MICHAEL JORDAN’S RECORDS AND WHO COULD SURPASS THEM
To this day, Michael Jordan is the most recognizable basketball figure in the world. He may have retired over a decade ago, but MJ’s excellence on the hardwood means his greatness is still relevant in today’s game. Jordan’s domination in the 80s and early 90s amassed an incredible number of individual accolades and NBA records. Today we are going to look at some of those records and determine if anyone in league history will ever surpass them.
1. THE MOST POINTS PER GAME IN NBA HISTORY
Jordan averaged an astounding 30.1 points per game for his career – the highest average in league history. This scoring figure stands out when considering some of the names he is ahead of, most notably Wilt Chamberlain at 30.0 point per game and the late great Elgin Baylor at 27.3 points per night who come in at second and third respectively.
Jordan won an incredible 10 scoring titles during his playing days, and his points per game average points to his status as the game’s greatest pure scorer ever. MJ was as close to a perfect offensive player as they come, with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and also finish at the rim, no player made it easier to score than Jordan.
He was also incredibly efficient, with a career 49.7% field goal percentage on a healthy number of attempts per night.
Although amazing, Jordan’s career scoring average could be in jeopardy as the league continues to trend upwards in overall scoring. The increase in 20+ point game scorers around the association has grown dramatically over the past decade, and although no one player seems destined to break Jordan’s record any time soon, if a gifted scorer was to enter the league and have a brief but fruitful career, Jordan’s per game average could be surpassed in due course.
2. THE MOST POINTS PER GAME IN AN NBA FINALS SERIES
At the peak of his powers, Jordan averaged a mind blowing 41 points per game in the 1993 NBA Finals against Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns.
Jordan was simply unplayable in the series, especially in Games 3, 4 and 5 in which he scored 44, 55 and 41 points respectively.
Jordan’s scoring swiftly ended the Suns hopes as the already inferior outfit, and his 41 points per game in that series has since stood the test of time.
It wasn’t just his overall scoring that was impressive however, MJ’s overall stat line was just as good. He played 45.7 minutes per game, scored 41.0 points a game, grabbed 8.5 rebounds, and dished out 6.3 assists. While these numbers are legendary, his scoring output is something so extraordinary during an era built on defense, that it is very unlikely a player will ever put forth a more amazing NBA Finals offensive showcase.
This isn’t to say it can’t be done however. As we’ve covered previously, scoring is trending upwards, and so is the scoring output individually in today’s NBA landscape. With more shots and extra possessions, if one of the league’s best scorers catches fire across a short series, Jordan’s Finals scoring average could be a record of the past when the time comes. It will be a tall order, but one that could certainly be re-written if the circumstances align correctly.
For context, there are 9 times when a player has averaged 40 PPG in a playoff series, Jordan did it 5 times. The next closest players have been Rick Barry at 40.8 points per game, and Elgin Baylor at 40.6 points in a Finals series respectively.
3. THE ONLY PLAYER IN NBA HISTORY TO WIN THE MVP, DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AND MVP IN THE SAME SEASON
In the 1987-1988 NBA regular season, Jordan put up arguably the most decorated individual season in NBA history. To this day, many would agree we haven’t quite seen a season in which a star dominated on both ends quite like Jordan did in 88. MJ won the scoring title and the DPOY in one year, something extraordinary and special. Of course, after an impressive season like that, he deservedly won the MVP.
Superstars such as LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are household names that have put up historically great regular seasons, but none have managed to sweep all three awards in the same campaign. At the time, MJ was clearly the best player when he played, and it’s becoming more difficult in today’s NBA to find a player who can score at a high level and shut down the opposition at the same time.
One individual that does have a chance however is Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokoumnpo, who last season became the first player since Jordan to win the league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. Antetokounmpo joined Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players that have pulled off this feat, and “The Greek Freak’s” skillset on both ends could be a genuine threat to MJ’s record.
Not only is Giannis an elite wing defender and rim protector, his relentless approach to winning on a nightly basis as well as his unstoppable attacks on the basket in the paint and in transition gives him every chance to take home all three prestigious honors in the near future. Many believe Antetokounmpo is only just entering his prime currently, meaning Jordan’s three-peat of individual awards could be in jeopardy as Giannis steps into the most productive period of his career.
Notable Michael Jordan Records
A man of many firsts, Michael Jordan holds more than 50 records in his NBA career. He not only won many awards for his exemplary performance on the field but also set the bar high for players after him.
Other Records That Michael Jordan Holds
In his time as a professional basketball player, Jordan was known for his competitive drive and ability to impact the game with his skills. He also had the unique ability to jump higher than most players and quickly shoot from midrange helped him become one of the greatest players in basketball history.
Chicago Bulls Records
During his time in Chicago, he showcased his unique abilities and surpassed records set by big basketball names like Wilt Chamberlain. With six scoring titles under his belt, MJ beat Chamberlain’s two. He also retained a higher game average in his career, with 30.12 points compared to Chamberlain’s 30.06.
Karl Malone may have come close to beating Jordan’s record of straight games played in his career. While Malone took part in the same number of All-Star NBA games, he also surpassed Jordan’s number of seasons and playoffs participation. Malone holds more team awards but not enough records to dethrone Jordan from the best NBA player position.
Another basketball icon who challenged Michael Jordan at Chicago Stadium is Larry Bird. Aside from their on-field tiffs, they shared similar tactics that may have led to their Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame nominations. Though Bird may have outdone MJ in player tactics, he didn’t manage to outshine any of his records. Their iconic gold medal win in the 1992 Barcelona Games speaks to their unmatched prowess in the game.
A case in point is the year 1992, when Michael Jordan set the following three Olympic records in a single season:
- Most points in a game (63 pts)
- Most rebounds in a game (30)
- Highest field goal percentage (93%)
Return to the Bulls
While Michael Jordan reigns high in most records statistically, other players have beaten him in season appearances. His foot injury in 1985 saw him miss out on a total of 64 games, greatly affecting his regular season appearances. Michael also took a break from professional basketball in 1993 following his father’s murder. This hiatus meant he did not participate in the 1993–1994 games. During this time, he tried his hand at professional baseball.
His 1995 return to Chicago Bulls saw the team win consecutive championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998. These championship wins set a record of 72 regular season wins for the Chicago Bulls, now surpassed by the Golden Warriors’ record of 73 wins. These two breaks from active field presence may have placed MJ in an unenviable position with setting records at regular seasons games compared to other icons like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parrish.
Players Who Broke His Records
With more playoff games to his belt, LeBron James has surpassed several of Jordan’s records. Compared to MJ’s 13 playoff wins, James has 15 wins. Like MJ, James also holds a Rookie of the Year award.
In 50+ point games played during his career, MJ averaged 25.6 points per game, a good feat above any other third all-time players who’ve played more than one season with the same team. While this isn’t as high as James’ average of 29.8 PPG, it’s still a pretty impressive achievement for MJ.
James has also surpassed MJ’s 5,897 career playoff points to achieve an all-time record of 6,911 playoff points. This record will likely go unbroken for seasons to come, as the only other player who has come close to breaking MJ’s record is Kevin Durant at 4,043 career playoff points. However, James has participated in 212 playoff games to achieve this all-time record compared to Jordan’s 179.
Other players who at some point matched Jordan’s franchise records by getting selected to join the All-defensive First Team nine (9) times include Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.
Some of Michael Jordan’s Unbreakable Records
Jordan’s records yet to be broken include:
- His Olympic Games record of 23 points in 4 minutes and 11 seconds in a single game has not been surpassed by any other player. He set this record during the Dream Team’s second game against Angola in 1992.
- Jordan also holds the seemingly unbreakable record of being the only player to win the Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of The Year and Scoring Title in a single season.
- He also still holds the coveted record of the only player with 10 Scoring Titles in his career. Kevin Durant and James Harden may never surpass this record, considering they have managed only four and two titles so far.
- Jordan also boasts of scoring the most points per game, both in NBA history and in the finals. No active player seems close to matching or surpassing his 40.1 points per game record, which he set in the NBA Series Final of 1993.
- In 40+ games played over three seasons, Jordan averaged 30.1 points, six rebounds and five assists per game, a record no other player has broken since his retirement. He averaged just under 45 minutes per game for the same three seasons, a feat that has yet to be matched by any other NBA player.
- Lastly, no other player has achieved the enviable record of earning more money than his entire team. MJ set this record in 1998 at the prime of his career, with several records already under his belt. His then salary of $33.1 million was a whopping eight times more than his teammates’ pay.
Basketball has changed in many ways since Jordan retired. While some of these changes make it easier to break his records, others raise the bar too high for current players. We live to see another game that will be an opportunity for LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, or any other player to break one more or all of Jordan’s outstanding records.
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Photo courtesy of Tony Ranze/AFP via Getty Images.