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MJ's fiercest competitors - Top 5 players with the highest scoring average when going up against Michael Jordan

Three forwards, one center, one guard. These are the best offensive gunners who put on a show every time they faced Michael Jordan.
Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan’s GOAT tag wasn’t bestowed in retrospect. While he was still in his prime, MJ was already regarded as the best basketball player of all time. And so when star players were about to face the Chicago Bulls, they knew they had to bring their A-Game. Here are the players who have the highest scoring average against Michael Jordan-led teams (minimum of 10 games, data collected from StatMuse)

5. Shaquille O’Neal (25.0 ppg, 11 games)

Before Shaquille O’Neal was winning championships in Los Angeles, he was a young stud with title aspirations with the Orlando Magic. This was where he played the most games with Michael Jordan. They even matched up in the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, where the Magic got the best of them.

For obvious reasons, O’Neal and MJ weren’t matched up against one another. O’Neal faced up against Bulls’ centers like Luc Longley, Bill Wennington, and sometimes forward Dennis Rodman. Given that the Bulls were the best team around with Jordan, O’Neal’s 25.0 points per game is a pretty good stat.

4. Karl Malone (26.4, 24 games)

Karl Malone ranks third on the all-time scoring list with a whopping 36,928 points. The interesting thing about this is that Malone never won a scoring title. And so his scoring tally is a product of consistency and superhuman-like stamina. Consistency involves performing at your very best when facing Michael Jordan and his dreaded Bulls squad.

Like Shaq, Malone wasn’t matched-up with Jordan. But fans know that Jordan was a pest on defense. In the 1998 NBA Finals, MJ stripped Malone on the post before pulling up for The Shot. That game may still be haunting Malone’s mind. But his impressive averages against Jordan’s teams should give him a bit of comfort.

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3. Larry Bird (26.9 ppg, 28 games)

Before Jordan wreaked havoc on the NBA, Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics were the kings of the hardcourt. Bird faced Jordan during the former’s prime and tail-end years. When Bird was on his way out, Jordan was gradually reaching his peak.

The interesting thing about Bird is that only twice in his career did he average below 20 points per game. He was just a consistent and consummate performer. Despite his seeming lack of athleticism, he found ways to score and influence the game to his team’s favor.

2. Allen Iverson (29.8 ppg, 13 games)

Among the players on this list, it’s probably Allen Iverson who directly matched up against Jordan the most. Throughout his career, Iverson alternated between the point guard and shooting guard spots. The Answer was a good playmaker but was too much of an explosive scorer to limit his tasks just to creating for others.

Iverson faced Jordan during the GOAT’s final two years with the Bulls and his comeback, donning the Washington Wizards jersey. Jordan diehards do not consider his stint with the Wizards as valid. And so, excluding Jordan’s stint there, statistics reveal that Iverson still put up big scoring numbers against the prime Jordan.

They had four meetings in the 1996-97 season, and Iverson outscored Jordan three times. The 76ers icon even exploded for 44 points against Jordan’s 30-piece in 1997.

1. Dominique Wilkins (29.8 ppg, 45 games)

Nique and Jordan’s rivalry extended far beyond the Slam Dunk Contest. They went toe-to-toe against each other during a lot of games. Wilkins entered the NBA in 1982, just two years ahead of Jordan. And so there’s no excuse. No one was suffering from old age or other factors whenever they dueled.

Perhaps this is the most undiscussed aspect of Wilkins’ legacy. Fans, especially the young ones, only know Nique for his dunking exhibitions. But the fact of the matter is that Wilkins is one of the most potent scorers in NBA history. Dropping 40-50 points was a hobby. Just ask Jordan, who experienced first-hand what a 57-piece feels like.

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