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The Greatest MVP Season Of All Time: Michael Jordan Was At His Best During The 1988 Season

The Greatest MVP Season Of All Time: Michael Jordan Was At His Best During The 1988 Season

Michael Jordan is regarded as the greatest player of all time and his performances during the 1988 season might be his personal best. His Airness put forth the most complete MVP season in NBA history by winning multiple individual awards and dominating all areas of the floor. At only 24 years old in his 4th season, MJ was already the most impactful player in the league because his all-around game was far beyond anyone else.

Michael Jordan truly made history on more than one occasion in 1988, as he put forth a perfect season for the ages. It is hard to find a season by any top player that will usurp what Michael Jordan did (on an individual level) in 1988 because of what he did on both ends of the floor. Quite simply, there will never be a player greater than Michael Jordan because a season like His Airness accomplished in 1988 will likely never be repeated. After all, look at his stat line:

35.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 3.2 SPG, 1.6 BPG

What is there to truly say about how great Jordan was. Here is a recap of what Michael Jordan did in 1988 to get an indication of how dominant the GOAT was in his prime.

First 200 Steals And 100 Blocks Season

To kick off Jordan’s list of achievements, he became the first player to record 200 steals and 100 blocks in a single season. As we will see later on, Jordan’s defensive dominance would give the shooting guard extra juice in going on to having one of the greatest individual seasons in NBA history. MJ was a master at shutting down opponents at his position, and we have not seen a player come close to that.

Other all-time great shooting guards during his era including Clyde Drexler were not able to accumulate an extraordinary number of steals and blocks like Mike, indicating a great start to a list of amazing achievements. Want to hear something more amazing? Only Hakeem Olajuwon (1989) and Scottie Pippen (1990) were able to repeat that feat after Jordan did it in 1987 and 1988.

18 Games Of 40+ Points

Michael had an incredible scoring run during the season, putting up 40+ points over 18 games. Jordan only scored under 30 points in a game 23 times during the season, meaning he had 59 games of scoring 30+. Jordan also had 18 games of scoring a minimum of 40 points, with a season-high of 59 points on 77.8% field-goal shooting. Michael’s efficiency was out of this world, and he would completely decimate defenses with his scoring ability.

The legendary shooting guard had sensational performances including scoring 49 points on 70.4% against the Sacramento Kings and 50+ points on 4 different opponents. Michael gave every team the business on offense, but he normally saved the best performances for all his rivals. MJ was known to raise his level offensively against the better teams in the league, and he would showcase that in the same season.

4 Games Of 50+ Points

Michael also had 4 games of scoring 50 points during the season, the first coming in December when he scored 52 points on 64.5% shooting against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The second time came against the Portland Trail Blazers (February 1988) when he dropped 52 points on 61.8% shooting from the field, against his rival Clyde Drexler fittingly enough. His third scoring barrage came a month later in March when he dropped 50 points on Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics.

The final 50+ point showing came in April against his rival Detroit Pistons, and he dropped 59 points on their heads. Based on the quality of Michael’s opponents and the way he raised his level against the best players in the league, the 1988 season was one of a kind.

Steals Champion

Michael was a master at picking players’ pockets in the 1988 season, leading the league in steals ahead of some other all-time great defenders. Alvin Robertson and John Stockton (3.0 SPG each). Michael would win his first steals title in the 1988 season, winning a total of 3 by the end of his career. Jordan never backed down from any opponent, even if he was only in his 4th season.

Michael’s steals numbers were extraordinary, especially considering how active he was at scoring the ball and also blocking shots. We never see a dominant offensive player picking people’s pockets so much because having that kind of energy is truly hard to find these days. Nonetheless, a steals title was another addition to a special season by Air Jordan.

Dunk Contest Champion

Even when Jordan dominated the defensive side of the ball and scored 50+ points on the best players in the league, he also completed an all-time great duel with future Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins. Michael won the Dunk Contest a year prior in 1987, but his 1988 Dunk Contest might have been the best victory. Taking place in the Chicago Stadium (of course), Jordan blessed us with the iconic free-throw line dunk.

Earning a 50-point score, Michael would beat out Dominique to win the award for the second straight time in his career. Michael would be the first player in NBA history to win the contest two times in a row. The 1988 season would be the season where Michael would also solidify himself as one of the greatest dunkers in NBA history, even at 24 years old.

All-Star Game MVP

Michael Jordan might have been the best pure talent in the 1988 season, but lack of championships made him somewhat of a “lesser” global star than the likes of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Moses Malone. But Jordan would clear things up in the 1988 All-Star Game, thanks to his chance to show out in front of his home crowd. With the All-Star Game hosted in Chicago, Jordan had to endure playing alongside Dominique Wilkins (the star he beat in the Dunk Contest) and Isiah Thomas (future bitter rival) for the East but got the job done anyways in a 138-133 win.

Michael led all scorers with 40 points, but also chipped in 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 4 steals. Air Jordan wanted the spotlight to dominate all areas of the floor in his 4th NBA season, to solidify himself as a global superstar who will be coming after the throne of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It would not be long before Jordan would capture 6 NBA titles, but he would need to collect individual awards before that.

Scoring Champion

Michael’s 35.0 PPG scoring average was extraordinary because it was the second-highest mark of his career (37.1 PPG in 1987) and he beat out Dominique Wilkins (30.7 PPG) and Larry Bird (29.9 PPG). Jordan was the epitome of carrying a team because the next-highest scorers on the Bulls were Sam Vincent (13.0 PPG), Charles Oakley (12.4 PPG), and Dave Corzine (10.1 PPG). Only those three players managed to average double-digits in scoring, meaning Michael had to do everything on offense to give his team a chance to win.

But Jordan’s scoring average is even more impressive considering his efficiency. The shooting guard shot 53.5% from the field and 84.1% from the free-throw line. The three-point shot was hardly considered an important part of the game during the 1980s, so Michael would have put up over 40 PPG with ease had he played in today’s league. Nonetheless, 35.0 PPG on 53.5% shooting is something we will likely never see again, especially when he captured the second scoring title of his career out of the 10 he would end up winning.

Defensive Player of the Year

Michael was the most dominant defensive player in the world during his prime because he had the physical gifts (6’6” with explosiveness and quick feet) and basketball IQ to shut down his opponents. Jordan averaged 3.2 SPG and 1.6 BPG during the season, insane numbers for a guard that cannot benefit from towering over opponents like centers. Leading the league in steals is no easy feat in itself, and to average 1.6 BPG is truly extraordinary. Of course, Jordan’s 1.6 BPG is the highest in NBA history for a guard.

Jordan’s Defensive Player of the Year award is even more impressive considering who he beat out to win it. He beat out second-place Mark Eaton (8.7 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 3.7 BPG) and third-place Hakeem Olajuwon (12.1 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 2.7 BPG). Jordan was not far off from these two centers in blocking shots and was incredibly proficient at picking the ball away from ball-handlers and playing passing lanes. Quite frankly, Jordan’s defensive performances in the 1988 season were the stuff of legends and that will remain true for a very long time.

League MVP

Jordan was both the best scorer in the league and also the best defensive player in the league, posting ridiculous statistics. He was on a mission to completely dominate the rest of the NBA and he was far and away the best player on the planet. Jordan averaged 35.0 PPG over the entire season, along with 3.2 SPG and 1.6 BPG which are incredible defensive numbers. Even beyond numbers, Jordan was on a different level as he played all 82 games at an average of 40.4 minutes per game.

Michael also had to beat out a few Hall of Fame superstars (Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Clyde Drexler) as well to win the MVP award, something that was truly spectacular to behold. MJ led the Bulls to the second seed in the East in what was probably the best regular season in Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame career. 


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