Chicago Bulls third-year shooting guard Michael Jordan hangs in the air for a layup attempt against the New Jersey Nets as he graces the front cover of Sports Illustrated’s Nov. 17, 1986, issue.
Michael Jordan is the ultimate standard for basketball excellence. So much so, that his name is synonymous with the greatest of all time. When speaking of his illustrious, accolade-filled career, people most-often reference the Chicago Bulls’ six championships in the form to two three-peats, and Jordan’s six Finals’ MVP awards in eight years as well as his unblemished record on the sport’s biggest stage (6-0) in the 1990’s.
The 1990’s where when he was at the pinnacle of his basketball abilities but what sometimes gets failed to be mentioned are the spectacular seasons he played in the late-1980’s on his way to becoming the undisputed best basketball player walking the Earth. Before the Bulls were perennial championship contenders, Jordan went through the same growing pains that many great players often go through as he put up spectacular performances in the process. Specifically his high-scoring third year in the league during the 1986-87 NBA season.
A single individual can rarely carry a team to a championship and Jordan was no exception in his early years. Despite his incredible talent his first few years in the NBA, he struggled to keep his team competitive despite incredible individual stats.
For day 37 of 100 Days of Hoops, we take a look at his 1986-87 in which the 24-year old, third-year GOAT averaged a career-high 37.1 points per game. The 37.1 ppg led the league and was his first of seven-straight scoring titles. It was the fifth-highest regular season ppg average in NBA history. The other top-four averages are held by Wilt Chamberlain.
To open the season, Jordan exploded for 50 points against the New York Knicks. He started the marathon that is the NBA regular season in a dead sprint, scoring 40-points in nine-straight games from late November through early December.
During the regular season, Jordan had two 61-point games, six games in which he scored 50 points or more, had 37 games of at least 40 points and only had seven games in which he scored under 25 points.
Jordan received a record number of votes to start in the All-Star Game and won the Slam Dunk Contest in the same year.
Despite the incredible performances, Jordan put on a nightly basis during the 82-game regular season games he played in, the Bulls finished the regular season with a below .500 record of 40-42 and the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Bulls went 18-23 (.439) against the top seven seeds in the east during the regular season that year.
They were swept out the first round in 3 games for a second consecutive year by the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics. The Bulls went 0-9 against the Celtics that year.
He went on to score 3, 041 points, on 1,098 made field goals, 833 made free throws, and recorded 236 steals during the regular season. He was also the first player to score 3,000 points since Chamberlin in the 1962-63 season. At seasons end he was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time.
Bonus Content: For the sneakerheads…
During the 1986-87 regular season, Jordan wore the Air Jordan II.