Michael Jordan once explained that something other than raw athleticism was the key to his NBA greatness.


Almost 20 years after his last NBA game and almost 25 years since Michael Jordan’s last NBA title, the debate continues to rage on who is the greatest basketball player of all time. Jordan is definitely one of the guys in the conversation after a stellar 15-year career. Scoring isn’t the whole game, but being the all-time average leader doesn’t hurt his GOAT case.

Michael Jordan was more than a goalscorer. He has been defensive player of the year, a demanding taskmaster for his teammates and has won six championships in his last seven seasons with the Chicago Bulls. His flagship film of his career looks more like a feature film or mini-series than a YouTube clip.

Michael Jordan’s resume as a player is simply impeccable

Michael Jordan’s list of significant professional accomplishments is both dazzling and dizzying. How could a player accomplish all of this?

  • 14 All-Star Game selections
  • 11 All-NBA caps
  • 10 outstanding titles
  • 9 fully defensive selections
  • 6 NBA titles
  • 6 NBA Finals MVP awards
  • 5 NBA MVP awards
  • 3 stolen titles
  • 3 All-Star Game MVP awards
  • Rookie of the year in 1984-85
  • Defensive player of the year in 1987-88

He was undoubtedly a Hall of Fame member the first time he retired long enough to become eligible in 2009. Now owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Jordan’s legacy with the Bulls is still debated today. hui. The discussion returned with fury in 2020, fueled by the release of The last dance, a documentary series from ESPN Films and Netflix.

Jordan had unmistakable physical abilities. But as we’ve seen dozens of times, pure athletics doesn’t always equal a great player. For Michael Jordan, the lessons learned along the way helped shape the player he has become.

Whichever way you add it up, Jordan has made himself a student of the game

In an interview published in ESPN The Magazine shortly before the end of the 1998 regular season, Michael Jordan described some of the reasons her career has evolved the way it has. It wasn’t just about athletics. Instead, he had the mental understanding of how to maximize these physical gifts.

“I think I have good hand-eye coordination. I always thought I could be a wide receiver in football, I ran a 4.3 40 in college. Of course, it was with the school watch. In all sports, I’ve always wanted to play the position where you can dictate the outcome of the game – pitcher, base thief, quarterback. I can throw a soccer ball about 60 yards.

“But it’s my knowledge of basketball that is really high. I know every facet of the game, every trick of the job, every little motivation, every little technique. But most of all, I know how to attack people. Over time, I have learned to beat doubles teams, to see them coming and to exploit them.

Michael jordan

And exploit them, he did. Jordan has scored 30.1 points per game during his career, but he has also provided 5.3 assists each night. In the playoffs, he climbed a notch to 33.4 points and 5.7 assists per game. And along the way, Jordan challenged what was a long-held NBA belief about scorers and championships.

Evolving at the level of the total package, Michael Jordan returned to decades of prejudice against the scorers

Michael Jordan (23) of the Chicago Bulls applied lessons learned from his battles with the Detroit Pistons to win six NBA titles. | Focus on sport via Getty Images

After the Chicago Bulls failed in the Eastern Conference final against the Detroit Pistons in 1990, the second straight year they had done so, skeptics were in hiding. In newspapers across the country (because there was no internet yet), columnists took their pictures.

“When will Michael Jordan win a championship ring? an Arizona Republic columnist asked (via Newspapers.com).

“In the world, there is only one Michael Jordan. And around the world, the NBA title may be the only professional achievement that eludes him, ”wrote Dave George of the Palm Beach, Fla. Post (via Newspapers.com.

And so on. The Bulls were too dependent on Jordan. Jordan was not selfless enough. Never mind that in that 93-74 loss to Detroit in Game 7 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan scored 31 points on 13 of 27 shots, while each unnamed Chicago Bull “Michael Jordan ”shot a total of 15 of 63 (23.8%). Jordan should have been more selfless. Seriously? Horace Grant was 3 of 17. Craig Hodges went 3 of 13. Scottie Pippen (who struggled with a migraine, to be honest) only managed a 1 in 10 game.

As we all know, Jordan has proven the critics wrong. He didn’t just win that elusive first NBA title. No, he took six.

But it was the combination of dazzling physical skills, a wealth of knowledge, and a streak of competition that wouldn’t stop. Put it all together, and you had Michael Jordan and an above average chance of winning. A lot.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

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