I know, I know, the world needs another list of Michael Jordan highlights like it needs a hole in the head.
But just for fun (and I'll keep it quick) here are my favorite five, which are probably not your favorite five:
- 1998 The steal before the shot. He closed the big game with one of the most famous jumpers in NBA history (preceded, ahem, by an uncalled offensive foul). Game-winning jumpers, however, are essentially commodities in the NBA. That one did not thrill me like the play before. Think about it ... most teams will make something like 6,000 shots in a season. But they'll get just 600 or so steals. Steals are rarer, and more important. Players who set out to make shots often do. Players who are determined to get steals, however, usually don't. But in the biggest moment, against one of the best players, Jordan attempted something extremely unlikely, and succeeded. The intelligence, daring, strategy, tenacity, execution and willingness to think creatively exhibited in that play ... to me that's what Jordan is all about.
- 1982 Mikey made it. His title-winning jumper in college was special because at that stage of his career he wasn't even the MVP of his own team, and it took serious cojones to take such a shot, in a big situation, without a shred of hesitation. This was an announcement.
- 1986 God had a broken foot bone. Jordan's ridiculous playoff 63 points, he said today, meant a lot to him because they culminated in his earning the respect of Larry Bird, who famously said he thought it had actually been God disguised as Jordan. What wows me about this performance is that he had played just 18 games that season after a broken bone in his left foot. Foot injuries (ask Yao Ming) are serious and scary for basketball players. Jordan had been in the NBA just two seasons, and had missed nearly all of one of them -- giving him an NBA endurance record not unlike Greg Oden's at this point. Many advised Jordan to not play at all that season. But he came back ... and how.
- 1995 The comeback in New York. Honestly, that pass to Bill Wennington with the game on the line ... not a lot of 55-point scorers will make that pass, at that time, to that player. Jordan could do just about whatever he wanted on the court ... this showed he really wanted, more than anything, to win.
- 2002 40-year-old for 43. When he was a 40-year-old Wizard, Jordan scored 43 against the Nets. It wasn't all that meaningful in and of itself, but afterwards, he inspired old people everywhere by saying: "My effort's always going to be young. My love for the game is always going to be young. My body may say 40, but those other things will be young.'"