Air Jordan turns 54 today. From the unforgettable "double nickel" game at Madison Square Garden to the iconic "Flu Game" against the Utah Jazz, take a look back at some of Michael Jordan's greatest moments on the NBA hardwood.
** FILE ** In this Feb. 6, 1988 file photo, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls dunks during the slam-dunk competition of the NBA All-Star weekend in Chicago, Ill. Jordan along with John Stockton, David Robinson, Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and Rutgers women's coach C. Vivian Stringer were all elected to the class of 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday, April 6, 2009. Induction is Sept. 10-12 in Springfield, Mass., home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/John Swart)
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63-point playoff game vs. Boston nIn just his second NBA season, Jordan missed a huge chunk of the campaign with a broken foot, but that didn’t stop him from putting on a clinic against the Celtics in the playoffs. Playing against a team full of Hall of Famers, including Larry Bird, Jordan scored an NBA-record 63 points in the 1986 contest, but the Bulls ultimately fell to the Celtics in that game and in the series as well.
1988 Slam dunk Contest vs. Dominique Wilkins nEarning the nickname “Air Jordan” because of his incredible dunking skills, Jordan’s talent for attacking the rim was never on fuller display than in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest against Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins. The contest featured Jordan’s incredible dunk from the foul line, and he ended up capturing the title before the hometown crowd at Chicago Stadium.
Shot over Craig Ehlo vs. the Cavaliers nBulls fans likely still hear the play-by-play call of Jim Durham and Johnny Kerr whenever they think of that moment. With the Bulls trailing by a point in the fourth quarter of a playoff game against the Cavaliers, Jordan got open, fired up a jump shot, and after nailing it he was mobbed by his teammates as a stunned Cleveland crowd could only watch on in stunned silence as the Bulls clinched the series on the iconic shot.
The Hand-Switch Lay-Up vs. the Lakers nEveryone remembers their team’s first championship, and Jordan gave Bulls fans an iconic memory of the 1991 NBA Finals when he switched hands in midair and put in a layup against the Lakers at Chicago Stadium. It was one of his more stupefying moves, and he didn’t even have to dunk the basketball, proving once again that he is the greatest.
The shoulder shrug vs. the Blazers nJordan’s penchant for sticking out his tongue became an iconic symbol of his career, but his shoulder shrug after dropping in his sixth three-pointer of the first half of Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals may be equally as legendary. That shrug became part of lore because it came after Jordan set an NBA record by scoring 35 points in the first half of a playoff game, besting Elgin Baylor to set a new mark.
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“I’m Back” nThis memory didn’t happen on the court, but rather on a fax machine. After abruptly retiring from the NBA following the 1992-93 season, Jordan made a run at a baseball career, and when that sputtered he returned to the game with a two-word message: “I’m back.”
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MJ Drops 55 on the Knicks nIt would be totally understandable if Jordan needed to ease back into the NBA when he returned to the Bulls in 1995, but he didn’t take long to find his sea legs. In just his fourth game back, Jordan poured in 55 points against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, firmly establishing that he wasn’t going to return to the NBA just to be a passenger on a talented Bulls squad.
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The finger wag vs. Dikembe Mutombo nImitation is the highest form of flattery, but in the case of Jordan, he never did anything with the intent of making an opponent feel good about himself. One only need ask Dikembe Mutombo about that, as the big man was the recipient of a tremendous bit of Jordan showmanship.nDuring the Bulls’ 1997 playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, Jordan made it a point to dunk over Mutombo in a game, and after he slammed the ball home he mimicked the big man’s legendary finger wag, much to the delight of Bulls fans everywhere.
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The flu game vs. the Jazz nEven superhuman athletes get sick every once in a while, and Jordan picked a heck of a time to pick up a bug as he was ill during the Bulls’ 1997 NBA Finals series against the Utah Jazz. Despite having a flu bug, Jordan soared anyway, scoring 38 points to help his team to a pivotal victory that ultimately helped them win the series in six games.
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The game-winning shot vs. the Jazz nFor the icing on the proverbial birthday cake, we turn to Jordan’s last hurrah with the Bulls. In the waning seconds of Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan had one more iconic moment up his sleeve, as he brutally crossed-over Utah’s Byron Russell and sank a game-winning shot to send the Bulls to their sixth championship in eight seasons.