By: Jeremiah Graham
First off, you read the title correctly. I know what you’re thinking. “Did he really just say what I think he did?” Now before you pelt me with your overpriced retro Jordan sneakers, I’m a big MJ fan. Growing up, my sister, a Jordan fanatic, used to record old Bulls playoff games on VHS. I spent the majority of my childhood watching film of his best moments. “The Flu Game,” “The Move” and the 55-point game at the Garden. I like MJ, but it seems he has turned into a mythological creature as the years have went on. Have you listened to these shock jock sports analysts talk about Jordan? You would think he never missed a shot or lost a game. I just want to show a few points to poke a hole in this “MJ is the undisputed G.O.A.T” argument
His Competition was Watered Down
According to Jordan fanatics, the 90s era of basketball was by far the most competitive era of basketball. You have probably heard something along the lines of, “Today’s era is soft and weak. It doesn’t hold a candle to the 90s.” What those fanatics won’t tell you is that Jordan’s reign was during the height of expansion. From 1989-1996, five new teams (The Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, Vancouver Grizzlies, and Toronto Raptors.) were added to the league. The more teams you have in the league the more talent is spread around the league. There was no “super team” or a team with multiple star players that MJ’s Bulls had to go through. Just a bunch of mediocre franchises. Don’t you find it a little weird that when the Grizzlies and Raptors were both added into the league in the 1995-96 season, the Bulls win total skyrocketed to a then record 72? If you have 23 ounces of whiskey (or 23 teams) and add five ounces of water does the strength remain the same? No. That was the NBA during the 90s. During his last championship season in 1998, five teams won 20 or less games.(Toronto Raptors 16-66, Denver Nuggets 11-71, Vancouver Grizzlies 19-63, Golden St. Warriors 19-63, Los Angeles Clippers 17-65, Dallas Mavericks 20-62). That sounds like a “stacked league” to you? Which brings me to my next point.
His 6-0 Finals Record
The MJ fanatics love to say, “He never lost in the finals,” and “He never went to a game seven.” They conveniently forget that his team was heavy favorites in every finals series he played in. During the heyday of Birds Celtics, Magic’s “Showtime” Lakers, and Isiah’s “Bad Boy” Pistons in the 80s, Jordan was regularly a first- round exit three times. During that time he was known as the guy who couldn’t get it done. The guy who put up astronomical numbers but couldn’t lead his team to a title. Now all of a sudden the teams Jordan once could not get past started to get older and disbanded. Then MJ finally broke through and captured a title. Lets look at whom he went up against in the finals.
1991 – Los Angeles Lakers- As I said earlier this was no longer the Lakers team that won five championships in the 80s. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, the leagues all-time leading scorer retired two years prior. The teams best perimeter defender, Michael Cooper, also retired. Combine that with Magic Johnson being on his last legs and James Worthy being hobbled with a foot injury in the playoffs, that’s an easy title for MJ.
1992– Portland Trail Blazers-Now this was a really good team. The Blazers had made the finals two years before and featured hall of fame guard Clyde Drexler. With Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, and Danny Ainge, the Blazers provided more of a challenge than the Lakers in the previous year. But still, the Bulls had superior depth and a better version of Clyde Drexler with MJ.
1993 Phoenix Suns- Another good but not great team. This squad featured hall of famer Charles Barkley and all-star Kevin Johnson. They also had a solid shooter in Dan Marjele. The Suns had little to no rim protection and MJ was able to get to the rim at will.
1996 Seattle Supersonics- I’ll give you this team. With hall of famer Gary Payton and star swingman Shawn Kemp, they gave MJ a formidable challenge. They also had sharpshooter Hershey Hawkins and Detlef Shrempf at the helm as well.