On March 18, 1995, Michael Jordan announced he was coming back from his first retirement to resume his NBA career.
He faxed a letter saying, simply, "I’m back."
Consider that point taken with the fax, but it wasn’t really cemented until Jordan’s fifth night back in the league. The Bulls went 2-2 in MJ’s first four games back in March 1995 – he scored 19, 27, 21 and 32 points, respectively — but in the fifth game, at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, vintage MJ stood up:
It’s one of Jordan’s most famous performances, of course. He scored 55 points on 21-of-37 shooting and just abused John Starks in the process. Watch the series of pull-up jumpers MJ sinks from anywhere on the floor in that video. It’s mesmerizing.
Jordan was pretty much unstoppable that night, and going down the MJ YouTube sinkhole digs up many more examples like that one.
Let’s take a few minutes to enjoy these other 11 moments when Jordan couldn’t be stopped on a basketball court (Note: These aren’t necessarily MJ’s "best" games — just nights when he couldn’t be contained).
1. MJ drops 63 on the Celtics
In Game 2 against Boston in the first round of the 1986 playoffs, Jordan went off for 63 points, five rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks on the road. "It was God disguised as Michael Jordan," Celtics legend Larry Bird famously said after the game. Despite Jordan’s 63, though, the Bulls lost in double overtime and would get swept, 3-0, by the Celtics. Boston would win the ’86 title and be remembered as one of the best teams ever.
2. Jordan pulls "The Move"
In Game 2 of the 1991 Finals against the Lakers, Jordan pulled off what has become one of his most famous highlights – the up-and-under, swooping layup in the lane. Jordan ended the night with 33 points on 15-of-18 (making 13 in a row at one point), along with 13 assists, seven rebounds, two steals and a block. Chicago would win Game 2 and win the series in five games.
3. Jordan’s "freeze out" revenge
As the story goes, Detroit’s Isiah Thomas lead a charge to freeze Jordan out of the 1985 All-Star Game. Fair or not, Jordan certainly took it personally, and when the Bulls played the Pistons after the All-Star break, MJ crushed them. He scored 49 points with 15 rebounds and five assists. There was nothing that was going to stop Jordan – notoriously vengeful – from getting his retribution.
4. Jordan closes out the Heat
In Game 3 of the first round of the ’92 playoffs, Chicago had a chance to close out Miami on the road. Was Jordan going to let that chance pass? Nope. He dropped 56 points on the Heat, along with five rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks. Watching performances like this, you can understand why Jordan began to think, "The NBA is too easy for me. Let’s go play baseball just for the hell of it."
5. The Shrug Game
Everybody knows this one: 1992 Finals, Game 1 against Portland, Jordan dropped 35 in the first half (ended with 39). Here are the full highlights. They’re ridiculous. The shrug comes around 9:18.
6. The Ehlo Game
Sorry to twist the knife, Cleveland, but Game 5 of the first round of the 1989 playoffs is one that will live forever. Jordan is remembered for his shot over Craig Ehlo at the buzzer to knock the Cavs out of the playoffs as well as any other singular moment in his career. This is the only shot you see on replay, but the whole game was pure dominance — 44 points, nine rebounds, six assists.
7. Sorry again, Cleveland!
But this game needs to be on any "unstoppable Michael Jordan" list. On March 29, 1990, Jordan set his career-high with 69 points against the Cavs on 62 percent shooting. What else did he do in that game? Oh, just 18 rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block. Standard unstoppable-ness.
8. Jordan destroys Detroit again
Ever since the freeze-out in ’85, it was like Jordan intentionally morphed into a serial killer any time the Pistons popped up on the schedule. So on the road on March 4, 1987, Jordan crushed Detroit again, dropping 61 points with seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks. Young, lanky MJ highlights might be the best MJ highlights of all.
9. MJ drops 61 on Dominique’s Hawks
A little more than a month after dropping 61 on the Pistons, Jordan did it again against Dominique Wilkins and the Atlanta Hawks. He added 10 rebounds and four steals, although Dominique scored 34 in a Hawks win. Still, Atlanta couldn’t do anything to contain MJ that night — it just kept the rest of the Bulls pretty much in check (Charles Oakley had 19 and only one other Bull – Brad Sellers, with 10 – reached double figures in scoring).
10. Jordan puts on a show for Barkley
OK, what the hell, one more from that incredible ’86-87 season from Jordan. Against Charles Barkley and the 76ers on March 24, MJ scored 56 – he had EIGHT games of 50 or more in that season – with seven rebounds and eight steals. It was one of those freak nights we became accustomed to where Jordan could truly dominate on both ends.
11. Jordan does whatever he wants vs. Shaq and the Magic
In the season before Jordan would break to play bad minor league baseball, he had a vintage scoring night against a young Shaquille O’Neal and the Magic. MJ put up 64 points on Orlando with six rebounds and five steals — there was nothing that could be done to stop him. Unfortunately for the Bulls, the same could be said for Shaq, who had 29 points and 24 rebounds in a 128-124 win.