys in my position, athletically, I can handle them, but I felt like Michael was on another level, athletically and strength-wise. No wasted movement, rarely fell down. All the times I’ve played against, I can’t remember whether he fell down. It means he always had perfect balance. Just a freak of an athlete, man. He and Vince Carter are the only two guys that I played against who, when they jumped, I could see the bottom of their shoes.”
November 10, 1990, was the first time Gill faced Jordan in the NBA. The Charlotte Hornets lost to the Chicago Bulls by a final score of 105-86. Gill finished with eight points in 21 minutes, while Jordan put up 23 points, six rebounds, and eight assists. Superman won his second MVP in 1990-91 and his first championship and Finals MVP.
Jordan and Gill wound up becoming friends and played several card games with each other. However, despite their close bond, the former never took it easy on the latter on the basketball court.
Michael Jordan went 20-7 against Kendall Gill
Jordan and Gill matched up 27 times in the NBA. Captain Marvel went 20-7 against the Illinois product. He averaged 27.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. Meanwhile, Gill put up 14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.
When Gill was on the New Jersey Nets, he met Jordan and the Bulls in the first round of the 1998 playoffs. Chicago not only swept New Jersey, but Jordan had a poster dunk on Gill, who talked about the play with Silverstein.
“As a matter of fact, we can go back to — and I hate this play — but you can go back to when he had that dunk on me in the playoffs when I tried to chase him down, and he dunked the basketball, and I fouled him,” Gill said. “He stole the ball from Kerry Kittles. If you go back and look at the play, Kerry Kittles was going left, and MJ jumped right. He stole the basketball from him.”
Jordan and Gill didn’t have much in common in the NBA. However, the Chicago native was able to live out a childhood dream in 2003-04 when he suited up for the franchise Mr. June made famous.
KG played 56 games for Bulls
Gill signed with the Bulls in the summer of 2003, four months after Jordan retired from the NBA for good. The six-time champion, who played 930 games in Chicago, appeared in 142 games with the Washington Wizards from 2001-02 to 2002-03.
The Bulls went 23-59 in 2003-04. Gill averaged 9.6 points while shooting 39.2% from the field. Statistically, his best NBA season was in 1996-97 when he averaged 21.8 points for the Nets.
Gill was never afraid to play Jordan and the Bulls in the ’90s. Unfortunately, that confidence didn’t help him slay the 14-time All-Star when it mattered most.
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