NBA Lockout Classics: ”Hello, my name is Michael Jordan.” MJ plants 63 in the Garden
I was 3 years old when this game happened so I won’t even pretend I saw it on tv or even on VHS. In fact, I had only seen highlights and Sports Illustrated photos before I discovered this complete game footage on YouTube (thank you, technology Gods!).
The second hardest thing to do after finding this game tape was to find a box score. Even the supreme Basketball Reference doesn’t keep playoff box scores that far back (25 years ago!). This was sort of a blessing in disguise because the search for the box score actually led me to multiple articles and factoids about the game that wouldn’t show up in a typical stat sheet.
People don’t talk about it but Jordan had just put up 49 points in a losing effort in Game 1 and now had to go back into the Boston Garden knowing that he’d have to do better.
He had to do better than a 49 point effort in the Boston Garden during the height of the Larry Bird era Celtics dynasty.
Knowing what we know about Mike and his drive and his super-human abilities, that last statement doesn’t seem so absurd. But this was 1986, Jordan was just 22 years old, his team was terrible and this was Larry Legend’s Celtics we’re talking about.
Jordan didn’t care who he was playing and looking back, none of us are shocked at the outcome. The only person that could stop Jordan was Jordan (or a bad deck of cards, but that’s a different story for another time). This would be the game that would propel Jordan from stardom right past superstar and right into basketball deity.
Don’t take my word for it, Larry Bird said it himself. “I think he`s God disguised as Michael Jordan”, Larry said after the game. And many believed it and have worshiped MJ ever since. Some of us even sacrifice 6 goats on the 23rd day of every month.
The most interesting part of that Larry Bird quote is that it’s being said by Larry Bird, an NBA God in his own right. And on this night Larry was as legendary as ever. Bird put up 36 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists in the game and swore that MJ wouldn’t out-do himself again. “I’ll retire if he scores 77” Bird said.
This game was so Jordan-esq. Down 2-points, MJ had to hit two free throws after he was fouled on a three point attempt to force OT. That’s pressure. He finished regulation with 54 points and 6 assists.
Jordan did actually miss in this game and it came at the most inopportune time. After Danny Ainge had tied the game at 125, Chicago got the ball with 12 seconds left and MJ got a clean look with 4 seconds to go in the game, but he clanked the 15 footer and Boston had a chance to win with 2 seconds to go. No luck, double OT.
Jordan’s 63rd point would tie the game at 131 a piece with 1:10 to go in the game. That was the all-time playoff record, two better than Elgin’s long standing effort. Unfortunately for Jordan, the Bulls and NBA folklore in general, Jordan wouldn’t score again and the Celtics would go on to win this game and the series.
After the game, Jordan was labeled a ball hog and no one thought his style of play would net a single ring, let alone six. It’s true that Jordan adjusted his game slightly over time and learned to trust teammates but the Jordan we saw on this night was the same Jordan that would go on to become the greatest of all time. It wasn’t evident immediately after this game and in fact many thought that Jordan would go on to only win scoring titles, not NBA championships.
But every epic tale has to have some sort of tragedy and this was the first of Michael’s career. I don’t think he minds, though, considering how the rest of his career turned out. Sometimes you have to lose before you can learn how to win.
(Article #1, Article #2, Article #3)