It's been 34 years since Michael Jordan’s historic individual performance against the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the first round of the 1985-86 NBA playoffs. 63 points Jordan scored in that game to this day remains the most points scored by a single player in a playoff game and is one of the most exceptional performances the historic arena of Boston Garden has witnessed. Despite Jordan’s achievement, the Bulls lost the double-overtime thriller, and Boston eventually swept the series 3-0 and later won the NBA championship.
Jordan was coming off a foot injury that made him miss 64 regular-season games. He was playing regular-season games on a heavy minutes restriction but was still able to lead his team to the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, securing a first-round matchup vs. Boston Celtics. MJ was facing a team led by a three-time MVP Larry Bird and five other Hall of Famers, but he was up for a challenge. Coming off an incredible 49 pts performance in game one against nine-time all-defensive team guard Dennis Johnson, Jordan showed the Celtics that he wasn’t going down without the fight.
Then came game 2 and the best scoring performance in NBA playoffs history. Jordan was scoring from all areas of the floor, hitting 12 of 22 pull-up jumpers, going 8 of 14 on drives to the basket and 2 of 5 on other shots. None of the shots he attempted were three-pointers. In addition to scoring, Jordan also dished out 6 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds. He hit 19 free throws out of 21 attempts, none more significant than the two he hit at the end of regulation, forcing the game into overtime.
Various Celtics players guarded him, but none of them couldn’t contain him. Despite Jordan’s performance, his team just wasn’t up to par with the Celtics. Other than Michael, only two other Bulls scored double-figures in the game: Orlando Woolridge (24) and Charles Oakley (10). Six Celtics scored in double-figures, with Bird (36) and McHale (27) leading the way. After the game, Bill Walton, who Jordan caused to foul out called MJ’s performance “phenomenal” and Larry Bird famously described Michael.
“I think he's God disguised as Michael Jordan”
On the list of Jordan’s incredible performances, this game is near the top, mainly because he was coming off the injury and considering the discrepancy between the teams. Jordan announced himself as the next face of the league and a player that will be dominant for years to come. It marked the start of the greatest career in NBA history by the greatest player in NBA history.