Michael Jordan has a long history with the New York Knicks.
In the early 1990s, the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks engaged in one of the great rivalries of the modern era. Both had numerous All-Star players, great coaching, and both were on a quest to win NBA titles. Michael Jordan was the top player in the league but was still looking for his first championship. Patrick Ewing had great success in college and was also one of the best players in the league, but also hadn’t won a title.
In all three of Chicago’s championship runs before Michael Jordan left to play baseball, they had to get through New York. In 1991, the Bulls swept the Knicks out of the first round. In 1992, it took seven games in round two to get the job done. In 1993, Jordan & Co. dispatched their rivals in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. When Jordan left to play baseball, the Knicks were finally able to win a series, defeating the Bulls in seven games in the conference semis in 1994.
When Michael Jordan returned to the NBA in 1995, it was only natural to look at the schedule to see when the Bulls were playing the Knicks. Fans didn’t have to wait long. In just his fifth game back, Jordan returned to Madison Square Garden to reignite the rivalry and put on an amazing show.
Jordan returns to the NBA
On March 18, 1995, Michael Jordan sent the famous “I’m back” fax and a day later, he returned to the court for the Chicago Bulls, wearing No. 45 and scoring 19 points on 7-for-28 shooting. The rust was naturally going to be there and it showed out on that afternoon in the Bulls’ overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Jordan was much more efficient in his second game back, scoring 27 points on 9-for-17 shooting in a win over the Boston Celtics. MJ struggled in his first home game back, shooting just 7-for-23 for 21 points in a loss to the Orlando Magic.
However, vintage Michael Jordan was on display in Atlanta on March 25. With 30 points already on the board and the Bulls down by one to the Hawks in the final seconds, Jordan hit a game-winning jumper to give Chicago a 99-98 win, essentially sending a message to the NBA that he was really back. Three nights later, the New York Knicks would find out just how back he really was.
Michael Jordan drops a double-nickel on the Knicks
After hitting his first buzzer-beater after returning to the NBA, it was only a matter of time before Michael Jordan had one of those games, one of those classic Jordan games that fans had enjoyed for years. At that time, only one opposing player had scored 50 points or more at Madison Square Garden. That was Jordan, scoring 50 on the nose on November 1, 1986, a record that would fall on March 28, 1995.
Jordan got off to a quick start and just tortured John Starks. MJ hit six of his first seven shots and scored 20 points in the first quarter on 9-for-11 shooting. He scored 15 more points in the second quarter, giving him 35 for the first half on 14-for-19 shooting. However, he wasn’t getting much help and the Knicks held a 56-50 lead.
After the third, the game was tied at 82 and Jordan had poured in 14 more points, giving him 49 on the night. MJ sat the first 5:10 of the fourth quarter and scored his final basket of the night with 25.8 seconds left, giving him 55 points on the night, also giving the Bulls a 111-109 lead. Starks tied the game with two free throws, setting up the final sequence.
The best part of that night was Jordan’s game-winning pass
With the game on the line, it’s natural to think that Michael Jordan is going to take the last shot. That’s just what he does and the Knicks defense was certainly thinking that as well.
With time winding down, Jordan hit Starks with a spin move and waited for Patrick Ewing, who scored 36 points of his own that night, to come on the double team and then hit center Bill Wennington with a bullet pass. Wennington slammed the game-winner home with 3.1 seconds remaining and the Bulls claimed a 113-111 victory.
Just when the Knicks thought they had Michael Jordan figured out, he once again turned the tables on them. On the night, Jordan scored 55 points on 21-for-37 shooting, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. He dished out just two assists that night at Madison Square Garden but the second sealed the win for Chicago and only made the night that much better.