In the waning moments of last Friday night's game between the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan added to his compendium of career highlights. With his team holding a six-point lead, Jordan had his jump shot partially blocked by Bulls forward Ron Artest, and Chicago started a fast break. Jordan was certain he had been fouled, but rather than protest the noncall, he sprinted downcourt, his eyes burning like headlights, trying to catch Chicago guard Ron Mercer. As Mercer was about to lay the ball in, Jordan materialized, seemingly from the ether. He didn't merely block the shot—he pinned the ball against the backboard with both hands and then pulled it down, preserving the Wizards' 89–83 win.
Even given the high threshold for awe that Jordan has created, it was a breathtaking play, the topic of animated discussion in both locker rooms afterward. "You knew he was going to do something amazing, because he always does," said Artest, who guarded Jordan for most of the game. "He was tired, it was the fourth quarter, but he came in and whoosh. With him, it's just like the movie Superman."
Well, not just like. By the time the Superman series had reached a second sequel, it was scarcely watchable, Clark Kent bearing only the faintest resemblance to his original incarnation. Michael Jordan III, however, is suddenly as enthralling as the first two editions. "The show keeps getting better, doesn't it?" says Washington guard Hubert Davis. "Sometimes you have to take a step back and say, 'Man, what a great story.'"
SI's 100 Best Michael Jordan Photos
Jordan leaps from the free-throw line for a perfect-score dunk in the 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. A prolific dunker throughout his career due to his tremendous leaping ability, Jordan won back-to-back dunk contests in 1987 and '88. As MJ continues to dunk at age 50, we present SI's 100 best photos of Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan rises up for a buzzer-beater to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 playoffs. Jordan hit a jumper with six seconds remaining to give the Bulls a lead, only for the Cavaliers to take it right back with a layup by Craig Ehlo with three seconds left. Jordan, double-teamed on the inbounds play, got just enough separation to receive the ball and get the shot off over Ehlo to win the first-round series in five games.
Jordan gets ready to throw down an authoritative dunk against Detroit in Game 4 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls put an exclamation point on avenging their back-to-back playoff eliminations at the hands of the Pistons, sweeping Detroit in four games.
Jordan pulls up for his game-winning jumper to beat the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals and clinch the championship. Jordan shook loose from defender Bryon Russell to nail the shot, his final in a Bulls' uniform.
Michael Jordan takes off from the free-throw line to earn a perfect score and win the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest. Jordan's famous jam pushed him in front of Dominique Wilkins for his second straight win.
Jordan plays defense in an ACC Tournament quarterfinal game against Clemson in 1984. Jordan improved from a mediocre defender his freshman year to one of the best defensive guards by his junior season.
Jordan hits the game-winning jumper to beat Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA Championship game. Jordan, ACC Freshman of the Year, propelled North Carolina to a national title by nailing a jumper with 17 seconds remaining, putting the Tar Heels up for good 63-62. Jordan had 16 points in the game.
Jordan during a home game against the Dallas Mavericks in February 2003. Despite turning 40 during the season and being more than a decade older than some of his teammates, Jordan led the Washington Wizards in scoring, averaging 20.0 points per game with 6.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
Jordan wraps his arm around his mother, Deloris, after defeating the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals to wrap up his sixth championship. In the final 41.9 seconds, Jordan made a layup, stole the ball from Karl Malone and hit a game-winning jumper from the top of the key to bring the Bulls back from a three-point deficit.
Jordan smiles after bringing home the first NBA title of his career in 1991. After losing to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals the two years prior, the Bulls swept Detroit and then defeated the Lakers in five games for the first championship in franchise history. He cried after receiving the trophy.
Magic Johnson works against Jordan during Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals. Jordan dropped 30 points and dished out 10 assists to secure his first NBA title.
Young autograph seekers surround Jordan at a basketball camp in March 1987. With his on-court success and successful off-court marketing, Jordan quickly became one of the NBA's biggest stars.
Scottie Pippen helps an exhausted and sick Jordan off the floor after Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. Jordan played through a stomach virus to score 38 points, hitting a three to put the Bulls ahead for good with 25 seconds remaining. In the final seconds of the game, Jordan collapsed into Pippen's arms.
Jordan gives a slight smile during a November 1997 game against the Charlotte Hornets. Jordan connected on 12-of-24 shots in the game for 28 points to go along with seven assists and four rebounds.
Bulls head coach Doug Collins advises Jordan in Game 5 of a 1988 Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against Cleveland. Jordan averaged 45.2 points per game as the Bulls advanced but lost to the Detroit Pistons in five games in the next round.
Jordan encourages his Wizards team from the bench against the Miami Heat in a preseason game in October 2001. Jordan announced his return to the floor on Sept. 25, just a month before the start of the regular season.
Jordan flies to the rim for a dunk against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Michael Jordan and the Phoenix Suns' Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley battle for position in Game 3 of the 1993 NBA Finals. Barkley beat out Jordan for the regular season MVP, but Jordan got the title as the Bulls beat the Suns in six games.
Jordan talks with Bulls coach Phil Jackson on the sideline during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Knicks in 1996. Coming off a record 72-10 regular season, the Bulls lost just three games in the postseason as Jordan claimed another championship in his first full season back from retirement.
Jordan flies through the paint to the rim for a dunk in this 1987 action portrait.
Jordan poses for a 1983 portrait at center court of the Carmichael Arena, the home to North Carolina men's basketball during Jordan's tenure. Playing under legendary coach Dean Smith, Jordan won a national championship in 1982 and the Naismith and Wooden awards for college player of the year in 1984.
Rookie sensation Jordan sits on the bench during a game against the Phoenix Suns. Jordan scored 20 or more points in 21 of his first 25 games.
Jordan had no trouble adjusting from college to the NBA as a rookie, scoring 28.2 points per game with 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists en route to being named Rookie of the Year. The Bulls made an 11-game improvement from the year before, reaching the playoffs but losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.
Jordan rubs the head of Sam Perkins for a portrait in November 1983. The Tar Heels went undefeated in the ACC during the regular season but lost in the ACC Tournament and was upset in the Sweet 16 by Indiana.
Jordan pulls down a rebound in an ACC game against Virginia in January 1982. He scored 13.5 points per game that season as a freshman and hit the game-winning jumper in North Carolina's national championship victory over Georgetown.
Taking a break from the action of the 1993 NBA Finals, Jordan and Charles Barkley chat in Game 5. Jordan averaged an NBA Finals-record 41 points in the series, becoming the first player to win three straight Finals MVPs.
Jordan tries to drive past Barkley in 1991. Jordan said he didn't consciously stick his tongue out while playing and even told kids not to do it out of fear they might accidentally bite theirs.
To tune up for his first Olympics, Jordan competes for Team USA against a team of NBA All-Stars in 1984. Although the games against the NBA players were incredibly physical and left the Olympians bruised and battered, the move paid off when the Americans went 8-0 at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics en route to a gold medal.
Jordan contorts in air to get a shot off against Angola in Team USA's 1992 Summer Olympic matchup in Barcelona. The Dream Team crushed every team it faced, never winning by fewer than 32 points and defeating Angola 116-48. Jordan averaged 14.9 points, second highest on the team.
Jordan lays the ball in against the 76ers' LaSalle Thompson in a January 1996 game in Philadelphia. Jordan had nine games with 40 or more points during the 1995-96 season, including 48 points against the 76ers.
Jordan pressures Magic Johnson in Game 3 of the 1991 NBA Finals. Jordan's defense was a source of great frustration for the Lakers as he tallied 14 steals and seven blocks in the five-game series.
Jordan celebrates the Bulls' repeat at NBA champions after dropping the Portland Trail Blazers in six games. He earned his third MVP Award and second consecutive Final MVP.
Jordan knocks down a jumper against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in March 1995. Just five games after returning from his first retirement, Jordan scored 55 points as the Bulls held off the Knicks 113-111.
Jordan plays Ms. Pac Man at North Carolina in November 1983. Already a first-team All-America from his sophomore season, Jordan topped that by winning the 1984 John Wooden Award as a junior before declaring for the NBA Draft.
Jordan dances to Lionel Richie's <italics>All Night Long</italics> in his dorm room with high school basketball teammates David Bridges and Derek Betts in November 1983. North Carolina entered the 1983-84 season ranked No. 1 in the nation, earning Jordan his first SI cover appearance and photo shoot.
Jordan poses for a portrait in 1986. After missing most of the 1985-86 season with a foot injury, Jordan returned to set the NBA record for points in a playoff game with 63 against the Boston Celtics.
Jordan walks on the court with his tongue out in November 1984, his rookie season. Jordan picked up the habit from his father, who would stick his tongue out when he was absorbed in his work.
Jordan rejects the New Jersey Nets' Chris Gatling at the rim in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference playoffs first-round series in 1998. With Jordan scoring 32 or more points in each game, the Bulls made quick work of the Nets, eliminating them in three games.
Jordan fakes on a drive against the Los Angeles Lakers in February 1988. Jordan won his first MVP Award that season, averaging 35.0 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 1.6 blocks. Those final two stats helped Jordan claim Defensive Player of the Year.
Jordan makes a pass in the face of Cleveland's Ron Harper in Game 5 of a first-round Eastern Conference series. Jordan finished the game with his famous jumper over Craig Ehlo at the buzzer to win the series.
The three biggest stars of the 1992 Dream Team -- Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson -- pose during a photo shoot in June 1992. The trio and their teammates would put on a show at the Barcelona Summer Olympics two months later.
Members of the Dream Team Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley hold up Olympic rings for a portrait in February 1991.
Jordan smiles during warm-ups with the Washington Wizards. Jordan's return to basketball was at times frustrating for him as the Wizards failed to make the playoffs in either season.
Jordan goes up for a one-handed slam in 1991. He averaged 31.5 points per game in the 1990-91 season, part of a seven-season stretch in which he scored more than 30 points per game.
Jordan puts up a shot over the outstretched arm of Detroit's John Salley in Game 2 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. Despite four games with 31 or more points, Jordan was unable to keep the Pistons from eliminating the Bulls in the conference finals for the second consecutive season.
Jordan takes batting practice at spring training in Orlando, Fla., in February 1994. After retiring from basketball, Jordan signed a minor league deal with the White Sox to pursue his recently murdered father's dream to have a baseball player for a son.
Jordan misses badly on a pitch during spring training with the White Sox. Jordan's short-lived baseball career did not develop the way he hoped it would as he hit just .202 with three home runs for Double-A Birmingham.
Jordan watches video before a game against the Bucks in 1988 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
Jordan drives a bumper car against Bulls teammates Rod Higgins and Orlando Woolridge at an amusement park in Phoenix in November 1984.
Security guards crowd around Jordan as he gets out of his Ferrari to enter Chicago Stadium in May 1992.
Jordan finishes off a fast break with an emphatic slam dunk against the Denver Nuggets in November 1991. Jordan scored 38 points with 12 assists and seven rebounds in a wild 151-145, come-from-behind win.
Jordan tries to drive through traffic against Washington in January 1985. After averaging 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.4 steals, Jordan was named Rookie of the Year and selected for the All-Star Game, the first of his 14 selections.
Jordan hugs Scottie Pippen after the duo won their fifth NBA title together in 1997. Jordan earned his fifth Finals MVP Award in as many appearances.
Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman soak in the cheers at the United Center. The trio won three NBA titles together.
Jordan walks away from the game of basketball for a second time in January 1999 amid an NBA lockout. At the announcement Jordan said he was 99.9 percent sure he would never play again.
Jordan acknowledges the crowd's roaring applause during the final game of his NBA career on April 16, 2003. Despite playing on the road, Jordan received a three-minute standing ovation from the Philadelphia 76ers fans and players as he checked out of the game with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Jordan catches some action at the 35th Ryder Cup in September 2004 at the Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Mich. An avid golfer and fan of the game, Jordan has attended every Ryder Cup since 1995.
Jordan enjoys his other passion, playing a round of golf. Jordan had a great love for the sport that occasionally got him in trouble, such as when instances of his high-stakes gambling arose in 1992 and 1993.
Jordan takes the ball to the hoop against the Utah Jazz in Chicago in the 1997 NBA Finals. The Bulls won all three games of the series at the United Center, including Game 1, in which Jordan hit a game-winning 20-footer at the buzzer.
Jordan makes a midair pass to Scottie Pippen against the Detroit Pistons in Game 3 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. Jordan's 47 points and 10 rebounds got the Bulls the win in that game, but the Pistons took the series in seven games.
Jordan pulls up for a jumper against the Philadelphia 76ers in November 2001. Jordan came out of retirement three years after leaving the Bulls to help the Washington Wizards, in whom he became part owner in 2000.
Jordan throws down a dunk against the New York Knicks in March 1998. Jordan dominated the Knicks in the Bulls' 102-89 victory, amassing 42 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Jordan drives on the Detroit Pistons' Joe Dumars in Game 2 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. Jordan dropped 35 points in the Bulls' win, the second of four straight to finally oust the Pistons in the playoffs after Detroit eliminated them in each of the two prior seasons.
Jordan attacks the basket in his 14th and final All-Star Game in 2003. Jordan started the game when Vince Carter offered him his starting spot, and seemed poised to have the game winner with a baseline jumper with 4.8 seconds remaining in overtime. Instead, Jermaine O'Neal fouled Kobe Bryant to force a second overtime, and the West prevailed.
Jordan cuts to the rim against the New York Knicks in March 1995, his fifth game after returning from his first retirement. In addition to his 55 points, Jordan fed Bill Wennington for the game-winner in the Bulls' 113-111 victory at Madison Square Garden.
Phil Jackson talks to Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1996. Jordan and Pippen combined for 36 points, 15 rebounds, 13 assists and four steals in the Bulls' 94-91 win at New York.
Michael Jordan and Horace Grant helped up Scottie Pippen in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1992. The Bulls needed all seven games to get past the Knicks, dominating New York 110-81 in the final game.
Jordan hits the game-winning jumper to beat Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA Championship game.
Jordan reaches for a rebound in the gold-medal game at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Just like every other team the Dream Team faced, Croatia was no match for Team USA, falling 117-85. Jordan scored 22 points to help win his second Olympic gold medal.
Jordan drives to the hoop against Utah in Game 1 on the 1998 NBA Finals. The Bulls dropped the first game of the series despite 33 points from Jordan, but rallied to win the series in six games.
Jordan fights for a loose ball with Rik Smits and Derrick McKey of the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. In a tremendous all-around performance, Jordan led the Bulls with 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists to return to the NBA Finals.
Jordan shoots a jumper for Team USA at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Playing for a still all-amateur team, Jordan led all the squad with 17.1 points per game as the U.S. took gold with an 8-0 record.
Michael Jordan throws down a dunk in the second half of Game 2 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. After dropping game 1 of the series, the Bulls rattled off three straight wins to take control of the Finals and win the championship in six games.
Jordan smokes his victory cigar in the Bulls locker room after defeating Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals. Between the 1990-91 and 1997-98 NBA seasons, Jordan led the Bulls to a championship each season in which he played the full season.
Jordan leaps to intercept a pass against the Spurs in January 1992. Jordan made the NBA All-Defensive First Team that season for the fifth straight time.
Jordan stands on the block during Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. Jordan dropped 45 points in the game to rally the Bulls to a series-clinching victory.
Jordan is all smiles, playing piano and smoking a cigar after winning his sixth national championship in 1998. The title finished off the second three-peat of championships of Jordan's career.
Jordan hugs Phil Jackson after winning the 1998 NBA Finals over the Utah Jazz. The championship victory was the last time either would represent the Chicago Bulls as Jordan retired for a second time after the season and Jackson took a year off from coaching before taking over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jordan and Sam Perkins sit on the couch in coach Dean Smith's office at North Carolina in November 1983. Smith won the first national championship of his Hall of Fame coaching career with Jordan and Perkins in 1982.