There is rarely a debate when the question of who is the greatest basketball player to play in the NBA, and that is because an overwhelming majority says that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever live. Jordan is perhaps the most well-known athlete in the history of the world, and his shoes continue to presently circulate his name through all four corners of the earth. A more widely debated topic is what the most exciting play in basketball is.
There are many different types of exciting plays in basketball. Some may say that the evolution of three-pointers has made it the most exciting play in basketball. Others are more thrilled when they see an emphatic dunk take place, or when someone dunks over another player. These plays are exciting but do not impact the game in the way a game-winning shot does.
Jordan became known as one of the most clutch players to ever play, and hit 23 game-winning shots during his career. Jordan demoralized a bunch of teams while in the NBA. He sometimes would almost defy logic in the way that he converted some of these game winning shots/buzzer beaters.
15 1984 NBA Regular Season: vs. Indiana Pacers
This was the birth of Jordan’s clutch gene at the NBA level. Jordan was already turning heads as a rookie, and it was obvious that the Bulls had made the right pick. The Pacers attempted to double team the young star, but sometimes great defense is outdone by an even greater offense. Jordan dribbled right towards the paint and rose up for a jump shot from 12 feet away falling forward towards the basket. The shot went up and rolled around the rim and finally went through the net with four seconds remaining.
The Bulls were confident that their draft pick would make an immediate impact, but few could have imagined just how monumental that impact would be. Jordan had made his first NBA game-winning shot just a few weeks into his professional career and set the stage for a legacy filled with game-winning shots.
14 1992 NBA Regular Season: vs. Charlotte Hornets
Jordan was determined to get to the basket on this game winner, and did not mind taking a little bit of punishment in order to score. The Hornets had possession of the ball, and were also trying to drive to the basket. In the process of aggressively driving to the basket the Hornets turned the ball over, and Jordan had recovered the ball. The Bulls were now on the fast break. Jordan drove the length of the court and went up to lay the ball in, but was fouled in the process. Jordan still found a way to fight through the over physical defender and score the game winner for the Bulls. After converting on the hard fought layup, Jordan calmly went to the free throw line and converted the old fashioned three point play, which sealed the win for the Bulls.
13 1989 NBA Regular Season: vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Jordan was having an incredible game, and when the Bulls had the final possession he had already scored 48 points. The Bucks had inadvertently turned the ball over with a one point lead with nine seconds remaining. The Bucks tried to save the ball from going out of bounds, but Scottie Pippen recovered the ball and passed it to Jordan, and Jordan was on a mission to dribble the ball up the court and score the game winning basket. With three seconds remaining, Jordan pulled up for a jump shot from 20 feet away and nailed it with only one second left in the game.
The Bulls would win the game and Jordan had scored 50 points in the game. Amazingly, 39 of those 50 points came in the second half, and Jordan had put the team on his back and was not putting them down until they had achieved victory.
12 1990-91 NBA Regular Season: vs. Utah Jazz
Jordan wanted to get his teammates more involved during the 1990-91 NBA season, and he had hoped this would lead to the Bulls finally winning an NBA championship. The game was tied up at 82, and the Bulls were looking to hold the ball for the final shot of the game. John Paxon brought the ball up and was making sure no change of possession would happen. The defender was giving Paxon a tough time, and Paxon was adamant on passing the ball to a teammate.
With the clock winding down Jordan received the ball and took a fade away jumper over Thurl Bailey and Jeff Malone, and as time expired the ball fell through the net giving the Bulls the win. Jordan would sprint to the locker room after hitting the shot and his teammates went running after him to celebrate a hard earned win.
That season, the Bulls would go on to win their first NBA Championship.
11 1996-97 NBA Regular Season: vs. Charlotte Hornets
The Bulls were being given a great test by a gritty Hornets team in this game. Muggsey Bogues was known as a great passer throughout his career, but hit an open three pointer with nine seconds remaining in the game to tie the score up at 100. The Hornets thought that if they played staunch defense the game was likely headed to overtime. What ensued next would shock the Hornets. The Bulls took the ball down the court, and Jordan would take a heavily contested three pointer with two seconds remaining. Jordan was not known to be a great three point shooter throughout career, but always seemed to make a three when his team needed it. He was falling away from the basket when the three went up but the ball was falling through the basket. The Bulls were victorious and the Hornets bench was in disbelief. No matter how many times Jordan had stolen a game late, you couldn't help but still look on in awe whenever he did so.
10 1997-98 NBA Regular Season: vs. Atlanta Hawks
This was a toughly fought game that kept on going back and forth at the end of the game. Dikembe Mutumbo and Mookie Blaylock led the charge in an attempt to surprise the Bulls in this game. Mookie Blaylock had converted on a number of big shots to bring the Hawks back in the game. The Hawks had just tied up the game with four seconds remaining , and Toni Kukoc was set to inbound the ball from half court. Jordan caught the ball at the top of the three point line and was set on dribbling to the right side. The Hawks unsuccessfully tried to double team him, and with one second remaining Jordan had a fairly uncontested shot.
The ball rattled around the rim and dropped through the net as the horn sounded. The Hawks put up a valiant effort but it was not enough to stop a team that was so familiar with late game situational basketball.
9 1991-92 NBA Regular Season: vs. Detroit Pistons
The Bulls had swept the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, so it was obvious that there was still a lot of bad blood between these two teams. The Pistons dynasty seemed to be coming to an end at this time. The game went to overtime and with four seconds remaining, Joe Dumars gave the Pistons a one point lead by hitting a tough, heavily contested shot. The Bulls called a timeout, and set up a sideline out of bounds play to get Jordan the ball. Scottie Pippen in-bounded the ball to Bill Cartwright who quickly gave it up to Jordan. Jordan then put up a three with two seconds remaining. The ball fell through the net and Jordan sprinted towards the locker room with his arms held high.
It was fairly obvious that the Pistons were still the Bulls' nemesis, and Jordan took great pride in putting them down.
8 1985 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 3
Michael Jordan was getting his first taste of the NBA Playoffs, and the Bulls needed him to provide a spark for them in Game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Milwaukee Bucks had spent the early 1980s in the shadows of the great Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers teams, but despite never advancing past the Eastern Conference Finals were an above average basketball team. The Bulls had the ball with 25 seconds remaining, and Orlando Woolridge was set to inbound the ball from the baseline. A screen was set for Jordan which gave him some open space close to the in bounder.
Woolridge in-bounded the ball to Jordan, and as soon as he caught the ball he knocked down a mid range jump shot that would prove to be the game winning basket. This game winner would be Jordan’s first of many in the postseason.
7 1994-95 Regular Season: vs. Atlanta Hawks
Jordan was wearing the number 45, and had recently come back to the game of basketball after being retired for a year and a half. Everyone wondered if he could be as effective as he was before his first retirement. Jordan had spent his time away from basketball playing minor league baseball, and it was unknown if he had continued to practice playing basketball. With about six seconds remaining the Hawks were up one and chose not to full court press the Bulls, and Michael Jordan was set to take the ball up. He dribbled down the court, with his tongue sticking out, and dribbled straight at Steve Smith.
With one second left Jordan rose up for a shot with a hand in his face. The ball found the bottom of the twine and Jordan was proclaimed to be officially back. The Bulls wouldn't win the title that season, but rebounded the following year with a 72-10 record with a championship.
6 1989 Eastern Conference Finals Game 3
The Bulls would get the ball with nine seconds left after the Detroit Pistons committed an offensive foul. The Pistons at the time were the number one nemesis of Michael Jordan and the Bulls. The Pistons were the defending Eastern Conference champions at the time. The Bulls had the ball with nine seconds left and Michael Jordan wanted more than ever to get payback on the Pistons. The ultra-athletic and talented defensive machine Dennis Rodman was set to guard Jordan, and make sure that he would be unable to convert on a game winning shot. Jordan received the inbound pass and dribbled to the right and took a shot falling forward towards the basket.
The Bulls took the lead after Jordan’s emphatic basket for good, but they would eventually fall victim to the Detroit Pistons again, as the Bad Boys would eventually knock off Jordan's Bulls in six games. Detroit would then go on to win their first of back-to-back championships.
5 1993 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 4
Michael Jordan seemed to always haunt the Cleveland Cavaliers during his playing days. The Bulls had the basketball with 18 seconds left in the game, and almost everyone in the building was sure Jordan would more than likely take the final shot of the game. The Bulls took the ball down the court, and when Jordan got the ball he began backing down his defender. After backing down his defender, Jordan pulled up for a fade away shot with 2 seconds remaining and a hand right in line with his vision of the basket. Much to the displeasure of the Cavalier fans, the shot went in, and the Bulls eventually would take the series from the Cavaliers.
Michael Jordan is beloved by many fans of the game of basketball, but the city of Cleveland and its fans are perhaps one of the few groups of people that despise Jordan.
4 1989 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Game 5
The shot is one of the lasting images many have when they look back at Jordan’s career. The final play of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal was going to determine whether the Bulls or Cavaliers would advance to the eastern conference semifinals. Three seconds remained in the game and the Bulls were in bounding the ball on their side of the court. Jordan caught the ball on the right side of the court, dribbled towards the free throw line, and rose up for a highly contested jump shot over Craig Ehlo. The ball bounced off the rim a few times and fell through the net as time expired.
Jordan would violently pump his fists on multiple occasions, and his teammates and even coach Doug Collins ran over to celebrate with Jordan. The Bulls were now headed to the second round. They would go on to defeat the Knicks in that round but eventually fell to the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.
3 1997 NBA Finals Game 1
The 1997 NBA Finals was a highly anticipated matchup between the greatest player of all time and the 1997 MVP of the league in Karl Malone. In the final seconds of Game 1, the Bulls and Jazz were tied up at 82 points apiece, and the Bulls had the final possession of the game. The ball unsurprisingly was in Jordan’s possession. Byron Russell was glued to Jordan in the final seconds, and Jordan would not have an easy time getting off a final shot.
Jordan faked right and dribbled left on the left side of the court, and got a shot off right before the buzzer. The shot was converted and the clock read zero. Jordan held his fist up and left it up as his teammates embraced him. The Bulls won the game, and Jordan would go on to win his fifth championship. This was also the series that featured Jordan's "flu game".
2 1982 National Championship
This is the first notable game winning shot of Jordan’s career, and it came against Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas in the college basketball national championship game. The North Carolina Tar Heels had a solid team which included other future NBA players. At the time, Mike Jordan was just a freshman at the University of North Carolina, and was being coached by legendary coach Dean Smith. The Tar Heels of North Carolina were losing 62-61 to the Hoyas.
North Carolina in-bounded the ball in the half court with 32 seconds remaining, and swung the ball left to right. With 18 seconds remaining Mike Jordan caught the ball on the left side of the court and pulled up for a fairly uncontested 16 foot jump shot. The ball sunk through the basket, North Carolina won the national championship, and Mike Jordan transformed into Michael Jordan.
1 1998 NBA Finals Game 6
This was the most iconic shot Michael Jordan has ever converted in his career. The Utah Jazz led the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals by one point with 21 seconds left when Jordan stripped Karl Malone of the ball. Michael Jordan then dribbled the ball up the court towards the left side of the court. Byron Russell picked up Jordan, and the Bulls ran an isolation play for Jordan to get off a shot. Michael Jordan dribbled right and faked out Byron Russell as he crossed over an pulled up for a jump shot at the top of the key. Jordan had to will the ball into the basket after being exhausted from the 110 percent effort he had given in the game. The shot went in with 5 seconds remaining, and when the clock struck zero, Michael Jordan had won his sixth NBA title.