Michael Jordan could have easily scored 50 during the LaBradford Smith revenge game in 1993. But with the Chicago Bulls gliding to victory against the Washington Wizards, MJ sat out the entire fourth quarter.
However, Jordan sitting out the remainder of the game wasn't because Phil Jackson didn't want him to play in a blowout. In fact, the Zen Master said he even asked Jordan if he wanted to continue pouring it on the Wizards.
"I actually asked him if he wanted to go back in (in the fourth) because I know he hovers on the record of so many things," said Jackson. "But he said, `I'm stiff, let me sit. There's no sense going back in.'
Smith was Washington's 19th overall pick in 1991 but entered the game averaging just 8.5 points per game. Heading into that matchup, his best NBA game saw him score 22 points. But that night, he put up 33 through three quarters and a career-high 37 points in the game.
Sure, the Bulls won that game, and Michael Jordan rattled in 11 consecutive points in the 4th quarter after going 4-21 from the floor to help the Bulls escape with a 104-99 win over the Wizards. However, winning wasn't enough for Michael Jordan; he wanted to return the favor to Bradford the following night as the teams played each other in a back-to-back schedule.
"That was a very embarrassing situation for me," said MJ. "Evidently I didn't respect the guy. He's certainly capable of putting up some numbers, and he did. I take pride in my defensive effort. Offensively, it wasn't going for me, and I let that affect my defensive effort, and that's something I will improve (Saturday in Washington). I look forward to the challenge."
So the following day, everyone knew that Michael Jordan would be looking for payback. According to Scottie Pippen, Jordan wanted to match Smith's 37-point game in the first half. To do that, he asked his teammates to feed him the ball as often as possible.
"Support me in whatever way possible," Jordan said. "If I'm hot, just get me the ball and get out of the way. I even told B.J. (Friday night), it's going to be a personal game tomorrow, but I won't take it out of the team concept and I don't want you guys to stand around and watch. But I got hot and they didn't have a choice but to stand around and watch."
If not for a missed free throw, Jordan would have matched Bradford's 37-point game in the first half. He went 8-10 in the first quarter and scored 19 points. MJ added 17 more in the second quarter before slowing down with 11 in the third period. He finished the game with 47 points and could have easily hit 50 with the possibility of scoring more. But then, he had already delivered his message.