ESPN’s highly anticipated sports documentary mini-series “The Last Dance” premiered last Sunday and it brought back the glory days of the Chicago Bulls during the 90s.
— Jordan (@Jumpman23) March 31, 2020
Michael Jordan was the catalyst of the Bulls’ 90s dynasty as he led the franchise to six NBA championships during his era. “The Last Dance” talks about the 1997-98 season, MJ’s last with the Bulls which was also the final year of the dynasty.
As we go with the Last Dance fever, let’s take a look back at Michael Jordan’s Top 10 best games played in the NBA:
10. 1995 vs New York Knicks
Michael Jordan returned from his first retirement in 1995 but after a few games, he didn’t look like the same old dominant Mike before he left the game. But on March 28, 1995, Michael Jordan delivered what is now knowns as the double-nickel game against the New York Knicks at the fabled Madison Square Garden.
Wearing #45 because 23 had been retired by the Bulls already, Jordan dropped 55 points on the Knicks and made the game-winning play by finding Bill Wennington for the winning dunk. MJ shot 21-37 points to break his record and set what was then a record for an opposing player at the Madison Square Garden. Jordan said “I”m back” way before this game but this was the first proof that he was correct.
9. Game 2, 1991 NBA Finals
The 1991 season featured the return of Magic Johnson after he was infected with HIV. The Lakers made a run to the NBA Finals and they faced MJ and the Bulls. Los Angeles took Game 1 in Chicago and the Bulls faced the possibility of going 0-2 in the series. But Jordan would not let that happen.
MJ scored 33 points, grabbed seven rebounds, issued seven assists, had two steals plus a block as he led the Bulls to a blowout win. This one of Jordan’s best all-around games in the NBA Finals and he accomplished it with a lot of flares. Making one acrobatic shot after another, Jordan enabled the Bulls to come away with a split in Chicago, paving the way for the Bulls to sweep the next three games en route to the 1991 championship.
8. Game 4, 1993 NBA Eastern Conference Finals
The defending champion Chicago swept the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the next round. But the Bulls were suddenly on the ropes after the Knicks won the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. Chicago finally got on board in Game 3 despite Jordan going 3-18 from the floor. However, MJ made sure in Game 4 that he had Chicago’s back.
Jordan scored 54 points in Game 4, going 18-30 from the field while making a total of six three-pointers to beat the Knicks. Chicago would ride high on that momentum and go on to win the series in six games on their way to advancing to the NBA Finals for the third straight season.
7. Game 1, 1992 NBA Finals
Most remember this game as the one where MJ made the famous ‘shrug’ after his three-point onslaught in the first half of this game. Jordan had made a total of five three-pointers through the first 16 games of the 1992 playoffs. But this was one of those special nights for the great Air Jordan.
MJ made a total of six three-pointers in the first half and NBA Finals record. After making his sixth three-point basket, Michael made the famous ‘shrug’ gesture. Ray Allen would go on to break Jordan’s record with seven three-pointers in the 2010 NBA Finals but Jordan’s 35 first-half points still stand as the NBA record to this day.
6. Game 4, 1993 NBA Finals
The Phoenix Suns were a juggernaut in 1993 behind Charles Barkley and with the best record in the league, the faced the Bulls in the Finals. Chicago was looking for its third straight title and looked to be on their way after beating the Suns in Games 1 and 2 in Phoenix. But the Suns stormed back in Game 3 and beat the Bulls in their building, making Game 4 a very important contest.
Charles Barkley led the Suns’ attack again and in this game, Sir Charles posted a triple-double with 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. However, Jordan had an even bigger game with 55 points to lead the Bulls to victory. Michael shot 21-37 from the field and his 55 points rank second in the history of the NBA Finals, behind only Elgin Baylor’s 61 points in 1962.
5. Game 5, 1997 NBA Finals
Michael Jordan made so many game-winning baskets during his career but this one stood out because he played with the flu and was too weak to finish the game that he had to be helped by Scottie Pippen to the bench. This game was so important because the series was tied at 2-2 with the home team winning every game so far.
The flu would not prevent Jordan from playing although he was affected by it at the start of the game. MJ’s struggled allowed Utah to take a 16-point lead early on but the Bulls came back behind Jordan’s 17 in the second period. MJ struggled again in the third but dropped 15 in the final period including the game-sealing three-point basket. He would finish with 38 points, 7 rebounds, and five assists in a heroic effort.
4. 1990 versus Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers fell prey to some of Jordan’s best performances and this was one of them. A year earlier, Jordan’s buzzer-beater over Craig Ehlo knocked off the Cavs in the playoffs. There would be no need for another buzzer-beater here although the Cavs took MJ and the Bulls to overtime before bowing to his Airness.
MJ played in a total of 50 minutes and scored a career-high 69 points against the Cavaliers. He made 23 out of 37 shots and sank 21 out of 21 foul shots while adding a career-best 18 rebounds for good measure. Even though this wasn’t a playoff game, this as easily one of the best games ever played by MJ in the NBA.
3. Game 5, 1989 NBA Playoffs First Round
We said previously that MJ played some of his best games against that Cavs and this one is the best of those. Before they became the dynasty in the 1990s, they were the 6th seed in 1989 playing Game 5 of the first round on the road in Cleveland. This game went down the wire with Cleveland up 100-99 in the dying seconds. But Chicago had the final possession.
The play would be for Jordan as he would take one dribble before pulling up and suspending in mid-air while avoiding Craig Ehlo’s defense. Jordan made the shot, eliminated the Cavs, and a legend was born. He would finish with 44 points on 17-32 shooting.
2. Game 2, 1986 NBA Playoffs First Round
During his sophomore season, Michael Jordan suffered a foot injury and missed 63 games during the regular season. He would play in the final 15 regular-season games and peaked at the right time during the playoffs, In Game 2 of their first-round series against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, MJ erupted.
Jordan scored a career playoff-high with 63 points in a losing effort. The Bulls would end up getting swept by the Celtics who went 40-1 at home that year. The Celtics would go on to win the NBA championship but despite losing this game, this stands as one of Jordan’s best performances ever in the NBA.
1. Game 6, 1998 NBA Finals
We started this article talking about The Last Dance. Whether he pushed Bryon Russell or not, Michael Jordan made “The Shot”, hist last basket as a member of the Chicago Bulls, helping the Bulls win their sixth and last NBA title. The Bulls led the series 3-2 and a loss here would mean going back to Salt Lake City for a deciding seventh game.
Jordan had not missed a single game since his return to the NBA. He had played in 331 consecutive games and had logged in an average of 41.5 minutes per contest in the playoffs. He was already 35-years old but he was still the killer of the old days. Pippen played only 26 minutes because of a back injury while MJ logged in 44. After stealing the ball from Karl Malone, Jordan dribbled the ball to their side of the court and crossed-over Russell to hit the game-winning three-pointer.