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Jordan's 10 underappreciated achievements

By Jack M Silverstein, @readjack

For RedEye

11:32 AM CST, February 15, 2013

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Michael Jordan's accomplishments are well-known: six rings, five MVPs, 10 scoring titles, etc. etc. But he also achieved plenty of cool shit that is rarely discussed. Here are my 10 favorite under-discussed MJ achievements, with YouTube accompaniment.

1988: MVP, scoring champ, dunk champ, Defensive Player of the Year.
WHY IT WAS COOL: LeBron James is lauded for his all-around skills, and rightly so. But nobody in the game's modern era ever had an all-around season like Jordan's 1988. Think of the skill set required to be the game's best leader, best scorer, best dunker and best defender. It'd be like if, in 2012, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Jeremy Evans and Tyson Chandler were the same person.

MJ is the only player to win three of those four in the same year, let alone all four. He is the only player to win DPOY and the scoring title in the same season, and one of only two players to win both at any time in his career since the merger (David Robinson: '92 DOPY, '94 scoring champ). He is one of only four people to win any two of those four in the same year ('94 Hakeem: MVP/DPOY; '00 Shaq: MVP/PPG; '01 Iverson: MVP/PPG). He also threw in a steals title and the MVP of the All-Star Game for good measure.

Chances are you've watched his performance in the '88 Dunk Contest, so take some time and check out his All-Star Game highlight reel, in which he scored a game-high 40 points, shot nearly 74 percent from the floor, and tallied 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks, and 4 steals.


1989: Seven consecutive triple-doubles
WHY IT WAS COOL: Coming off his MVP season, Jordan became the first, and still only, player since the merger to average 30-plus points with 8-plus rebounds and 8-plus assists. He achieved this in part by bagging 14 triple-doubles, including an astonishing seven straight in late March and early April. Yes, you read that right: seven straight triple-doubles. He did so during a mini-competition with Magic Johnson to see who could get more triple-dubs that season. Magic won 16-14, while averaging exactly 10 fewer points per game than Jordan.

As for the longest triple-double streaks for some of the best in the business? Magic had four straight in 1987, LeBron had three straight in 2009, and Jason Kidd had three straight in 2008.

Here is a triple-double from January of 1989 in a win over Denver: 38 points, 54 percent shooting, 12 boards, 11 assists.


1990: 69 points and 18 rebounds vs. Cleveland in 1990
WHY IT WAS COOL: You probably know that Jordan's career high in points was 69 in a 1990 game against the Cavaliers. But did you know he also grabbed 18 rebounds in that game? Holy god! Since 1986, there are only 16 instances of a player scoring 60 points in a game, and Jordan's 18 boards is tied for second with Karl Malone, trailing only Shaq's 61-23.

In other words, the only guys with as many or more boards than Jordan in a 60-point game were a power forward and a center. This recalls the famous story of Portland GM Stu Inman telling his friend Bob Knight that he couldn't draft Jordan with the second pick because the Trail Blazers needed a center. Knight's advice was prescient: "So play him at center!"

Oh, and Jordan also finished second on the Bulls that game with 6 assists and 4 steals, while shooting 21-of-23 from the line. So there's that.


2002, 2003: Oldest player to score 50 points; oldest player to score 40 points
WHY IT WAS COOL: Jordan's stint on the Wizards is often derided for being aesthetically unpleasant and Jordanically unimpressive. But hold on! At the age of 38, Jordan became the oldest player in NBA history to score 50 points, when he dropped 51 on the Hornets. A year later, he became the first and still only 40-year-old to score 40 points, which he did against the Nets, scoring 43 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.


1991: 31.2 points & 11.4 assists in 1991 Finals
WHY IT WAS COOL: Since the merger, only two players have averaged 20 points and 10 assists in a Finals series, while only six players have averaged 30 points and either 10 assists or 10 boards in a Finals series. The lone overlap? Mark Jackson. Wait, no – Michael Jordan.

It was Jordan's passing skills late in the fourth quarter that clinched the championship, as John Paxson sunk 9-of-12 jumpers. In fact, until Game 5, when Magic Johnson ripped off 20 assists to Jordan's 10, Jordan held the assist advantage over the man who finished second in the league in assists.

Not bad for the league's best dunker.


Over his career: 122 games at 30 points/60 percent shooting
WHY IT WAS COOL: LeBron James's streak of six straight games scoring 30 points and shooting 60 percent from the field was astounding, and since I was waist-deep in Jordan stats, I decided to compare James's career 30/60% games to Jordan's:
Jordan: 122 total games, 80 games through year 10
James: 77 games, midway through year 10

The difference comes in total points: Jordan has 14 50-plus games and one 60-plus (two with the playoffs), while James has three 50-pointers. On the other hand, James has two triple-doubles to MJ's one.

Scoring 50 points in a game, shooting 60 percent from the floor … it's all damn impressive. And the cool thing about Jordan was that he did this all the time. There's a generation of basketball fans who didn't see him play every night and only know him through a select series of classic games and plays, almost bordering on mythology, and they don't realize that once upon a time, "If you do your homework, you can watch Michael Jordan." He was the best thing on TV. There was a great quote from an NBA player on one of those dunk videos--possibly from Tim Hardaway--where a guy said something like, "If Jordan came on every night like ‘The Cosby Show,' I'd sit down and watch."

That's exactly what it was. 5:30: "Simpsons." 6: "Seinfeld." 6:30: "Jordan." And we're not even talking about the playoffs or some kind of marquee regular-season game. Any time at all, something like THIS could happen:


1984, 1995, 2001: Hot out of the gate
WHY IT WAS COOL: Jordan famously dropped 55 points at Madison Square Garden in his fifth game back from baseball, an amazing feat when it happened that's grown in stature over 18 years. But this was regular business for him. He scored 45 points in his ninth pro game, a record since at least 1986, as far as I can tell. And he scored 44 in his ninth game with the Wizards, an even crazier accomplishment than either of the others. What made the double-nickel better was that it was on the Bulls … vs. the Knicks … at MSG … and in a Bulls win, with the game-winning assist.


1988, 1990, 1993: Three steals titles WHY IT WAS COOL: Jordan's 10 scoring titles reside near the top of his resume, and with good reason. But discussed much less are his three steals titles. I'm always impressed whenever a player can lead the league in multiple significant categories: Olajuwon or Ben Wallace in rebounds and blocks, Stockton or Chris Paul in steals and assists, or David Robinson in points, blocks and boards, albeit in different seasons. Jordan's marvelous 1988? He led the league in steals, too.

(While I found a great Jordan defensive video, whoever made it decided errantly to score it with "Kiss From a Rose." Beyond the possibly intentional wordplay, it's just not the song I want to hear while watching MJ vids. If you agree, feel free to mute it and pull up a track more to your liking. I chose "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" by Kendrick Lamar, a song that matches the reel's tempo while also seeming to express the hopeless sentiments of Jordan's would-be victims.

That's MJ though-- lurking, lurking, and then stealing your vibe.)


1997: First All-Star triple-double in the game's history
WHY IT WAS COOL: Jordan shot like shit in the '97 All-Star Game, hitting 5-of-14 shots for his second-lowest All-Star shooting percentage as a Bull, beating only his rookie year during the so-called "freeze out." But going along with his 14 points were 11 boards and 11 assists, giving Jordan the first ever triple-double in All-Star Game history. It was the only year in his Bulls return that he did not win the ASG MVP, losing out to Hornets forward Glen Rice, who set new All-Star records for points in a quarter (20 in the third) and in a half (24 in the second).


2003: Oldest All-Star starter ever
WHY IT WAS COOL:
Let's end with another All-Star achievement, and another "the oldest _______ ever" achievement: Michael Jordan, oldest All-Star starter. He was voted as a starter as a 38-year-old in 2002, tying a 38-year-old Kareem in 1986, and though he was supposed to be a reserve in 2003, Jordan ended up starting when Vince Carter abdicated his starting spot.

To celebrate, Jordan scored 20 points and nearly ended his All-Star career with a remarkable overtime game-winner. Thanks a lot, Jermaine O'Neal.


Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor.

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