Is Michael Jordan’s 1993 NBA Finals performance versus the Phoenix Suns the best ever?

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Michael Jordan had one of the most unbelievable championship series ever when his Chicago Bulls defeated the Phoenix Suns 4-2 in the 1993 NBA Finals. The five-time MVP dominated the Suns like few others before him had or since then have.

As the Suns take centerstage in the 2021 NBA Finals, let’s look back at the time when one of their opponent may have had the greatest championship performance in NBA history.

Michael Jordan: By the numbers

In that six-game series, Jordan averaged 41 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He also shot 50.8% from the field and 40%from the three-point arc.

The Chicago Bulls superstar set scoring records during this epic Finals series. The 41-point average is the highest ever scoring average in NBA Finals history. The 101 field goals made are also a record for a six-game series, and so are the 246 points he amassed.

What’s even more impressive about Jordan’s feat is the fact that he made 50% from the field or better in five of the six contests and went as high as 56.8% when he scored his Finals career-high of 55 points in Game 4. His 55-point outing tied Rick Barry for second-most points scored in the NBA Finals, just behind Elgin Baylor’s 61.

In Games 2, 3, 4 and 5, Jordan went on a tear and scored 42, 44, 55 and 41 points, respectively. This streak remains one of the most incredible feats in the annals of league history, and to do it on the biggest stage makes Jordan’s 1993 Finals one of the most memorable ever.

The Outcome

Michael Jordan (right) and his father James [Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE via Getty Images].
Michael Jordan (right) and his father James [Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE via Getty Images].

Not only did Michael Jordan put up all-time great numbers in the 1993 NBA Finals, but he also led his team to their third-straight championship. This was the tail end of the Chicago Bulls’ first three-peat as they established themselves as a mini-dynasty before it became a full-blown dynasty when they won three more in the mid to late 90s.

At the time, this was perhaps the weakest and probably most tired Chicago Bulls team during their first three-peat. Their 57-25 record was the lowest of their six championship-winning teams, as the team’s stars, Jordan and Scottie Pippen, were feeling fatigued after playing in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The Chicago Bulls’ defense was a key reason why this team was successful. But Michael Jordan literally put this team on his back and carried them despite a lot of mileage in the three previous seasons.

When Michael Jordan put on this show in the 1993 NBA Finals, it cemented his place in league history as a true winner, and questions about whether he was the greatest player of all time became a hot topic.

With the three-peat, Jordan separated himself from Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, the two players he was most often compared to by critics when it came to accomplishments. Neither Magic nor Bird won more than two in a row, and this was the first time a team won three straight since the Boston Celtics ran off eight consecutive championships in the 1960s.

The Michael Jordan competition

Magic Johnson (left) vs Michael Jordan in the 1991 NBA Finals [Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE via Getty Images].
Magic Johnson (left) vs Michael Jordan in the 1991 NBA Finals [Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE via Getty Images].

Michael Jordan’s stiffest competition for the title of best championship performance ever comes from several other all-time greats. But 1993 Jordan will have to beat out his other NBA Finals performances first before anyone can lay claim to the crown.

Does the 1993 Finals Jordan beat out the 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997 and 1998 Finals Jordan? To shorten the argument, the only Finals performance that comes close to 1993 Jordan is the 1991 one.

This was Michael Jordan’s first championship and was his greatest all-around performance ever. As good an all-around game that 1993 Jordan played in the Finals, 1991 Jordan was even better.

Jordan averaged 31.2 points per game and nearly out-assisted Magic with 11.4 assists a night in the 1991 Finals. Up until Game 4, His Airness was leading both teams in assists total and average until Johnson had 20 in Game 5. Furthermore, the Chicago Bulls legend pulled down 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per game.

The unbelievable stat line showed just how good Michael Jordan was in his first Finals appearance. In Game 2, he scored 13 straight field goals without a miss. It was capped off with his switch hands layup in the lane under Marv Albert’s booming voice saying, “Oh! A spectacular move by Michael Jordan!”

For the series, Jordan shot 55.8% from the field, including 50% from the 3-point range and 84.8% from the line. If you’re going to look for a weakness in this version of the Air Jordan, you won’t find any.

Up against Johnson and the LA Lakers, Michael Jordan played both ends of the court to perfection, and the Chicago Bulls took the title 4-1 in their most dominant Finals performance ever.

Verdict

As offensively dominant as Michael Jordan was in 1993, it’s difficult to argue that it was a better NBA Finals performance than his 1991 one.

One minor knock on the 1993 version was the free-throw shooting, which was head-scratching at 69.4%. For a player who routinely shot 83% from the line in his sleep, this was unacceptable from arguably the greatest player of all time.

If Jordan’s 1991 NBA Finals was better than his 1993 one, then the latter won’t fare as well when stacked up against some of the greatest NBA Finals performances ever.

Michael Jordan in the 1993 NBA Finals was astounding, and his performance deserves a place in the ten greatest NBA Finals performances ever. However, it’s not quite the best, even if it comes close.




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