Those with an expert basketball eye would agree that Michael Jordan’s footwork was one of his best assets. It enabled him to get to his spots easily and precisely. Jordan was so confident in his footwork that he once tried to emulate Muhammad Ali’s signature shuffle right in the Miami Heat’s face.
In a game against the Heat, the Chicago Bulls guard did a mini Ali Shuffle not once but twice. The commentators and the crowd were in awe of Jordan’s footwork. They didn’t seem to mind that MJ bricked both shots after the Ali Shuffle attempts.
These two botches don’t define Jordan’s career and footwork at all. Perhaps those are just rare instances when Jordan tried to do a little too much to delight the crowd. His career highlights would show that MJ was precise with his technique. Each dribble and step has a specific purpose.
Jordan managed to play even in his late 30s because of his supreme footwork. He could no longer get up the way he used to. But his expertise at his craft — his knowledge of angles, player tendencies, how to use leverage, etc. — enabled him to outclass his foes.
Shufflin’ against Larry Legend
Perhaps the very first Jordan shuffle occurred in the 1986 NBA Playoffs. MJ did it right in front of Larry Bird — easily one of the best players during those years and of all time. Unlike Jordan’s attempt against the Heat, he drained the jump shot after shuffling his feet. Jordan fans have seen this clip numerous times.
Jordan dropped 63 points in Game 3 of that first-round duel. His Airness averaged a ridiculous 43.7 points per game against Bird’s Boston Celtics. The Bulls fell short of snagging one win over the powerhouse Celtics crew. Despite this, the game is considered Jordan’s official entry into legendary status.
For context, Jordan had played just 18 games in the regular season due to a broken foot. Come playoff time, the third-year man just exploded against the Celtics, who were pretty much one of the top teams in the 80s.
The following season, Jordan took his game to the next level. He averaged 37.1 points in the regular season to lead the Bulls to another postseason trip. Their playoff campaign once again ended in just three games. But year after year, Jordan’s Bulls would improve until they would win the 1991 NBA Championship.