All we need to know about Michael Jordan as a prechampionship pro—who, as a rookie, had such a modest grasp of his ability that he said to me, "I hope to play in at least one All-Star Game"—rests in a playoff performance at Boston Garden in 1986, when he dropped 63 points on the Celtics in a double-overtime loss (below). Later Jordan would walk away from his most memorable games as a victor. But here the Bulls were still in development, and he would wander ringless through another five seasons before fully absorbing Phil Jackson's tao of titledom. Only then did Jordan learn to subordinate himself enough for Chicago to win a championship. So Jordan had to be a loser that day in Boston. And those Celtics, as arguably the best team of all time, had to be the winners, even in the face of the greatest individual postseason performance ever, to instruct Jordan in the most essential of hoop truths: that, in the end, a full team will beat any single player, no matter how good.
This is an article from the Feb. 18, 2013 issue