October 14, 2010
In the buildup to the release of the NBA 2K11 video game, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan (who is prominently featured in the game, and in the advertising hyping up the game), sat down with USA Today's Game Hunters blog to discuss Michael Jordan.
This snippet stood out:
How has the game changed from your playing days?
It's less physical and the rules have changed, obviously. Based on these rules, if I had to play with my style of play, I'm pretty sure I would have fouled out or I would have been at the free throw line pretty often and I could have scored 100 points.
Michael Jordan's the greatest player ever. His presence on my hometown team is the reason I do what I do for a living, and I'd be one of the dozens to go broke in betting against him. But I'm betting against him. He wouldn't have gotten 100. He needed overtime to make it to 69 points, once, and that was his career high.
And, yes, in a league with a few more possessions per game, and in a world without overt hand-checking, yes, Michael Jordan would have scored more in this era than he actually did in the 1980s and 1990s.
But he wouldn't have scored 100. Why? Because Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game was an absolute farce.
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Wilt was a 7-2 dominant force going up against a 6-10 backup center on the New York Knicks back in 1962. He was able to put up 63 shots and attempt 32 free throws mainly because the pace was so, so much faster back in that era, and because his Philadelphia Warriors team was intentionally fouling the Knicks down the stretch in order to get Wilt the ball every time down court in a contest that was a 16-point game at the end of the first quarter.
It was an absolute joke of a "contest," and though Wilt is to be commended for his brilliance, there's a reason why nobody has come very close in the 48 years since Wilt's 100-point game.
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The closest? Kobe Bryant(notes), in a performance that I think was more impressive than Wilt's, mainly because he wasn't a man amongst boys (just an MVP-level performer, playing against a pretty crummy team in the Toronto Raptors), and because 90 percent of his points came in competitive action. His Lakers (beyond Kobe, they were very, very bad back then) were losing through 2 1/2 quarters, and until the final couple of minutes, the Lakers needed every one of Kobe's 81 points.
On top of that, Bryant made 7-13 3-pointers on his way to 81. That's the quickest way toward 100, these days, and Jordan was never much of a 3-point shooter -- 29 percent career, when you take away the nearly 2 1/2 seasons Jordan played with the shorter 22-foot 3-point line. Sure, hand-checks would send you to the line more often, but that many times? Enough to get to 100?
It's OK to "just" be the best ever, MJ. It's OK to be the all-around player you were. And it's OK to wonder if you could top Kobe's 81. But 100 points? Who cares? Wilt's night was impressive, but it was an aberration. A freak show. A gimmick, and not entirely the proudest moment in this league's history (again, the Warriors fouled the Knicks to get the ball back!).
It's OK, MJ. They're still making video games about you. Nobody's forgotten anything.
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