DAR Sports: Ranking Michael Jordan's 6 NBA Finals Appearances

By @TrueGodImmortal

Good evening, afternoon, morning, or whatever time of day it is that you're reading this. Let me just start this article off by simply reminding you all that the greatest basketball player of all time is Michael Jordan and there is no way else in the running for his undisputed no. 1 spot, especially anyone that is still playing in the NBA currently (just for clarification). With that being said, one of the biggest pieces of Jordan's legacy is the fact he went 6 for 6 in the NBA Finals for a flawless record. 6 championships in 8 seasons (the two seasons he didn't win a title was during his brief retirement), two separate three peats. That is just unheard of in the history of the game (at least after the Celtics domination of the actual "plumbers and industrial workers" players days). When looking back at the championships that the Chicago Bulls won, one has to recognize that each time, Jordan won Finals MVP pretty convincingly. With that said, which of his 6 Finals MVP awards is the best? Which is his "worst" performance? Let's take a look at Jordan and his Finals performances ranked in order.

6. 1996 NBA Finals
(27.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 42% FG, 32% 3PT, 84% FT)

-The greatest team season in NBA history was capped off with an excellent 15-3 postseason run that saw the Bulls defeat the Seattle Supersonics in 6 games. Heading into the NBA Finals, Jordan was wrecking anything in his way, but the Sonics were an amazing team in their own right and their defense presented a tough challenge for the Bulls. After the Bulls went up 3-0, the Sonics fought back to take games 4 and 5, before falling short in game 6. Jordan however, struggled in this series at times, as the Bulls had a lot of problems offensively, with game 3 being his best game of the series overall. While Jordan led the team scoring wise, a lot of credit for closing out the series has to go to Dennis Rodman and his impact on the floor. Jordan was still the best player on the floor during this Finals, but the Sonics gave him trouble at times, making this his least favorable Finals MVP win, mostly due to his inefficiency and small struggles. Still, a win is a win, and the Bulls won their 4th title in 6 seasons.

5. 1998 NBA Finals (33.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 43% FG, 31% 3PT, 82% FT)

-As amazing as "The Shot" is, it doesn't sum up in total what Jordan did during the series, which is take over with Scottie Pippen hurt through the series and missing times. It's interesting to not that unlike previous Finals appearances, Jordan wasn't as active on the boards or making passes. However, this was a familiar place for the Bulls. Their attempt at a third straight title. They didn't have home court advantage. The Jazz were out for revenge after last season. For the most part, this seemed to be the perfect storm for the Jazz to win, but it wasn't meant to be. After the Jazz took game 1, the Bulls fought back to take game 2 on the back of a 37 point performance from Jordan. Game 3 would be one of the greatest defensive team performances ever, as the Bulls won 96-54 and abused the Jazz throughout the game. However, the Jazz would keep on fighting. After the Bulls won game 4 to take a 3-1 lead, the Jazz fought back to win game 5 and push the series back to Utah for the remaining games. The Bulls needed a win and they needed one ASAP. With Pippen hurt during this series, Jordan would have to take on the pressure of pushing his team to a win, and in game 6, no one was better than Michael Jordan. Jordan would drop 45 points including the infamous shot to win the game and the series for the Bulls. While his efficiency wasn't as great as prior performances, Jordan still was able to show up when needed and give the Bulls what they needed to defeat the Jazz. The mental and physical wear and tear of 6 Finals in 8 years has to be great, and the fact that Jordan was able to maintain such excellence every year and win every time says a lot. Jordan is the GOAT. Simple.

4. 1997 NBA Finals
(32.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 46% FG, 32% 3PT, 77% FT)

-This isn't the most efficient Finals performance from Jordan, but it was one of his most iconic for what it represents. As the Bulls attempted to go for their 5th title in 7 years, they faced a grave challenge against a hungry and focused Utah Jazz team who seemed to be just a good as the Bulls. Of the three Finals Jordan played in when he came back from retirement, this is his best work, because the challenge of a Jazz team that went 64-18 with two All Stars in Karl Malone and John Stockton was going to be tough to overcome. Game 1 was interesting, as it was close throughout, but Karl Malone missed two free throws to put the Jazz up, and instead, the game would be tied at 82 with a few seconds left. Enter Michael Jordan. He hit a jumper at the buzzer to win the game and put the Bulls up 1-0, and then, his game 2 performance was exactly what the Bulls needed, as he would put up 38 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists to give them a 2-0 lead over the Jazz. However, games 3 and 4 didn't go the way that the Bulls would hope and they found themselves tied 2-2 heading into game 5. Enter Michael Jordan. The infamous Flu Game. The story is well known, so there is no need to go on and on about it, but this is the game where Jordan stepped up and took over for the Bulls, proving how important he was. He led the Bulls back from a 16 point deficit, and iced the game with a clutch three pointer to put the Bulls up 3-2. In Game 6 in Chicago, the Bulls would play a very tough game against the Jazz, with Jordan leading the way with 39 points and 11 rebounds, and a Steve Kerr jumper iced the game and series, as the Bulls won their 5th title in 7 seasons.

3. 1992 NBA Finals
(35.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 53% FG, 43% 3PT, 89% FT)

-It isn't often that a star player can shoot 50/40/90 in the NBA playoffs, let alone the heightened competition of the NBA Finals, but Jordan was THIS close to doing it against an excellent Trailblazers team. Led by Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, this team was one of the best Jordan had faced, and this series is recognized notably for his infamous shrug in game 1 after hitting multiple threes in succession. This series was hard fought, as the Blazers managed to tie it at 1-1 before heading back to Portland, and after Chicago took game 3, the Blazers seemed up to the challenge and won game 4. With the momentum in their favor and game 5 in Portland, the Blazers could have pulled off an upset and won, but Jordan wasn't having it, putting up a 46 point performance to give the Bulls a clutch victory alongside an excellent all around game from Scottie Pippen, who finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists. Game 6 seemed to be going in the favor of the Blazers, but Jordan and Pippen led the team back from a 15 point deficit in the third to take the victory and their second straight NBA Title. Jordan was amazing in this Finals and he rightfully so won the Finals MVP. It says a lot that this performance is just no. 3 on the list, because for anyone else, this is no. 1 without question. That's how great Jordan was in the Finals.

2. 1991 NBA Finals (31.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 11.4 APG, 2.8 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 56% FG, 50% 3PT, 85% FT)

-Picking between his first Finals and the last Finals of his first three-peat is extremely tough. In terms of getting it done, this is probably the best all around performance on the court, but Jordan was hungry, hadn't been Finals battle tested and was out to prove something. The Lakers were a battle tested team and one of the last dynasties in the NBA. For the Bulls, this presented yet another tough challenge due to the Pistons being their opponents in the Eastern Conference Finals. Jordan was magnificent in the Finals, averaging 31 points and 11 assists a game, but his supporting cast was also important, as Pippen would average nearly 21 points and 10 rebounds a game, with Horace Grant giving them 15 points and 8 rebounds. This was their most focused playoff year IMO and a dominant showcase for the Bulls, but what makes this no. 2 instead of no. 1 is the fact that Pippen had one of his best games in game 5 to close out the series. It doesn't take away from what Jordan did every game besides that, because he was all around the best player easily, and this was the official passing of the torch.

1. 1993 NBA Finals
(41.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 51% FG, 40% 3PT, 70% FT)

-While not his most efficient performance (at least from the foul line), this is the greatest performance ever in the NBA Finals. No one was asked to do more in the Finals than Jordan was in this series, except perhaps LeBron James in 2015, but of course, that didn't end in a victory. For Jordan, in 1993, the Bulls were chasing their third straight title, and they needed to lean on their two best players to overcome not having home court advantage and being the no. 2 seed in the East (sounds familiar for another dynasty this season, just out West), and that they did. While Pippen would average a little over 44 minutes a game, Jordan was given no rest and averaged 46 minutes a game in the Finals. He would carry the scoring load and perform to the best of his ability when called upon, and that's exactly what he did in every game. After giving the Bulls a 2-0 advantage over the Suns, the Suns would fight back in a classic game 3 that went to three overtime periods. After that battle, the legend that is MJ would rise to the occasion, delivering 55 points in a crucial momentum swing game that put the Bulls up 3-1 and gave them a clear cut advantage going ahead. With the Suns actually shocking everyone and winning in Chicago, the series was 3-2 and headed back to Phoenix. This could have worked in favor of the Suns and in the last minute of the game, it seemed as though it would. The Suns were up 98-94, and the Bulls couldn't get anyone to score except Jordan. After Jordan cut the lead to 98-96, a missed shot by the Suns would lead to one of the most clutch shots in NBA history, as John Paxson hit a big time three to win the game and the NBA Finals. While Paxson and his shot are iconic, none of that would be possible without Jordan and his 4th quarter scoring once the rest of the Bulls went cold. With a record 41.0 PPG in the Finals, along with perhaps his heaviest workload in the Finals on his third straight trip, this is the greatest MJ Finals performance. Period.



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