His Airness Michael Jordan is undeniably the most dominant basketball player the world has ever seen. His on-court ferocity, killer instinct, and never-say-die attitude remain unmatched and have become the standard by which all NBA superstars are judged.
Michael’s legendary performances and career statistics make for a strong case regarding the GOAT discussion. He retired from the NBA as the league’s all-time points-per-game leader in both the regular season (30.12 ppg) and postseason (33.45 ppg) — NBA records that are yet to be eclipsed. Unfortunately for LeBron James, Michael’s perfect NBA finals record of six-for-six — and never letting a series reach a game seven — has also become the measuring stick for basketball greatness.
But what exactly makes Michael Jordan so great? Is it his shoes?
If we were to ask Mars Blackmon, he would surely say ‘It’s gotta be the shoes.’
It Must Be The Shoes: Best Performances in Jordan High Top Basketball Shoes
Throughout his 15-year career, Michael had a lot of impressive games while wearing his high-top basketball sneakers. Here, we’ll take a stroll down memory lane and take a look at his best performances and the legendary Air Jordans he wore in them. We’ll also mention a couple of notable achievements from today’s stars while wearing a pair of Michael’s iconic basketball shoes.
Air Jordan 1
The Game: January 15, 1985 versus the Denver Nuggets
The Stats: 35 points, 14 rebounds, 15 assists
The Moment: Though it took a while to notch his first triple-double, rookie Michael Jordan did it in spectacular fashion. Locked into his high top Jordans, Michael played with the Nugget’s porous defense and led his team to an impressive win.
The Game: February 01, 1985 versus the Philadelphia 76ers
The Stats: 31 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
The Moment: Despite facing fierce competition (Julius Erving, Moses Malone, and rookie Charles Barkley), rookie Michael Jordan soared high and outclassed his rivals. The highlight of the night was when he blew past the 76ers defense and gently kissed a finger-roll in off the backboard.
The Game: March 15, 1985 versus the Phoenix Suns
The Stats: 27 points, 9 rebounds, 14 assists
The Moment: Michael was at his element as he guided the Chicago Bulls to a key win. He nearly recorded a triple-double and played lockdown defense on the Suns’ number two scorer Walter Davis while wearing his first signature high top Jordan basketball shoes.
The Game: March 17, 1985 versus the Milwaukee Bucks
The Stats: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 16 assists
The Moment: Michael Jordan logged his second triple-double in an emotional comeback victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nike Air cushioning of his Jordan high top basketball shoes kept his legs fresh as he carried his Chicago Bulls to another convincing win.
The Game: April 04, 1985 versus the Milwaukee Bucks
The Stats: 35 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals
The Moment: In Game 3 of the Bulls’ first-round matchup against the Bucks, Michael went all-in to grab his first playoff win. He played with the Bucks’ hapless defense and swarmed their primary weapon Sidney Moncrief.
The Game: April 17, 1986 versus the Boston Celtics
The Stats: 49 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
The Moment: Michael was locked and loaded in his then-new high top Jordans when he faced the stacked Boston Celtics during Game 1 of their playoff series. Using his raw athleticism, Michael consistently broke down the Celtics’ defense that included future Hall-of-Famers Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Bill Walton, and Robert Parish.
The Game: April 20, 1986 versus the Boston Celtics
The Stats: 63 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists
The Moment: Michael continued his hot streak in Game 2 of the Bull-Celtics first-round matchup. He went ballistic and put up 63 points against the eventual 1986 NBA Champs. His mens high top Jordans retained its shape throughout 53 minutes of non-stop action. His Jordan high top basketball shoes also kept him stable considering the immense load he was forced to carry. After the game, Larry Bird said, “I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
The Game: March 08, 1998 versus the New York Knicks
The Moment: Michael broke out a pair of his old Air Jordan 1s when he played his last game at the Madison Square Garden as a member of the Chicago Bulls. The shoe’s high-top collar and Nike Zoom Air cushioning kept him comfortable as he lit up the Knicks and harassed their shooting guard Allan Houston all night long.
The Game: December 12, 2009 versus the New York Knicks
The Stats: 30 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals
The Moment: A previous Jordan Brand athlete, Dwayne Wade often said that he modeled his game after His Airness. While wearing Air Jordan 1s, Wade looked a lot like Michael as he stuffed the stat sheet and completely dominated the New York Knicks.
The Game: February 03, 2013 versus the Miami Heat
The Stats: 27 points (including 14-of-14 from the line), 3 rebounds, 3 assists
The Moment: DeMar DeRozan showed up on court wearing Air Jordan 1s and channeled Michael all night. Protected by his high-tops, DeMar put up Jordan-esque numbers as he slashed through the Heat’s defense. He was so effective at getting to the rim that he attempted and made all 14 of his free throws.
Air Jordan 5
The Game: March 28, 1990 versus the Cleveland Cavaliers
The Stats: 69 points, 18 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals
The Moment: Michael took over the game and had a career night as he guided his Chicago Bulls to a 117-113 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played 50 minutes and put up a career-high 69 points. “This would have to be my greatest game,” Michael told the The New York Times in an interview. “When I scored 63 against Boston, we lost. It sure feels a lot better.”
Air Jordan 7
The Game: June 03, 1992 versus the Portland Trailblazers
The Stats: 39 points, 3 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals
The Moment: During Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals, Michael put up a playoff record 35 points in the first half. Before halftime, he hit his sixth 3-pointer, turned to the broadcasting table and did the now-famous shrug. The Bulls were up 66-51 at the half and cruised to victory.
Air Jordan 8
The Game: June 06, 1993 versus the Phoenix Suns
The Stats: 55 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists
The Moment: Although the 1993 Finals series reached Game 6, Michael essentially sealed the deal with a Game 4 win and a 3-1 advantage over the Charles Barkley-led Suns. While wearing his high top Jordans, he put up a series high 55 points en route to his first three-peat.
The Moment: Between Games 4 and 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan contracted some sort of stomach ailment and suffered from flu-like symptoms. Since it was an off day, he stayed in bed and rested for 24 hours; missing the team’s shootaround before the decisive Game 5. He arrived at the arena looking very sick and sluggish but was determined to get the victory. Despite his sickness, His Airness put up 17 points in the second quarter to take back the lead from the Jazz. At the third period, Michael was getting some well-deserved rest on the bench until the Malone-Stockton-led Jazz reclaimed the lead. Bulls head coach Phil Jackson had no choice but to put the weak and fatigued Michael back into the game. He went on to score 15 more points in the final period; including a game-winning three-pointer with 25 seconds left on the clock. After securing the win, he collapsed into the arms of teammate Scottie Pippen. Because of his heroics, the twelfth Air Jordan would eventually become one of the most iconic and sought after high top Jordans.
Air Jordan 14
The Game: June 14, 1998 versus the Utah Jazz
The Stats: 45 points, 4 steals
The Moment: Michael hit his final shot as a member of the Chicago Bulls in true Jordan fashion. The Bulls came into Game 6 of the 1998 Finals series with a 3-2 advantage over their rivals the Utah Jazz. The Jazz controlled most of the game, and the Michael-led Bulls found themselves down three (thanks to a big three-pointer from John Stockton) with a little over a minute left in the fourth quarter. Michael then went for a quick layup that cut Utah's lead to one. The game was all but over, and the Bulls needed a major defensive stop to get the win. Thirty seconds were left on the clock, and the ball was back in Utah’s hands. Stockton made a pass to the Mail Man then Michael quickly stripped the ball from Malone and dribbled upcourt. With 16 seconds left, he performed a ridiculous crossover that sent Bryon Russell flying and giving him enough room to make the game-winner. The Ferrari-inspired high top Jordans gave him enough support and perfect traction while his defender slipped and fell. He finished the game with 45 points, a sixth NBA championship, and a second three-peat.
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Dimitrije Curcic has been playing basketball for over 22 years. Like Manu Ginobili, he’s a left-hander whose moves led him to a better career-shooting percentage than the Argentine himself. After playing professionally for 10 years, Dimitrije moved to coaching for two seasons before he became a basketball statistician for StatScore, and FanSided contributor for the San Antonio Spurs. Dimitrije loves to tell hoop stories through numbers and graphics and has been featured on Fansided, FiveThirtyEight, Eurohoops, and TalkBasket among the others.