Michael Jordan’s Top 5 Rivals

Ali-Frazier. Federer-Nadal. Magic-Bird. Every superstar needs an archrival. Michael Jordan, however, lacked a true foil throughout his career. And since he will be induced to the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, let’s look back at the five guys who tried (and failed) to hang with MJ.

Clyde Drexler
Going into the 1984 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers were set at 2-guard with Clyde Drexler. So it made perfect sense to bypass Jordan and draft the injury-prone center Sam Bowie, right? Not exactly. Jordan extracted revenge on Clyde the Glide during the 1992 Finals.

Isiah Thomas
After allegedly “freezing out” Jordan at the 1985 All-Star Game, Thomas further antagonized MJ during the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals–with 7.9 seconds remaining in the Bulls sweep, Thomas and the Pistons disrespectfully walked off the court. In a strange coincidence, Thomas, one of the greatest point guards of all time, was left off the original Dream Team.

John Starks
The plucky ex-CBA guard symbolized the Knicks toughness and physical (but sometimes, dirty) play during the early-90’s. He grabbed. He held. He knew how to get under Jordan’s skin. Still, despite his career-defining dunk in Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, Starks and the Knicks were Jordan’s favorite playoff punching bags.

Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller was born to be the bad guy. He was a big ear having, big shot making, trash talking gamer who whined to the referees and then ran through an illegal screen to hit the big shot. Did we mention he hit big shots? None more important than this game-winner over Jordan in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals.

Dominique Wilkins
Michael Jordan didn’t always win. After all, he came in second to Dominique Wilkins in the 1985 Slam Dunk contest. Because of injuries, the rematch didn’t happen until 1988, which Jordan won with his now-legendary dunk from the free-throw line. But was ‘Nique robbed? You decide.