On April 20, 1986, Michael Jordan, then playing in just his second NBA season, officially let the basketball world know that he was destined to become an all-time great. With arguably the greatest playoff performance in a losing effort ever, Jordan stole the spotlight in the Boston Celtics’ thrilling 135-131 double-overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls.
The 1985-1986 season was a frustrating one for MJ, as it was supposed to be the first year in quite some time that the Bulls would be in contention for a deep playoff run. However, Jordan missed over 60 games that year due to an early-season foot injury, derailing those hopes. Since he was only in his second season, Jordan could’ve easily opted to sit out the remainder of the season because of the major injury, but he chose to return in mid-March, quickly rebounding and playing the best basketball of his young career.
Facing off against the heavily favored Celtics, who were the one seed in the East, the eighth-seeded Bulls were swept 3-0 in the first round of the playoffs but not before Jordan showcased what was to come in his magnificent career.
Going tit for tat with Larry Bird, who was mere weeks away from being named MVP for the third straight year, Jordan took an incredible 41 shots in leading the way for the Bulls. Even more incredible than that is the fact that His Airness didn’t attempt a single three-pointer the entire game, scoring all 63 of his points inside of the arc.
Still the highest point total ever in a playoff game, Jordan’s remarkable game led Bird to tell reporters postgame, “I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan. He is the most awesome player in the NBA.” And, again, those comments came in the midst of Bird’s reign of supremacy in the NBA.
Jordan’s record may never be broken, and that would only be fitting, as his performance 31 years ago today was as perfect as postseason performances get. And it was the beginning of a hard-fought journey taken by MJ en route to becoming the greatest of all time.