“I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan.”- Larry
1986 in the NBA was about 2 men and 2 teams. Larry Bird and the Celtics, and Magic Johnson and the Lakers. Then came Game 2 of the first round of the ’86 playoffs Bulls vs. Celtics at the Boston Garden, where we would all witness the arrival of a legend.
A scrawny young Michael Jordan had only played 18 games in his second year due to a broken bone in his foot suffered in just the third game of the season. He was encouraged to sit out the rest of the year, seeing that the Bulls would most likely get swept in the first round of the playoffs. but Jordan, the competitor he is wanted to finish the year on the hardwood. Good choice Mike. What would ensue in the Garden that night, was what we would come to know as classic Jordan.
Larry Bird and the Celtics were bound to meet the showtime Lakers in the Finals that year, as well as sweep through the Eastern Conference. So with already one victory under their belt in-game one against Chicago even though MJ dropped 49, it seemed clear that another victory would be just as easy. Little did Bird and the C’s know. Michael started the game off hot scoring the teams first 6 points. A minute or so later, Jordan would try to take Bird baseline, who stopped him, but MJ took the classic three dribble step back between the legs and hit the bottom of the net from 16 feet out. After that, the Celtics fans had a feeling something was brewing. Everything was falling for Jordan. The Celtics tried the quicker Dennis Johnson on him to stop the dribble-drive, but Jordan bullied him all night. Whenever MJ got the ball on the low block the Celtics brought Hall of Fame player Kevin McHale for help, but Jordan was too fast, and too good around the rim. So the last resort for the Celtics was Larry Legend. It took one single trip down the floor in the middle of the 3rd quarter for Bird to realize he was no match. MJ brought the ball up and was one on one with (to be nice) the far less athletic Danny Ainge, Jordan crossed over to his left and realized in a split second he was running into Bird, so he spinned right, losing Bird and Ainge and finished over McHale and Bill Walton for the and one. Michael turned around and looked into the Garden’s stands giving Boston fans and players a look that basically said, “Hi I’m Mike. This is my arrival, and nobody is stopping me.”
Mike was getting to the free throw line with ease, and making them all too. Every single time he got the ball he would size his man up, fake one way, hesitate and then get into the paint and make a ridiculous shot off the backboard. Seeing how everything was going his way, I’m sure called for backboard. His 44th point came off a play where he dribbled into 4 defenders in the paint but somehow got through all of them and finished with a smooth finger roll as if there was no defense or double team for that matter. Every time Paxson crossed half court he would pass it to Jordan and watch him go to work. Paxson even admitted of just watching in awe, and he was playing. Down 2, with seconds to go in the game, Jordan received the inbound pass and at the last second put up a deep two for the win, which he missed, ball game. But Kevin McHale fouled Jordan on the shot which sent Michael to the line in which he had to make two in order to send it into overtime. With all the pressure on, Jordan hit the first and swished the second. Something fans would get used to real quick, Michael was clutch. Jordan single handily fouled out Bill Walton and Dennis Johnson who had the lovely task of staying with (or trying to stay with) Mike all night. Yet somehow, the better team prevailed in two overtimes. Boston won 135-131, but everyone expected that.
Nobody expected MJ to put up an all-time record of 63 points in a playoff game against the soon to be World Champs of Basketball. But of course the only person who did expect it, was Michael himself and that is why he was so special. Even at a young age he was doing things in the air that made you rethink if Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of physics were right. Because with Michael everything he did made you think twice and say to yourself, “was that real?” Yet the funny thing was, the best was still yet to come.