Michael Jordan had several battles with the New York Knicks during his legendary career with the Chicago Bulls. While most fans remember the Bulls and Knicks facing each other in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, a series Chicago won in six hard-fought games, the first time Jordan faced New York in the postseason was pretty memorable due to comments made by Rick Pitino.
The Bulls and Knicks met in the second round of the 1989 playoffs. Pitino was the Knicks’ head coach, and he made a colossal mistake by accusing Jordan of faking an injury for dramatics.
Michael Jordan watched Rick Pitino accuse him of faking an injury
The Knicks lost home-court advantage against the Bulls by losing Game 1 at Madison Square Garden, 120-109. Jordan finished with 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists in a Chicago overtime win.
Pitino’s group, led by Patrick Ewing, responded by winning Game 2 to even up the series. Jordan then went off for 40 points, 15 rebounds, and nine assists in Game 3 in Chicago to give the Bulls a 2-1 lead. However, he suffered a groin strain and needed treatment before Game 4.
According to Hall of Famer writer Sam Smith, while receiving treatment at his house, Jordan watched Pitino on TV and saw the Knicks’ tactician suggest that he may have been faking his injury for dramatics, given he scored 40 points in 39 minutes in Game 3. That was not a wise move by Pitino, who witnessed Jordan torch his team in Game 4.
Michael Jordan put up 47 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in Game 4
Jordan took everything personally during his career, so he couldn’t wait for Game 4 against the Knicks. The MVP was excited to show Pitino the consequences that came with accusing him of faking an injury.
In 42 minutes in Game 4, Jordan put up 47 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists while shooting 66.7% from the field. The stellar performance just so happened to take place on Mother’s Day. Chicago won 106-93 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. More importantly, Jordan taught Pitino never to make him angry again.
The Knicks won Game 5 to force a Game 6 in Chicago, which was a thrilling contest. New York guard Trent Tucker was fouled shooting a three-pointer with six seconds left, and he made the shot and free-throw to tie the game at 111. Jordan then took the inbounds pass, was fouled, and made two shots at the line to give the Bulls the series win. His Airness finished with 40 points, 10 assists, and four blocks and sent Ewing and Pitino home.
MJ never lost to the Knicks in the playoffs
Jordan faced the Knicks five times in the playoffs with the Bulls. He never lost a series to them and had a record of 19-8. The six-time champion averaged 33.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in 27 postseason games against the Knicks.
The only playoff series Jordan lost during the dynasty years was against the Orlando Magic in the second round of the 1995 playoffs. That was the year he came back to the NBA after playing minor league baseball. The Magic defeated the Bulls in six games, but Jordan got his revenge in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals by sweeping Orlando.
Knicks fans have many unpleasant memories of Jordan and the Bulls. With that said, it’s safe to assume that majority of the fan base was relieved when the six-time Finals MVP retired from the NBA for good.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.