Did playing against Michael Jordan motivate Dominique Wilkins to greatness?
Dominique Wilkins is a Hall of Famer, selected in 2006. He averaged 24.8 points per game and was a nine-time All-Star. Based on researching some numbers from his career, he may been one player who when he played against Michael Jordan and the Bulls, really elevated his game when facing basketball’s GOAT.
Jordan played for the Bulls from 1984-95 to 1992-92, and then rejoined the team at the end of the 1994-95 season and retired from the Bulls at the end of the 1997-98 season. During those Jordan-Bulls years, there were 24 times (by 16 different players) when an opposing player tallied 40 or more points in a game versus Jordan’s Bulls. Of those 24 times, Wilkins scored 40+ points against the Bulls five times, most of any rival player.
Here are the players who scored 40 or more points in a regular season game versus the Bulls during the years Jordan played with the team.
Dominique Wilkins, 5 times
Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Bernard King and Reggie Miller, each twice
Adrian Dantley, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Darrell Griffith, Allen Iverson, Jeff Malone, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Glenn Robinson, Rony Seikaly, Kelly Tripucka, one time each
Wilkins tops the list with the most points scored by a player in a game versus the Bulls with Jordan on the roster. Wilkins scored 57 points in a December 10, 1986 game. Adrian Dantley is second on that list with a 45-point game against the Jordan-led Bulls.
From the 1984-85 season to the 1997-98 season, Wilkins tops the list for most total points scored against the Bulls with 1,492, a 28.7 per game average, also tops on the list. Patrick Ewing was second with 1,154 total points, followed by Isiah Thomas with 1,070 points and Charles Barkley with 1,065 points.
If we look at which opposing players had the most 30-point games versus the Bulls from 1984-85 to 1997-98, again Wilkins tops the list with 23 such games. Barkley and Larry Bird follow Wilkins with 13 games and Ewing had 10.
Only one other opposing player had a 50-point game in a contest with Jordan playing. Kobe Bryant had 55 in a March 28, 2003 game between the L.A. Lakers and Washington Wizards. Jordan was a member of the Wizards and tallied 23 points in that game. Orlando’s Tracy McGrady had 50 points in a March 8, 2002 game against the Wizards, but Jordan did not play in that game due to an injury.
The numbers seem pretty clear… Dominique Wilkins seemed to raise his game to another level when he was on the same court as Jordan. For his career, Wilkins averaged 27 points versus the Bulls in 66 total games, second-most versus any team (he averaged 27.2 points per game against the Kings in 27 contests).
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