In the throes of the NBA Playoffs, it’s only right to reminisce about one of the most entertaining rivalries in the 1980s. Long before LeBron James squared off against Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Joakim Noah, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls comprised of one of the best rivalries in basketball.
The Cavs assembled a talented roster, featuring players like Larry Nance Sr., Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper and Mark Price who made up one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. At the time, the Bulls weren’t the championship-laden team that they were in the 1990s, but with budding players like Charles Oakley, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and John Paxson, they formed a solid roster. Not to mention, they had some guy named Michael Jordan on their team.
1988 was a great year for Michael Jordan. He won the Dunk Contest, scoring title, Defensive Player of the Year, NBA All-Star MVP, and he released one of the illest shoes in sneaker history, the Jordan III.
There were no shortage of accomplishments during that year and Jordan added to his list of accolades by setting a playoff record thirty years ago.
On May 1st, 1988, he became the first NBA player to score 50 or more points in consecutive playoff games. His Airness scored 50 points in Game 1 en route to a 104-93 victory. After that, things became interesting. The myth notes that Cavaliers’ noted defensive stopper (and future teammate of Jordan’s) Ron Harper told the media that Jordan scored 50 points because he injured his ankle, which led to a smaller and lesser athletic player guarding him. His name was Craig Ehlo.Ron Harper learned that Michael Jordan was not someone to mess with. (NBA.com)
As you might expect, Jordan came out in Game 2 and annihilated Harper, scoring 55 points to push the series to a 2-0 lead. The Bulls eventually won the series and it kicked off a brief two-year postseason clash between both teams.
In the late 1980s, the Bulls and Cavs met in the playoffs twice. of course, we remember 1989 series, in particular, because of “The Shot” over Ehlo; a moment that became a part of the historic list of Cleveland’s sports shortcomings which included along with “The Drive,” “The Fumble” and “Red Right 88.”
Like many teams during that time, Jordan was the reason they didn’t get in arm’s reach of the Larry O’Brien trophy.
One of the main reasons for basketball’s great popularity is largely because of Michael Jordan. His on the court swagger, dunking ability, penchant for getting buckets, being a possessed competitor are just a few reasons why he is revered — even today.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson saved the NBA from its dark era where substance abuse and the weak television ratings put a cloud over the league, but Jordan transcended the game to another level. Regardless of age, race, and social economic status, there were a plethora of people wanting to “be like Mike.”
Bird once stated that M.J. was “God disguised as Michael Jordan” after he lit up Bird’s Celtics to only set the playoff record for most points in a game with 63.
While he didn’t score 63 on thirty years ago today, he wasn’t too far from it. Ron Harper and the Cavs found out why M.J. was on his way to being arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp