On March 28, 1995, Michael Jordan scored 55 points against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 113-111 win. The contest was famously dubbed the “double-nickel” game. It was only Jordan’s fifth game back out of retirement, and he destroyed Patrick Ewing and Co.
Most people know that Jordan loved putting on spectacular shows at Madison Square Garden. However, many fans don’t know what he told Phil Jackson after the “double-nickel” game.
Michael Jordan to Phil Jackson: Tell the players they can’t expect me to do what I did in New York every night
According to Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein, Jordan told Jackson after the “double-nickel” game that he didn’t want to score 55 points for the Bulls to win games.
“You’ve got to tell the players they can’t expect me to do what I did in New York every night,” Jordan told Jackson. “In our next game, I want them to get up and get going — to play as a team.”
Scottie Pippen and B.J. Armstrong were the only other Bulls players to score in double-figures in the “double-nickel” game. Jordan shot 21-of-37 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line. Pippen was second on the team in points (19) and shot attempts (12).
According to Jackson, the old Jordan would have “reveled in his triumph over the Knicks” and “attempted a repeat performance the following day.” However, His Airness became a new player after coming back from baseball.
Phil Jackson: Michael Jordan returned from his baseball sabbatical with a different perspective on the game
Jackson wrote in his memoir that he noticed a change in Jordan after Superman’s baseball stint. The scoring machine was no longer interested in going solo anymore.
“This was the new Michael,” Jackson wrote. “In the past, he would have reveled in his triumph over the Knicks — and most likely attempted a repeat performance the following day. But he’d returned from his baseball sabbatical with a different perspective on the game. He wasn’t interested in going solo anymore; he longed for the team harmony that had made the Bulls champions.”
From 1984-85 to 1992-93, Jordan averaged 32.3 points while shooting 51.6% from the field. He attempted 23.5 shots per game and won seven scoring titles. The six-time champion’s scoring average dipped a little when he came back from baseball, but he was still taking the same number of shots per game.
MJ averaged 29.4 points after baseball
In 263 games with the Bulls following his baseball adventure, Jordan averaged 29.4 points while shooting 47.7% from the floor. He took 23.0 shots a night and won seven scoring titles to finish his career with 10.
Jordan is the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game. He averaged 30.1 points in 1,072 games with the Bulls and Washington Wizards. The six-time Finals MVP is also first in postseason points per game (33.4).
Jackson may have noticed a difference in Jordan when Captain Marvel unretired, but the UNC product was still the focal point of the Bulls’ offense and did whatever it took to win, even if he had to do it by himself.