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Michael Jordan's 11 Best Games, Ranked

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Welcome to basketball class. The topic of discussion is Jordan. Michael Jordan. Whether you were fortunate enough to witness the Jordan era in real time, or you’re like myself and arrived too late, if you are reading this article right now, you are very familiar with Michael Jordan’s career. So today, we’re going there. That’s right, we are taking on the difficult task of ranking Michael Jordan’s best games. We’re fully aware that is going to cause some conversation.

And we’re also aware that while some might agree with our choices, others might get passionately fired up. We welcome it. So when it comes to the topic of Jordan’s best games, where do you start? There’s of course the obvious choices (which we’ll get into), but what about the not so obvious ones?

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There’s also the question of game importance. Considering Jordan’s many masterful postseason performances, should a regular season game count? Most importantly, what would Jordan think if he just so happened to stumble upon this article? Would he agree or disagree? What about his teammates? What would they think? Or better yet, what would Steve Kerr think? These are all factors to consider when narrowing M.J’s best games down to just twelve (yes ten). So, guess we better not waste anymore time and get straight to our selections. 

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11. Career High vs Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Statline: PPG - 69 points, APG - 6 assists, RPG - 18 rebounds, SPG - 4 steals
  • March 28th, 1990

As a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, it’s going to absolutely pain me to put two entries on this list (you already know what the other one is going to be). On the evening of March 28th, 1990, Michael Jordan just casually decided that he was going to notch his career high in points against us, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jordan’s affinity for terrorizing the Cavs was similar to LeBron’s love of tormenting Toronto (aka LeBronto) in the sense that he just always seemed to have some of his iconic career moments against them. That said, the performance was a masterclass, and there was a sold out crowd at the Richfield Coliseum to witness it.

Since it was March and the Cavs record to that point wasn’t exactly outstanding, Cleveland was trying to get as many wins as possible in the hopes of being able to notch the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. And as usual, Jordan said it wasn’t going to happen against him. From his turnaround jumper against Craig Ehlo in the opening minutes (Jordan really had it out for Ehlo), it was clear the night was going to be a special one as Jordan was barely missing in the first half (11-of-15 to be exact).

There was a spectacle of dunks, layups, mid-range jumpers, everything you can possibly think of. And when M.J. wasn’t scoring, then he was assisting and making it happen on the defensive end. While most would assume that there was an even balance of Jordan/Bulls fans in the sellout crowd that night, the boos and jeers indicated otherwise.

Make no mistake, Clevelander hated (and probably still does hate Michael Jordan), and the more emotionally fired up the crowd got, the more Jordan scored. A pair of free throws got M.J. to surpass his previous career high of 63, and another pair of free throws to get his 68th and 69th point secured the win for the Bulls, and another loss for Cleveland at the hands of Michael Jordan.

10. Jordan’s 55 Against the New York Knicks

  • Statline: PPG - 55 points, APG - 2 assists, RPG - 4 rebounds
  • March 28th, 1995

And exactly five years later, Jordan had another memorable career game against another arch-nemesis of his. While the 55 points wasn’t enough to surpass his career high against the Cavs, you could argue that this game was much more impactful. Let’s scene here folks. After winning his third championship in 1993, Jordan surprised the entire sports world by announcing his retirement from the NBA. That announcement was followed by a brief stint playing baseball with the Chicago White Sox, and on March 18th, 1995, Jordan surprised the entire sports world again by announcing his return to the NBA with a very simple and now iconic “I’m Back” fax. 

The Chicago Bulls were scheduled to take on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden ten days later, and as you already know, Jordan loved to deliver some of his finest performances at MSG. The Knicks held the second seed in the Eastern Conference to which Jordan did not care one bit as he proceeded to deliver a 55-piece brilliant performance. While this was just a regular season matchup (albeit one that was just a couple weeks away from the start of the postseason), it remains one Jordan’s best games.

9. 54 Points and the Dagger in Game 4 Against the Knicks

  • Statline: PPG - 54 points, APG - 2 assists, RPG - 8 rebounds
  • April 24th, 1993

Alright, so we’re heading into the postseason performances because as Jordan will probably tell you himself, these are the only games that count. The 1993 NBA Playoffs would conclude with the Chicago Bulls winning their third consecutive championship, but along the way there were many memorable games, performances, and moments. Perhaps one of the most memorable outside of the 93 Finals was Jordan’s 54 points against the New York Knicks in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup. Where do we begin? The fake out against John Starks that Jordan followed up with a three? The various different threes and mid-range jumpers that he nailed despite being properly defended? The random bug that landed on M.J.’s head during a timeout?

Well, we may not know where to start, but we know how things ended with this one. The clutch shot to notch Jordan’s 51st and 52nd points with 1:37 remaining in the game that had Pat Riley exasperated. Chicago would go to win this one 105-95, along with the remaining four games to secure a spot in the NBA Finals. Sorry Knick fans, we know it’s kind of brutal reliving this.

8. The Shrug

  • Statline: PPG - 39 points, APG - 11 assists, RPG - 3 rebounds
  • June 3rd, 1992

While Jordan’s performance in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers was very much a noteworthy one with 39 points, 11 assists, and 3 rebounds, it probably would have been just “another dominant Jordan postseason performance” had it not been for the infamous shrug he gave after making six threes in the first half. A first half where he also scored 35 of his 39 points.

Nobody had the answers for Jordan, and he knew it, which was why he shrugged. What do you even do after something like that? It’s demoralizing enough that you are getting your butt kicked, but when the person kicking your butt has the unmitigated gall to taunt you in that manner? Yeah…

7. Playoff Career High Against Boston Celtics

  • Statline: PPG - 63 points, APG - 1 assists, RPG - 5 rebounds
  • April 20th, 1986

If you know anything about Michael Jordan, then you already know that he probably scoffs at this game because Chicago lost. And not only did they lose, but they lost to an enemy of theirs. The mid to late 1980s were an interesting (and frustrating) time for Jordan whether it was “The Jordan Rules,” being unable to get over the barrier that was the Detroit Pistons, and constant speculation on whether or not Jordan was going to be able to win a ring (which only increased after each subsequent postseason elimination).

With all that being said, Game 2 of the Chicago Bulls first round matchup against the Boston Celtics was yet another dazzling Jordan playoff performance where he scored 63 points, his playoff career high.

6. Jordan vs Kobe

  • Statline: PPG - 36 points, APG - 4 assists, RPG - 4 rebounds
  • December 17th, 1996

While this wasn’t the first meetup between Jordan and Kobe (it was actually the second), this December 17th, 1996 matchup is probably their most regarded and iconic. First of all, you have to respect the confidence of a then 19-year-old Kobe Bryant.

Obviously idolized Jordan, but he really believed in his heart of hearts that he could take on a Michael Jordan still in his prime despite the fact that he hadn’t yet become a starter on the Lakers roster. And the funniest thing about this game is that you can see that while Jordan was amused, he actually respected that confidence. While Jordan probably would have never admitted back then, it’s obvious now that Jordan saw and continued to see himself and Kobe. And that is one of the many things that makes this game endearing.

5. Switch Hands Layup During 1991 NBA Finals

  • Statline: PPG - 33 points, APG - 13 assists, RPG - 7 rebounds
  • June 5th, 1991

1991 would be the year that Jordan would finally shut down all the championship chatter nonsense by winning his first of six rings when the Chicago Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers. Aside from M.J. winning his first championship, this series was pretty unspectacular with Chicago controlling the series from start to finish with a 4-1 gentleman’s sweep. However, there was one defining moment from this series that people still remember and talk about to this day.

And that is Jordan’s switch hands layup that occurred during the fourth quarter of Game 2. Some thought that layup was the greatest thing they had ever seen up to that point, while others found the move infuriating. The conversation on layup is one that still continues to this day with the viewpoints on it being split. So what’s our stance? Well, if something you did is still causing conversation and debates some 30 odd years later, then it is indeed iconic.

4. The Shot

  • Statline: PPG - 44 points, APG - 6 assists, RPG - 9 rebounds
  • May 7th, 1989

Perhaps this should be rated just a little bit higher. Perhaps it’s the bias of the editor who is a Cleveland Cavaliers as to why this game isn’t slightly higher. Fellow Cavs fans what I’m about to say isn’t going to be easy to hear, but it’s the truth. Michael Jordan didn’t just give us a beatdown in this game as evidenced by his statline, he demoralized the city of Cleveland for a very long time with this buzzer beater over Craig Ehlo.

And even though the Cavs got their championship in 2016, this game still brings a heavy heart to the city. This wasn’t just a regular buzzer beater. This was a buzzer beater that sent the Cavaliers on their summer road trip all while adding to the Cleveland Curse. And regardless of what anyone might say, the celebration absolutely added insult to the injury. 

Kawhi Leonard sent the 76ers home on a Game 7 (which is the equivalent of a Game 5 back in the 80s), but because he didn’t jump up and down screaming and pumping his fists while his opponents fell on the floor crying, it doesn’t have the same impact. The Shot is something of a mythical legend in Cleveland that continues to get passed down from generation to generation.

3. Retirement Game

  • Statline: PPG - 15 points, APG - 4 assists, RPG - 4 rebounds
  • April 16th, 2003

From a statline standpoint, this game doesn’t have the huge and dominant numbers as the ones that we listed above, but we’re putting this here because of the moment. April 16th, 2003 was indeed Jordan’s final game and final retirement, and the night was full of fanfare and emotions. Tons of celebrities were present, there numerous ovations for Jordan through the night, and during halftime he gave a speech to the crowd that left everybody (Jordan included) in tears. It was officially the end of an era, and the conclusion to one of the greatest careers we have ever seen in any field.

2. Flu Game

  • Statline: PPG - 38 points, APG - 5 assists, RPG - 7 rebounds
  • June 11th,1997

For years it was speculated that Jordan didn’t actually have the flu during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, and that it was instead food poisoning. That rumor was confirmed during Jordan’s 10-part docu-series The Last Dance in 2020 where M.J. finally admitted that it was indeed food poisoning. So what’s our stance on this matter? It’s still the Flu Game dammit! It’s been known as that for way too long, and we’re going to continue to refer to it as such. Also, there are many elements of food poisoning that mirror the flu. Food poisoning can give you a fever (which Jordan had), it can give you hot and cold flashes (which Jordan had), and leave you barely able to walk (which was the case).

Jordan was sick. Period. And to anybody that still has a problem, let’s see you play a game of basketball with food poisoning. Medical stuff aside, the Chicago Bulls were in trouble when they fell behind sixteen points, and the game ended with Jordan scoring 38 points, which included a three-pointer at the end to secure the win for the Bulls. The image of Pippen essentially helping Jordan walk off the court will forever be iconic, and so will this game.

1. Final Shot, 1998 NBA Finals

  • Statline: PPG - 45 points, APG - 1 assists, RPG - 1 rebounds
  • June 14th, 1998

One of the all time games in NBA history that really gets the people going. Did Jordan push off? Here’s our stance on this matter. He did. There’s really no other way around this because the video evidence is right there, and as time has gone on, there have been more replays and angles originally not shown during that 1998 broadcast to further this. But, in our opinion the no-call was the right call.

This wasn’t a regular degular game. This was a potential close out game during the NBA Finals. We always say “let them play,” and unless it’s something that could be deemed as flagrant foul or a blatant travel, you gotta let them play. Is it fair? No, but postseason basketball isn’t always fair, at the end of the day, we got one of the most legendary shots in NBA history.

Alright, how did we do? Do you agree or disagree? Make sure to keep up with us for more sports articles and content.

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