The Numbers: Michael Jordan & Charles Barkley Drop 40s

Today marks the 27th anniversary of one of the greatest mano-a-mano Finals games in history, including the only one where opponents both topped 40.

Charles Barkley was the MVP in 1993 and believe himself to be better than Michael Jordan at the time. But he had a poor shooting performance in Game 1 (9-25) and wanted to redeem himself in Game 2.

Jordan, being Jordan wanted to prove he should have won the MVP and was playing with the proverbial chip on his shoulder.

The game was tight throughout and the two best basketball players in the world at the time traded haymakers the whole time. Jordan ended with 42 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists. Barkley matched with 42 and added 13 boards and 4 dimes.

The Bulls won the game 111-108.

Years later, Barkley recounted an anecdote on Bill Simmons’ podcast. While the link to that has since been taken down, Andrew Sharp of SB Nation transcribed it for posterity.

“You know, I’d always thought that I was the best player, to be honest with you. I always thought, Michael Jordan when he started winning, he just had more help than me. So, when I finally came to Phoenix, I had told the late, great Cotton Fitzsimmons, ‘Hey dude, I’m the best basketball player in the world. We’re going to the Finals.’ And he said, ‘That’s why I traded for you.’

I actually thought I was the best. I thought Bird and Magic just had better players. So, I said, ‘Listen dude, I’m going to the Finals this year. Dan Majerle, Kevin Johnson… That’s what I need. We’re going to the Finals.’ He says, ‘Well Michael’s gonna be there.’ I said, ‘Cotton, I think I’m better than Michael Jordan.’ He says, ‘We will see when you get there.’ 

So, we actually got nervous before Game 1. We struggled. The pressure got to the guys on the team. I played decent, but then I think the other guys were nervous. So Game 2, I’m talking to my daughter.

She said, ‘Dad? Are y’all gonna win tonight?’

I said, ‘Baby, your dad is the best basketball player in the world. I’m going to dominate the game tonight.’ And I remember… I think I had like 46, 47. I played great. And Michael had 52.

And I got home that night, and my daughter was crying, and she said, ‘Dad, y’all lost again.’

I said, ‘Baby, I think Michael Jordan’s better than me.’

She said, ‘Dad, you’ve never said that before.’

I said, ‘Baby, I’ve never felt like that before.'”