For 15 NBA seasons…well, parts of 15 anyway given that short run with the Chicago Bulls during the 1994-1995 season following his first retirement…Michael Jordan was the gift that kept on giving. Arguably the greatest player in NBA history (nope, not getting into that pointless argument today), MJ gave fans countless highlights over the years and brought six titles to the Windy City, winning six NBA Finals MVP trophies in the process.
And speaking of the number six, that’s also the number of games that Michael Jordan played on Christmas Day throughout his career. One would think it might be more but the NBA wasn’t as Christmas crazy back in the day.
So how did MJ perform on December 25?
Michael Jordan averaged 28.3 points per game on Christmas Day
In those six games that Michael Jordan played on Christmas Day, all of which were played with the Chicago Bulls, he averaged 28.3 points per game, which is close to two points lower than his career average of 30.1.
MJ’s first Christmas Day game came during the 1986-1987 season, his third year in the NBA. On that day, the Bulls were in Madison Square Garden squaring off against the New York Knicks and it was quite the dramatic affair. The Knicks held a 10-point lead after the first quarter and an eight-point lead at the half but Chicago outscored New York 26-16 in the third to take a two-point lead into the fourth.
The teams went back and forth in the final frame and the Bulls held an 85-84 advantage when Knicks guard Trent Tucker threw up a long jumper from the left wing with four seconds remaining. The shot missed badly but the ball was tipped right to Patrick Ewing, who caught it and shot in mid-air. The ball hit the front of the rim and bounced in, giving the Knicks the 86-85 victory.
Michael Jordan had 30 points in 41 minutes in the loss. It was the first of what would turn out to be three 30+ performances on Christmas Day, another of which would come against the Knicks.
Michael Jordan’s best Christmas Day game was a 42-point performance against the Knicks
On December 25, 1992, Michael Jordan and the Bulls again matched up against Patrick Ewing and the Knicks, this time at Chicago Stadium. The Bulls were coming off their second consecutive NBA championship and the 1992-1993 season would be Jordan’s final season before his first retirement.
On that Christmas Day in ’92, Jordan shot 15-for-34 from the floor, missing all four of his 3-point attempts, and 12-for-16 from the foul line for a Christmas career-high 42 points, which was close to half the team’s points in the Bulls’ 89-77 win. Scottie Pippen was the only other Chicago player in double figures that day with 16 points. Rolando Blackman and John Starks led the way for the Knicks with 17 each with Ewing adding just 14.
Jordan’s 42 points tied the Bulls’ franchise record for points scored on Christmas Day, a record originally set by Bob Love in 1970.
MJ’s worst performance on December 25 came in 1991 against the Celtics
As for Michael Jordan’s worst Christmas Day performance, that came a year earlier when the Bulls took on the Boston Celtics in Chicago. It’s not as if he struggled shooting the ball as he hit six of 14 shots from the floor and both of his free-throw attempts for 14 points, it’s just that he didn’t need to play as many minutes (35) and got plenty of scoring help in the 121-99 blowout.
Six Bulls scored in double figures that day, led by Scottie Pippen, who scored 27. Rick Fox led the way for the Celtics that day with 21 points off the bench. The late Reggie Lewis added 20 while Larry Bird only added eight points in 34 minutes.
Here’s a quick look at every Christmas Day game in which Michael Jordan played.
- 1986: NY-86, CHI-85 — 30 points (10-28 FG, 0-0 3P, 10-12 FT)
- 1990: CHI-98, DET-86 — 37 points (14-23 FG, 1-1 3P, 8-10 FT)
- 1991: CHI-121, BOS-99 — 14 points (6-14 FG, 0-1 3P, 2-2 FT)
- 1992: CHI-89, NY-77 — 42 points (15-34 FG, 0-4 3P, 12-16 FT)
- 1996: CHI-95, DET-83 — 23 points (9-21 FG, 0-4 3P, 5-7 FT)
- 1997: CHI-90, MIA-80 — 24 points (8-20 FG, 0-1 3P, 8-12 FT)
Stats and scores courtesy of Basketball Reference