Exactly three decades ago, Michael Jordan delivered arguably the greatest individual performance in NBA playoff history.
Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of Game 2 of the 1986 Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls. The game itself was gripping enough — the Celtics prevailed 135-131 in double overtime — but Jordan made the contest historic.
At just 23 years old and in his second season in the league, the Bulls guard went off for 63 points, a total that still stands as the most ever in a playoff game. Here are just a few highlights from one of the most thrilling NBA playoff games of all time:
Jordan essentially put Chicago on his back against a far superior Celtics team that would go on to win the NBA championship. His best moment came at the end of regulation, when he drilled two free throws with no time on the clock to send the game to overtime in front of a raucous Boston Garden crowd.
Jordan’s ridiculous performance — he shot over 50 percent from the floor, made 19 of 21 free throws and didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer — was a sign of things to come. It also inspired one of Celtics legend Larry Bird’s best quotes.
?I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan,” Bird said at the time, via ESPN.com. “He is the most awesome player in the NBA.”
“We had about everyone on the team guarding him,” Bird added, via NBA.com. “He obviously was in a zone. He kept them in the game with big basket after big basket. We couldn’t stop him. We tried to shade him to help, everything. You were talking about a different type of talent.”
Many regard the ’86 Celtics as one of the best — if not the best — teams in NBA history. That Jordan almost singlehandedly beat them is a testament to just how great he played that night.
“It was a phenomenal performance, what Michael was able to do against a team like that,” Celtics big man Bill Walton added.
Jordan, who also scored 49 points in the series opener, averaged 43.7 points per game for the series, but the Celtics still swept the series on the way to the title.