Michael Jordan was the most prolific scorer basketball has ever seen. He was no slouch on the defensive end either, winning a Defensive Player of the Year award the same year he won his first MVP plum. Up until now, he remains the only person, dead or alive, to achieve the feat.
But personal accolades aside, MJ was all about championships. The regular season was simply his stomping ground to assert dominance. And amazingly, Jordan somehow performed even better in the playoffs and was always at his best on the biggest stage. Knowing how crazy good and competitive the guy was, how many rings does Michael Jordan have?
Michael Jordan’s NBA Championships
Michael Jordan, “His Airness,” collected six championship rings in his playing career. All six of his titles were with the Chicago Bulls and consisted of two three-peats. (A three-peat is a basketball slang term that means three consecutive championships.)
Here are things that you need to know about Jordan’s championship dominance:
1.) He never lost an NBA Finals series, and each of those trips never went to a Game 7.
2.) Six titles are equal to that of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and more than Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Larry Bird.
3.) All six championships resulted in Jordan winning six Finals MVPs.
4.) He averaged 41 PPG in the six-game NBA Finals series in 1993. That’s the most PPG average in an NBA Finals series.
5.) “His Airness” 33.6 points across six NBA Finals series. That’s the second-most all-time behind Rick Barry’s 36.3. Barry, though, appeared in only 10 Finals games while Jordan had 35 under his belt.
An Overview of Michael Jordan’s Championship Runs
Jordan tore up the scene from an athletic and commercial standpoint as soon as he entered the league. But despite how good and otherworldly he was, MJ’s first taste of championship basketball did not come until his seventh season. (In comparison, LeBron made the Finals in his fourth year, Kobe also in his 4th, Magic in his 1st year, and Larry Bird in his 2nd year.)
That being said, when Jordan made it to the summit, there was no looking back. Here is a rundown of Air Jordan’s six NBA title runs:
First Championship Ring (Bulls vs. Lakers, 1991)
The 1991 moment was Jordan’s “slay a legend” moment. It was the basketball equivalent of Conor McGregor knocking out Jose Aldo or Jon Jones destroying Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Jordan did that to an “old but still gold” Magic Johnson.
Johnson’s Lakers, although still dangerous, were not the Lakers’ Showtime of the 80s. They had nice pieces up and down the roster, but they had no Kareem to dump the ball into the low post for an automatic bucket. That and the fact that His Airness could not be denied after by sweeping long-time tormentor Detroit Pistons. Everyone could see there was a new sheriff in town, and his name was Michael Jordan. Result: Bulls defeat Lakers, 4-1.
Second Championship Ring (Bulls vs. Trail Blazers, 1992)
Portland was considered a worthy rival of the Chicago Bulls entering the ’92 Finals. They had their own aerial artist by the name of Clyde Drexler, and anyone in their starting lineup could just explode at any given night. The Blazers also had Danny Ainge coming off the bench, a three-time champion, to provide stability and whatever he needed to be.
It was Jordan’s championship to lose, and if you knew him, he wasn’t about to. His Airness set the tone by drilling six threes in a half, a record that stood for years. Portland bounced back in Game 2 and took Game 4 to knot the series up.
By this time, you knew something extraordinary would happen, courtesy of #23. Needless to say, he did not disappoint. Jordan finished the last two games with averages of 39.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4 assists, two steals, and a block. In that span, he shot 87.5% from the line (21 out of 24) and 57.4% from the floor (27 out of 47) on his way to a second Finals MVP.
Third Championship Ring (Bulls vs. Suns, 1993)
This series was strange in many ways. There is only one time when the home team won, and that’s Game 4. Phoenix, holding the best record in the NBA and homecourt advantage, lost the first two games at home.
By then, it would have been virtually over. However, the Suns put up a valiant fight and had a chance to win Game 6. That is until John Paxson and Horace Grant happened. With Phoenix up 98-96 with 14 seconds remaining, Paxson drilled a wide-open three that started from a string of right passing plays. Grant then blocked Suns guard Kevin Johnson at the other end to seal the victory.
It was in this series that Jordan averaged 41 points over six games. That’s the most in NBA Finals history, but that’s what everyone came to look forward to. Fans expected nothing less. After this grueling six-game war, Charles Barkley conceded it was the first time in his life he felt another player was better than him on the court. Barkley was the MVP of the regular season, but man, he wasn’t wrong.
Fourth NBA Championship (Bulls vs. Sonics, 1996)
By this time, everyone knew that Jordan showing up in the NBA Finals was as good as a victory. The dynamic duo of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp made it mildly interesting, but the victory tide never changed. After racing 3-0, it’s only a matter of time before the Bulls grab the series by the horns (pun intended).
Fifth and Sixth NBA Championships (Bulls vs. Jazz, 1997 & 1998)
The Western Conference powers took turns beating each other up for nearly a decade. That resulted in a Russian Roulette of sorts, while the East was dominated mainly by the Bulls. When the Jazz finally made it past the WCF, it was their turn to test Chicago’s mettle, but to no avail.
That doesn’t mean that the Jazz were no worthy opponents. It’s just that the Bulls were superior in every aspect. What the Jazz could do, the Bulls could do better, whether on offense or defense.
Most games were close; five games in 1998 and four in 1997 were decided by 5 points or less. But when push comes to shove, you can bet your life savings Jordan would come out on top.
1998 Chamionship: Bulls vs. Jazz — Final 3 Minutes Video
Michael Jordan’s All-Time Records
Career all-time record in the regular season (30.12 PPG) and playoffs (33.45 PPG)
1.) Six Finals MVPs
2.) Only MVP and DPOY awardee in the same year (1988)
3.) 10-time scoring champion
4.) 20 made free throws in a half (23 attempts)
5.) Most points in a playoff game (63 points vs Celtics, 1986)
6.) Scored at least 40 points in 46 playoff games
7.) Never scored below 20 points in a Finals game
8.) Most points scored in one half in the NBA Finals (35 vs. Portland, 1992)
9.) Most blocks by a guard (893)
10.) Most blocks in a season by a guard (131)
11.) Oldest to score 50 points (51 vs. Charlotte)
12.) Never lost three straight in a span of 632 games
Michael Jordan’s Legacy: Was He The Best Ever?
Michael Jordan is considered to be the best basketball player of all time. If you arrive at the same conclusion, you’re not to blame. Jordan’s combination of personal feats and team accomplishments was second to none. Off the court, he singlehandedly made the Jordan brand a billion-dollar enterprise! But, really, was he the best ever?
The GOAT (Greatest of all Time) talk is highly subjective. Jordan himself finds these comparisons unfair because players play in different eras. In an uncut interview with Cigar Aficionado, MJ said:
“First of all, you’re never gonna say, ‘Who’s the greatest of all time?’ to me. I think that’s more for PR and more for selling stories and getting hype… I never played against Wilt Chamberlain; I never played against Jerry West. To now say that one’s greater than the other is being a little bit unfair. I won six championships. Bill Russell won 11. Does that make Bill Russell better than me or make me better than him? No. Because we played in different eras. So when you try to equate who’s the greatest of all time, it’s an unfair parallel; it’s an unfair choice.”
While it’s hard to believe that a guy as competitive as Michael Jordan does not think he’s the GOAT, his body of work enabled him to grow his legend without building up his own case. Jordan has enough believers on his side that he doesn’t need to campaign.
NBA Ring Count For Other NBA Stars
Many players can play in the NBA for a long time without winning a single ring. Here are a few players who have won multiple rings.
Bill Russell: 11 rings.
Sam Jones: 10 rings.
John Havlicek: 8 rings.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 6 rings.
Kobe Bryant: 5 rings.
Steph Curry: 4 rings.
Shaquille O’Neal: 4 rings.
If championship rings were the only criterion for determining the best player of all time, that title would go to the recently deceased Bill Russell.
By Jan Rey with Mike O’Halloran
Jan is a sucker for all things basketball and still yells, “Kobe!” every time he tosses a crumpled paper into a trash bin. Mike has written four books on basketball coaching, including Well-Prepared Coach: 30 Youth Basketball Practice Plans.
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