Number 23: Michael Jordan

By Rina Weaver

By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. As a phenomenal athlete with a unique combination of grace, speed, power, improvisational ability, and an unquenchable competitive desire, Jordan single-handedly redefines the NBA superstar criteria. 

Michael Jordan was named to ten All-NBA first teams, meaning he was among the best five players in basketball for ten seasons.  He also added nine All-Defensive first-team selections over the course of his career. Jordan won the NBA’s most valuable player five times, and many believe he should have won even more. Most notably, it is widely thought that Karl Malone unjustly won the 1998 MVP over Jordan because writers believed Jordan had won enough. Jordan was also named the NBA’s defensive player of the year in 1988. By any calculation, Jordan is the greatest scorer the league has ever seen. He won a record ten scoring titles and boasted a career average of 30.1 points per game, the most in the history of the NBA. Jordan was among the most outstanding winners in NBA history. 

Early in his career, Jordan went  up against all-time great teams such as the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics and the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons. After Jordan was finally able to reach his first NBA championship in ’91, he led the Bulls to six more NBA titles and was named finals MVP all six times.

After his father was murdered in an attempted robbery in July 1993, Jordan stunned the basketball world by announcing his retirement. After much speculation about his future plans, Jordan decided to return to the spotlight in a baseball uniform. Attempting to fulfill a dream inspired by his father, the younger Jordan set his sights on Major League Baseball. He spent the 1994 baseball season playing for the Birmingham Barons, an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox in the Class AA Southern League. He was a competent performer. But Jordan’s hope of reaching the big leagues seemed dim, and with Major League Baseball embroiled in a labor dispute as the 1995 season neared, he focused his competitive fire back on the NBA. Late in the 1994-95 NBA season, he came out of retirement with the brief statement, “I’m Back.” The most memorable game of the initial comeback occurred in six games which he scored 55 points against the Knicks in the Garden. That game, dubbed “Double Nickel,” was extraordinary in that a new Jordan emerged. In 1996, Jordan proved his versatility while starring alongside Bugs Bunny in the animated comedy Space Jam. If you consider the entire package, Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time.