With sports hitting a grinding halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stealing the headlines in sports recently has been ESPN’s 10-part documentary series, “The Last Dance”.
The series highlights the 1990’s Chicago Bulls dynasty and their final title in 1998. During the decade, Chicago completed a pair of three-peats. The Bulls won the NBA Finals from 1991 to 1993 and then from 1996 to 1998.
The Bulls were coached by Phil Jackson and had one of the league’s best all-around players in forward Scottie Pippen, but guard Michael Jordan was the unquestioned face of the franchise. Following the first three-peat, Jordan retired for more than a season and a half before returning late during the 1994-95 season.
Over the years, there were significant moments and games between Chicago’s championship teams and the Orlando Magic. We’ll begin a six-part series revisiting key moments between the Bulls’ dynasty and Orlando.
It begins with a look at Jordan’s top five scoring performances against the Magic:
5. 44 points (April 2, 1991)
Score: Chicago 106, Orlando 102
Jordan’s stat line: 16-for-23 FGs, 10-for-14 FTs, five assists, five steals
Overview: The Magic and Bulls met just twice during the 1990-91 season. In the only match-up between the teams in Chicago, Jordan dominated. Jordan scored 44 points during an efficient night. Orlando rallied from an early 13-point deficit and led with just over a minute to play when Jordan’s jam put the Bulls ahead for good. Jordan scored eight of Chicago’s final nine points while the Magic managed just one basket over the final 2:56.
4. 45 points (May 27, 1996)
Score: Chicago 106, Orlando 101
Jordan’s stat line: 17-for-26 FGs, 10-for-12 FTs, six assists
Overview: In Game 4 of the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan dropped 45 points to help the Bulls complete a four-game sweep of the Magic. The Magic, playing without Nick Anderson and Horace Grant because of injury, led 56-47 at the half. But Jordan led the Bulls back, scoring 10 points in the fourth, including a wide-open baseline jumper that put Chicago up 95-85 with under five minutes remaining. It would be Shaquille O’Neal’s final game as a member of the Orlando Magic. The Bulls would go on to win the first of three straight titles.
3. 49 points (Feb. 14, 1990)
Score: Orlando 135, Chicago 129 (Overtime)
Jordan’s stat line: 21-for-43 FGs, 7-for-10 FTs, seven rebounds
Overview: On a Valentine’s Day where Michael Jordan scored 49 points, the Magic rallied from 11 points down after three quarters to win in overtime. Jordan was money for most of the night, but struggled down the stretch while Orlando used a 14-0 run that spanned the end of regulation and the early parts of overtime to leave the Orlando Arena with a victory.
2. 52 points (Dec. 20, 1989)
Score: Orlando 110, Chicago 109
Jordan’s stat line: 20-for-37 FGs, 10-for-10 FTs, five rebounds, seven assists, four steals
Overview: Michael Jordan’s first-ever trip to the Orlando Arena saw Jordan put on a show, but it was Orlando’s Otis Smith who stole it. Jordan’s final basket of the night gave the Bulls a 109-108 lead with seven seconds to play, but Smith was able to get to the rim for the winning basket with two seconds left. Jordan looked to be fouled on the final possession after a length-of-the-court pass, but no whistle came.
1. 64 points (Jan. 16, 1993)
Score: Orlando 128, Chicago 124 (Overtime)
Jordan’s stat line: 27-for-49 FGs, 9-for-11 FTs, six rebounds, five steals
Overview: Michael Jordan’s highest scoring effort ever in a home game and in a loss came against the Orlando Magic in mid-January 1993 at Chicago Stadium. The Bulls led by six with 44 seconds left in regulation, but the Magic rallied and forced overtime on a three-pointer by guard and Chicago native Nick Anderson with 1.4 seconds left in regulation. Anderson added a key three-point play in overtime that helped the Magic prevail.
It was the second-highest scoring game of Jordan’s career, trailing only his 69-point performance against the Cavs in 1990.