1996: Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls vs. Toronto Raptors





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Published on Jun 8, 2007

I usually like to leave game recaps up to Hoopsencyclopedia because he's "the man" for it, but I've taken it upon myself to cover a game that on the surface may not mean a lot, but underneath went on to hold it's own high-value for multiple reasons.

To many young fans today, this isn't exactly a historical game - and for good reason. In the context of basketball history, not many regular season games are truly memorable, classic, or historical. But many also become classics in their own right, for records made, or for final meetings. This one has a little mix of everything - including Toronto's largest ever crowd of over 36,000 fans at the Sky Dome.

In their previous meeting of the '95-'96 season Michael was the acclaimed "Raptor killer", sinking the Raptors and posting 14 fourth quarter points. In this game, he posts 36 points on 63.6% shooting (14-22) with 15 in the fourth quarter. Amazingly, 13 of his 15 fourth quarter points come in the last 4 minutes and 20 seconds of playing time. These were the games of his post-baseball career (seemingly happened a lot in 95-96) that made you wish his team wasn't as great as it was, just so you could see him continue to light it up all game long. Unfortunately, Michael never did anything that wasn't necessary.

The expansion team, Toronto Raptors, face off against Michael Jordan and a Bulls team that went on to win an all time NBA record of 72 regular season wins. But what the 36,131 fans that packed the Sky Dome on this night may not realise, is that they were watching a story filled with subplots unfold upon the hardwood of a basketball court.

Michael Jordan. Alvin Robertson. Damon Stoudamire. Chicago Bulls. Toronto Raptors. 72. 8.

What people don't realise, though, is that the Raptors that year were actually stacked with talent that could do harm in any league of any era had they have had the correct team chemistry, confidence, and playing time required to do so.

Damon Stoudamire was a rookie, who, in my opinion is one of the most underrated PG talents of our generation. In the 95-96 season, he went on to win ROY and set multiple records including a then record 133 3PT FG's for a rookie. He was also chasing second place for most assists by a rookie, on the tail of Oscar Robertson. He went on to post 19.0ppg and 9.3apg (something that the top PGs of the league today fail to do), while setting multiple franchise records for the Toronto Raptors that still stand today, including most assists by a player (19). In this game, he seemed to be having a shoot out with Steve Kerr and Michael Jordan.

Damon posted 30 points, 11 assists and went 6-8 from three point land.

Then there's the subplot of Michael vs. Robertson. Great friends, old team mates ('84 olympics), and fierce competitors. History has it, that this would be the last time either of the old timers would face off against each other in professional competition (Robertson retired after '96). For those of you who don't know much about Alvin Robertson, he's perhaps one of the greatest perimiter, roaming, and lock down defenders to ever play the game.

He's 1st all-time in steals per game, and he has an anticipation that many see players such as Bruce Bowen to have today. It's no coincidence or conspiracy that he was named DPOY in '85-'86.

While both players here are far past their athletic and statistical prime (Jordan 33, Alvin 34), they don't fail to impress and excite. Alvin plays Jordan's turnarounds like only few could; they battle hard for position and trash talk each other all night long. It's also notable that Alvin averaged 2.2 steals per game this season, which would've been good enough for first place in 06-07. Of course, Michael was no defensive slouch either ;), coincidentally averaging 2.2spg.

With far too much already said... I'll leave the game to unfold.



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