History is written by the victors. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Michael Jordan‘s shortened 1995 campaign with Chicago. Returning from baseball in March to play the final 17 games of the regular season, Jordan was sometimes his famed dominating self, other times old, brittle and washed-up. He averaged only 26.9 points during the regular season, a number his baseball-strengthened arms and the eerie confines of the United Center took the fault for.
Once the Bulls bowed out in the Eastern Conference Playoffs in the second round against Orlando, the script had a plot. When Jordan maniacally worked himself through the ground during the following summer (in-between takes of Space Jam), and then returned the next season to orchestrate one of the most dominating seasons in NBA history, the script had a conclusion.
Get James Cameron behind it and we’re talking an Academy Award. It was the perfect drama: star player returns to his old stomping grounds, struggles at first to regain his way and then works himself to exhaustion before reaching heights no one thought possible. That sounds great, and yes, Chicago did lose early in the 1995 Playoffs. But that WAS NOT because Michael Jordan was any less of a player. Here are his numbers during that playoff run: 42 minutes a night, 31.5 points a game on over 48 percent shooting, as well as 6.5 boards, 4.5 dimes, 2.3 steals and 1.4 blocks.
Nick Anderson opened his mouth and the rest of America followed suit. But f— history. It can lie. And because of that, I’m dropping some love on Jordan’s 10 best games during his abbreviated 1995 season.
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10. 33 POINTS VS. MILWAUKEE
April 23, 1995
If one of my readers can find the video for this game, I’d be much obliged. The Bulls lost this one, their last regular season game of the year. But it wasn’t Jordan’s fault. The team had already wrapped up the No. 5 seed and were set to play Charlotte in the first round of the playoffs. MJ was the only starter other than Scottie Pippen to play more than 35 minutes, and he capitalized on it, dusting longtime defensive ace Johnny Newman for 33 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
9. 32 POINTS VS. CHARLOTTE
Eastern Conference First Round, Game 2
April 30, 1995
As Muggsy Bogues told me recently, those mid-’90s Charlotte teams had the worst timing. Right as they were coming up, the Bulls were in the midst of a decade-long domination of the East. The Hornets were a strong defensive team, but had no one to check MJ, and their best players had little postseason experience. In this first-round matchup, Chicago stole Game 1 and then nearly won Game 2 before folding in a 19-point second-half drubbing. Jordan did his part, going for 32/7/7 while making nearly half (13 of 32) of the team’s field goals, and scoring nine of his team’s 15 fourth-quarter points. There was, however, just too much Larry Johnson (25 points) and Alonzo Mourning (20 rebounds), further exposing the Bulls’ weakest points.
I wasn’t able to find any specific video from this game, so you’ll have to be content with this highlight reel.