Michael Jordan was a winner, and there is no debate about that. But what is Jordan’s record against some of the all-time great players in the NBA?
Did Jordan have success against the top legends in the game? MJ has faced tremendous talent throughout his career, especially in the playoffs, and has built an incredible resume by overcoming exceptional teams built on toughness and talent.
It is time to uncover Michael Jordan’s record against some of the all-time greats.
Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird
11-23 Record (0-6 in playoffs)
MJ looked up to Bird when he came into the league. This is no surprise, as Bird and Magic were the top dogs in the league for a long time. As a result, Jordan did not manage to muster up an extremely impressive record against the sharpshooting Celtic.
Jordan managed to win 11 out of 34 games vs Bird, mainly due to the fact that Jordan did not have much of a crew behind him when they faced off. Jordan put up a historical 63 points against a famed Celtics team led by Larry Bird. Even though Jordan does not have a winning record against Larry Legend, this performance will forever be known for Larry’s comments after the game by describing Jordan as “God”.
Jordan was a younger player when he faced off against Bird and was the man to carry the torch and take it to the highest levels when Bird retired in 1992.
Michael Jordan vs. Isiah Thomas
29-36 Record (10-12 in playoffs)
Michael Jordan’s battles with Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons are well documented. The Pistons simply beat him down countless times in the playoffs, when Jordan was just a young player looking to get to the top of the mountain.
Isiah Thomas was the point guard king of the NBA, having won two straight NBA titles and a Finals MVP Award during his time with the Pistons.
MJ had decent success against Thomas, winning 29 games out of a whopping 67 games they faced off each other.
Michael Jordan vs. Hakeem Olajuwon
10-13 Record (0-0 in playoffs)
Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon was the best player in the league for the two straight years when Jordan retired. He won two NBA titles and captured two Finals MVP Awards while leading his team in scoring and rebounding. There were very little two-way players in the game who could match Hakeem’s ability on the court.
MJ once again has a losing record, this time winning 10 out of 23. Olajuwon seemed to have his way with the Bulls big, as he does with most defenders and averaged 21.9 PPG along with 10.7 RPG across these meetings.
While Jordan couldn’t defend Hakeem of course, Hakeem seemed to be able to dominate the Bulls bigs and lead his team to victory more often than not. Still, Jordan held his own against Houston and put up a monster 30.8 PPG against Hakeem.
Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant
3-5 Record (0-0 in playoffs)
Kobe Bryant was the second coming of Michael Jordan. Everybody in the league knew it, and everybody watching the games knew it. Kobe ultimately carried the torch from MJ, and it was extremely exciting to watch them go at it while Michael was still in the league.
Jordan surprisingly has a losing record against Kobe Bryant. Out of 8 games, Michael only won 3. 4 of those games came when Michael was with the Bulls, while the other 4 came when MJ played for the Wizards. Bryant put up 22.8 PPG across these meetings, while Jordan one-upped him by averaging 24.5 PPG
Kobe was a young gun with endless amounts of energy and pride, and he brought his A+ game every time he played against his idol. MJ with the Wizards is considered a bit of an afterthought, but he was still one of the better players in the league so this record is one that Kobe would have probably enjoyed.
Michael Jordan vs. Karl Malone
19-19 Record (8-4 in playoffs)
MJ and Malone took battle many times. Malone had Stockton to back him up, and as a result had a winning record against Jordan in the regular season. But obviously, Malone could not get over the hump and take out MJ in the postseason. Over two NBA Finals series, Malone fell short to Jordan’s Bulls twice.
Another Hall of Famer added to the list of legends who never won an NBA title because of Jordan, Malone was truly a gifted scorer and athlete. But MJ was too perfect in the Finals and would not give the Jazz any hope to even force a Game 7. Malone might still hold his hat on his career averages against Jordan, averaging 26.4 PPG and 10.6 RPG while holding a winning percentage in the regular season.
Michael Jordan vs. John Stockton
19-19 Record (8-4 in playoffs)
If you want the perfect point guard, John Stockton would be your guy. He was the architect and playmaker for a fantastic Utah Jazz team that never missed the playoffs when Stockton was the starting point guard. This is quite impressive, and Stockton formed part of a fantastic duo with Karl Malone.
MJ has a .500 record against Stockton and the Jazz, splitting hairs at 19 games apiece. But where MJ distinguished himself from Stockton were the victories where it mattered most: in the NBA Finals. Jordan had a career 8-4 record against the Jazz, winning two NBA Finals series 4-2. Stockton was the perfect point guard, but he never won a ring thanks to Jordan.
Michael Jordan vs. Allen Iverson
7-6 Record (0-0 in playoffs)
A.I. was such an offensive machine as a young player. He was great even as he aged, but he had incredible quickness and ability to get to wherever he wanted on the floor his first couple of years in the league.
It was extremely exciting to watch Iverson play against Michael Jordan, where he managed to win 7 out of 13 games. Across these games, MJ averaged 23.5 PPG compared to Iverson’s 29.8 PPG.
While they never met in the NBA playoffs, their battles in the regular season were fun to watch. Iverson was a scoring machine, and he did work vs MJ when he was with the Bulls and Wizards. Iverson also managed to pull off an iconic crossover on MJ, a play that will always be a highlight in Iverson’s career.
Michael Jordan vs. Shaquille O’Neal
12-9 Record (6-4 in Playoffs)
Young Shaquille O’Neal was a force of nature. Many remember O’Neal as the best player in the league when he was with the Lakers, but Shaq was also a dominant player for the Magic. He was quick, powerful, and just a load inside the paint.
MJ managed to win 12 out of 21 games against Shaq, including an Eastern Conference Finals victory that lasted 7 games. Across these 21 meetings, Jordan put up 28.7 PPG compared to Shaq’s 25.2 PPG.
Jordan also had the upper hand in the playoffs, and he was one main reason why the very talented Magic never won an NBA title.
Michael Jordan vs. Magic Johnson
11-7 (4-1 in playoffs)
Before MJ became the king of the NBA, he was in the shadows of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. While MJ certainly did not have success against Larry Bird in head to head meetings, this wasn’t the case with Magic. MJ had a winning record against Magic, winning 11 out of 18.
To make it even better for MJ, he managed to win 4 out of the 5 meetings in the NBA Finals and win the NBA title. While this may seem frustrating for the great Magic Johnson, he famously gave it up to Jordan, mentioning that if he had to lose in the Finals it would be to Michael Jordan.
There is certainly no shame in losing to MJ in the Finals, and MJ truly had great performances in his head to head matchups with Magic. In the 13 regular-season games, MJ averaged 30.2 PPG, while putting up 31.2 PPG against Magic in the playoffs.
Michael Jordan vs. Charles Barkley
31-21 Record (12-4 in playoffs)
Many seem to disrespect Charles Barkley, as he was truly a top player in the game and one of the best power forwards in NBA history. In many ways, Barkley had an argument for being one of the most dominant players ever.
But Jordan once again owned another all-time great player, even defeating the Barkley-led Suns in the NBA Finals. Barkley averaged 23.1 PPG compared to Jordan’s 34.4 PPG. Besides the scoring comparison, Jordan’s 12 victories out of 16 in the playoffs shoes how MJ once again denied a fantastic player an NBA title.
Michael Jordan vs. Patrick Ewing
49-21 Record (19-8 in playoffs)
Jordan faced Patrick Ewing countless times throughout his career. Especially in the playoffs, Ewing was a strong adversary. But MJ dominated the Knicks. He won the majority of games against Ewing, an amount of 49 games to be exact.
In many ways, Jordan will always be solely responsible for Ewing’s lack of any NBA rings. MJ just happened to own the Knicks most often than not, and this will always be the case when Ewing’s playoff success comes up.