There will never be anyone quite like Michael Jordan.
Whether it was the six championships, 10 scoring titles or two Olympic gold medals, the Chicago Bulls legend accomplished just about everything one could in his basketball career.
In honour of Jordans’s 50th birthday on Sunday, sportsnet.ca takes a look back at 50 memorable moments from his illustrious career:
1) Didn’t Make The Cut: Michael Jordan wasn’t always the star he became in the NBA. As a 15-year-old in 1978, Jordan did not make the final roster for the varsity team at Laney High in Wilmington, N.C.,. Jordan used this rare moment of failure to form his legendary competitive drive that arguably shaped his Hall of Fame career.
2) 1982 National Championship Game: Even as a freshman at North Carolina, Jordan showed the clutch ability that made him one of the all-time greats. In one of the most prominent moments in NCAA tournament history, Jordan drilled a jumper with 17 seconds to go to lift North Carolina to a one-point victory over Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown squad.
3) Wooden Award Winner: Jordan did not win another championship with North Carolina after his freshman year but still earned his fair share of prestigious individual honours, including being a two-time All-American and winning the Wooden Award as National Player of the Year during his junior season.
4) Portland Passes: The Portland Trailblazers made arguably the largest mistake in NBA Draft history with the second pick in 1984. Portland reportedly had no plans to select Jordan after Hakeem Olajuwon went to Houston and chose infamous draft bust Sam Bowie at No 2. It left Jordan for the Chicago Bulls at No. 3 and Portland fans have never been able to get the gaffe.
5) First Gold: Everyone remembers the Dream Team from Barcelona, but Jordan’s first gold medal came when he suited up for the U.S. team at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles on a team that included Ewing, Chris Mullin, Sam Perkins and Wayman Tisdale.
6) First game at MSG: Jordan had many memorable moments in his career in Madison Square Garden. But it’s hard to forget his first pro game in the New York as a 21-year-old when he put on a dominant display with 33 points on 15-of-22 shooting in a 17-point victory.
7) Starting Strong: Jordan averaged over 28 points per game as a rookie and helped lead the Bulls to a playoff appearance for the first time since 1981, making him the clear choice for the Rookie of the Year award.
8) Jordan is God?: Jordan suffered a broken foot early in the 1985-86 season and many believed he would sit out the rest of the year. But Jordan was still able to lead the Bulls to the playoffs where he scored a record 63 points in a thrilling 135-131 double overtime loss to Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics.
9) Mars Blackmon: Spike Lee teamed up with Jordan when he used the movie character from Do The Right Thing (Mars Blackmon) as part of the Air Jordan advertisements. In the 1988 ad, Blackmon wondered aloud about Jordan’s greatness and said the famous line, “It’s gotta be the shoes”.
10) Lockdown Defender: Jordan was truly a magical player on offence but his toughness and mean streak came out on the defensive end. Jordan was recognized as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1988 and was the first to win the award along with the MVP in the same year.
10) MJ Takes On Dominique: Before the slam dunk contest became the watered-down product we see today, Jordan took on Atlanta’s Dominqiue Wilkens in an all-time great dunk contest in 1988. After going back and forth with highlight-reel dunks, Jordan clinched the trophy with the famous free-throw line jam.
11) The Shot: The iconic play of Jordan’s career didn’t come in a year where the Bulls won a championship. It came in Cleveland in 1989 where Jordan reached the height of his superstar status when he eliminated the Cavaliers on a buzzer-beater over Craig Ehlo from 15 feet. Jordan’s reaction perfectly captures the essence of the moment.
12) Triple-Double streak: If you think LeBron James’ current run of play is impressive, it is nothing in comparison to what MJ did in the 1988-89 season. From March 25 to April 14, Jordan averaged 33.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 11.4 assists and had triple-doubles in 10 of 11 games during that stretch.
13) Be Like Mike: Gatorade tabbed Jordan as their main pitchman in 1991 when they released the ‘Be Like Mike” ad that became iconic around the sports world. Anyone who has seen the commercial still remembers the song.
14) Blind free throw: Jordan liked to trash talk and showboat during games. One of his funniest moments came in a 1991 game against the Denver Nuggets when Jordan was having some fun with Dikembe Mutombo, prompting the Bulls star to shoot a free throw with his eyes closed.
15) Wearing No. 12?: In one of the strangest event of his career, Jordan’s No. 23 jersey went missing before a game against the Orlando Magic. The Bulls made due for the night and let him wear the spare No. 12 jersey. It didn’t affect his performance as he still was able to score 49 points.
16) Posterizing Ewing: Jordan’s baseline dunk might have haunted Patrick Ewing’s dreams when he made the New York Centre look silly during the first round of the 1991 NBA Playoffs.
17) Getting over the hump: Early in Jordan’s career, he was considered a player that couldn’t win the big one when Chuck Daly and the Detroit Pistons used the physical “Jordan Rules” defence to eliminate the Bulls in three straight years (1988-90). Chicago was finally able to sweep their No. 1 rivals in 1990-91, starting a run that defined Jordan’s legacy.
18) The Move: The signature play from the 1991 NBA finals came on a play that was a clear display of Jordan’s unbelievable athleticism. While going up for a layup in traffic, Jordan defied gravity when he was able to switch the ball to his left hand in mid-air to score on the Los Angeles Lakers.
19) The first championship: Although Jordan won six championships, his first was the most memorable . Jordan’s first title came over legend Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that owned the previous decade.
20) Snubbing the White House: Jordan skipped the team’s visit to the White House to spend time with his family after the Bulls win in 1991. Jordan said he was not disrespecting the President or the Bulls but some of his teammates (Horace Grant) were not pleased with his decision.
21) ProStars: In 1991, Jordan was featured in an action cartoon on NBC called ProStars. In the show, Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Bo Jackson were cartoon characters that fought crime and protected the environment. To the surprise of no one, the show only lasted one season.
22) The shrug: Jordan couldn’t be stopped in Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals against the Portland Trailblazers. He scored 35 points at the half, including 6-for-6 from beyond the three-point line, a feat that even surprised Jordan when he made the ironic shrug motion towards the broadcast booth after sinking the sixth shot from behind the arc.
23) Dream Team: The most-talented squad Jordan played on was not the ’96 Bulls as he played a prominent role on the legendary 1992 U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Barcelona. Jordan played with Hall of Famers like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird while reportedly hosting all-night card games and barely getting any sleep during the run to the gold medal.
24) The Showdown: In a popular McDonald’s commercial, Jordan challenged Larry Bird to a shooting contest for a Big Mac that was originally shown during Super Bowl XXVII. Notice Jordan’s peculiar choice of clothing, a staple that made Jordan a more marketable figure.
25) Blocking Shaq: Jordan refused to be intimidated by anyone, not even young phenom Shaquille O’Neal. In their first matchup when Shaq was a member of the Orlando Magic, Jordan displayed his will and athleticism when he was able to block the 7-foot-1 centre when he was driving to the basket.
26) Burning the Cavs…again: Cleveland fans thought they were demoralized when Jordan in 1989 but he haunted the again in the 1993 Eastern Conference playoffs when the Bulls guard spun and hit a fade-away jumper from the free-throw line at the buzzer to complete a four-game sweep of the Cavs.
27) Three-peat: Jordan went head-to-head with his Dream Team teammate Charles Barkley in the 1993 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns. The Bulls clinched the series when guard John Paxson hit a late three-pointer that helped Jordan win his third consecutive title.
28) Best on the biggest stage: Before Jordan accomplished the feat, Magic Johnson was the only other player to win the MVP of the NBA Finals in three straight seasons. Jordan lived up to his superstar status during his first three-peat and he was at his best the 1993 series against Phoenix where he averaged a record 41.0 points in the championship series.
29) The retirement: On Oct. 6, 1993, Jordan announced his retirement from the NBA in a press conference that shocked the sports world. Jordan’s news was hard to comprehend as he was atop of his game in the prime of his career.
30) Hitting the diamond: Jordan decided he would take up professional baseball during his retirement from basketball. He didn’t find quite the same success in his tenure with the Chicago White Sox’s minor-league affiliate, where he hit .202 with three home runs, 51 RBIs, and 30 stolen bases in 127 games.
31) Retiring 23: When Jordan left the Bulls to play professional baseball, the team honoured him with a emotional ceremony in 1994 when they retired his number and lifted the banner up to the rafters of the United Center. They probably had no idea Jordan would later return in 1995.
32) Return to the Bulls: After his time in basbeall, Jordan announced his long-awaited return through a two-word press release that said: I’m Back. He re-joined the Bulls in March of 1995, rocking a No. 45 jersey (his baseball number) when he scored 19 points in a loss to Indiana Pacers in what was one of the highest-rated regular season games in the history of the NBA.
33) Jordan’s back: Five games into his comeback, Jordan didn’t take a long time to shake off his rust from baseball and showed he can still put on a show at Madison Square Garden. He exploded with a signature performance with 55 points against his primary rivals, the Knicks in front of a hostile crowd.
34) Bulls win 72: There has never been a perfect season in the NBA but the 1995-96 Bulls were as dominant of a group that the league has ever seen. The eventual-champion Bulls finished with a 72-10 record, which somehow included a loss to the expansion Toronto Raptors.
35) Space Jam: Jordan appeared in numerous commercials throughout his career but no one can forget his Hollywood debut in the movie Space Jam. Jordan teamed up with Bugs Bunny and the cast of Looney Tunes in a movie that every sports fan has admittedly seen.
36) Legendary trash talker: Jordan had his fair share of run-ins during his career but one of the best came against Dikembe Mutumbo in the 1997 playoffs when Jordan dunked over the big centre and immediately responded with his famous finger wag motion.
37) Overcoming the flu: In one of the defining moments of Jordan’s career, he played with a reported 103-degree fever in in the 1997 NBA Finals when he lit up the Utah Jazz with a 38-point performance in a 90-88 victory.
38) The Pass: Everyone remembers the Flu Game from the 1997 series with the Utah Jazz but Jordan’s most critical play of the series win over Utah came on a pass he made in Game 6. Coming out of a timeout, Jordan drew two Jazz defenders and found an open Steve Kerr, who hit the clinching shot with under five seconds to go.
39) Father’s Day: Almost three years after Jordan’s father died, he helped seal the Bulls’ fourth championship in a victory over the Seattle Supersonics on Father’s Day. Jordan was embraced by his teammates when he fell to the floor and was incredibly emotional after the victory.
40) The Final Shot: Some Utah Jazz fans still believe it was a push off but Jordan could not have ended his time with the Chicago Bulls in more dramatic fashion. He hit the series-clinching shot in 1997-98 with 5.2 seconds left over Jazz forward Bryon Russell to seal his sixth and final championship with the Bulls.
41) Joining the Wiz: Jordan wasn’t quite done with his playing career when he ended his second retirement by joining the Washington Wizards in 2001. He wasn’t close to the dominant player he used to be but still averaged 20 points per game and managed to play all 82 games (2002-03) at the age of 39. The Wizards ever made the playoffs in either of his two seasons.
42) Return to the United Center: One of Jordan’s toughest moments, well at least according to him, was his first game back in Chicago as a member of the Washington Wizards in January, 2002. Jordan got a massive ovation from the crowd in a game where he scored 16 points and nine turnovers in a Wizards victory.
43) Crossing up VC: Early in Vince Carter’s career in Toronto, some referred him as the next Jordan. He must not have taking kindly to the comparison when Jordan, as a member of the Wizards, made Carter look flat-out silly with a a nasty crossover move that made the Raptors forward fall on his face.
44) Reaching new heights: In 2002, Jordan became the fourth player in NBA history to reach the 30,000-point plateau. Kobe Bryant accomplished the feat in 2012 (becoming the fifth) along with Jordan, Karl Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar to do so.
45) 40 at 40: Even an older player, Jordan could still score in bunches. With the Wizards in 2003, Jordan set a record being the only 40-year-old to score over 40 points in a game. He put up 43 points in 43 minutes and even managed to grab four steals and 10 rebounds against a really good New Jersey Nets team.
46) Final all-star game: Amazingly, Jordan was not voted as a starter for the 2003 All-Star game. Vince Carter, originally refused to give up his starting spot but he eventually stepped back for Jordan, who conveniently happened to hit a go-ahead jump shot in the final minute of overtime. Kobe Bryant later tied the game and the West prevailed in the contest.
47) Landing the cover: One of the biggest accomplishments in in North American sports is being graced on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In Jordan’s illustrious career, he has astoundingly been on the cover of the magazine a total of 50 times. You can see all the covers here
PM crowd: Michael Jordan has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated a record 50 times. Here’s all of them: bit.ly/XUQfAF
48) Bobcats owner: The Charlotte Bobcats fan base thought they hit a home run when Jordan became the majority owner in 2010 but there has yet to be many positive results for the team. Jordan became the second-ever black majority owner of a sports franchise.
49) Hall of Fame speech: Jordan showed a truly bizarre side of himself when he called out almost anyone that has ever doubted him during his Hall of Fame induction speech in 2009. Jordan’s petty side was clear when he managed to take shots at several including former GM Jerry Krause in the speech.
50) Still raking it in: While Jordan hasn’t had the most success in his career owning the Charlotte Bobcats, Jordan is still having major success with his multiple corporate sponsors (Gatorade, Air Jordan, etc.). Forbes reported earlier this week than Jordan made an astounding $80 million last year from ads.