Blazers have powerful memories of Air Jordan
Even at 40, there is no reason to think Michael Jordan won't be at his best Tuesday when the Washington Wizards invade the Rose Garden for a game with the Trail Blazers.
It's not as if he hasn't done it before.
Barring a change of heart regarding retirement, it will be Jordan's final visit to Portland as a player ÑÊand a happening akin to a visit from royalty.
Jordan has provided some unforgettable moments in his 29 appearances against the Blazers Ñ 22 in the regular season with Chicago, the six-game Bulls-Blazers championship series in 1992 and one game as a Wizard last Dec. 10.
The Tribune chooses to revisit eight remarkable performances by the Maestro de Air. In reverse order of their greatness:
8) March 24, 1989, Portland: Bulls 128, Blazers 113
With veteran Sam Vincent injured, Jordan, 26, is pressed into action at point guard. Playing despite a strained groin, he has seven turnovers in 40 minutes but does everything else right: 33 points on 10 of 20 from the field and 13 of 16 from the line, seven rebounds, six steals and 17 assists, the latter still a career high.
'This kid is a different breed when it comes to performing,' says Doug Collins, his coach then with Chicago and now with Washington. 'The lights go on and he finds a way.'
Point guard seems to agree with Jordan, who notes: 'I am turning out to be a pretty quick learner.'
Says Clyde Drexler, who leads Portland with 27 points: 'He handles the ball better than Magic. He just makes everybody else better.'
7) Feb. 23, 1990, Chicago: Bulls 113, Blazers 102
With Drexler missing due to a sprained ankle, Portland coach Rick Adelman gives rookie Byron Irvin his first start and hands him the task of guarding Jordan. The result: one skirmish and the only triple-double Jordan is to ever get against the Blazers Ñ 35 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Irvin does a decent defensive job, and Jordan makes only 12 of 25 from the field.
'My jump shot wasn't as accurate as I wanted it to be tonight,' Jordan says. 'I just didn't have my normal confidence. So a lot of times, I went up in the air not looking so much for a shot but a pass, and was able to find somebody underneath.'
Late in the first half, Jordan goes to the floor for a loose ball and Irvin dives in to tie him up. Jordan responds with a shove, and Adelman is upset that no technical is called.
Irvin: 'He elbowed me and I elbowed him back, and the next thing I knew, (Chicago forward Ed) Neely had his arms around me. I was just hoping (Kevin) Duckworth was somewhere around.'
Jordan: 'I thought he fouled me. I don't care if it's a veteran or a rookie, I wasn't going to let him beat me up.'
6) March 22, 1987, Portland: Blazers 115, Bulls 113
Jordan scores 46 points, but none in the final six minutes as coach Mike Schuler shifts Terry Porter onto Jordan and Portland outscores Chicago 14-7 down the stretch.
'We stole one tonight,' says Kiki Vandeweghe, who leads the Blazers with 28 points. Steve Johnson, sinking 10 of 12 shots, adds 24 and Drexler 23.
Afterward, Collins is asked about an assertion by Portland General Manager Bucky Buckwalter that Drexler is on a par with Jordan.
'What does he have, a brain tumor?' Collins asks. 'They are still trying to rationalize drafting (Sam Bowie).'
Says Jordan: 'Portland drafted size. Chicago drafted versatility.'
5) Feb. 26, 1988, Chicago: Blazers 104, Bulls 96
Jordan is sensational, going for 52 points on 21-of-34 shooting to go with eight rebounds, but Drexler nets a career-high 42. Clyde sinks 18 of 33 shots and collects nine assists, eight steals and five rebounds in 44 minutes. And Jordan goes only 1 for 6 down the stretch.
'We did a very good job on Michael,' Schuler says. 'He had to work for everything he got. I think we wore him down.'
4) Jan. 8, 1987, Chicago: Bulls 121, Blazers 117
Jordan scores 53 Ñ his most ever against Portland Ñ and Chicago needs all of it in a come-from-behind victory. Jordan makes 20 of 34 from the field and 13 of 16 from the line.
3) Nov. 29, 1991, Portland: Bulls 116, Blazers 114 in double overtime
In a matchup of the league's two best teams, Jordan needs 39 shots (he makes 16) in 51 minutes to get 40 points, including a free throw with 4.2 seconds left to close the scoring. Portland is unable to get a shot off before the buzzer. Jordan forces a second overtime with a 12-foot leaner to tie the count at 105-105 with 1.2 seconds left in the first extra session.
Jordan's teammate Scottie Pippen has a huge game, contributing 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. And Drexler is superb with 38 points and 12 rebounds, but it isn't enough as Chicago stretches its win streak to 11 games.
2) June 12, 1992, Portland: Bulls 119, Blazers 106
With the NBA Finals tied at 2-2, Jordan has a monster game to push Portland to the brink of elimination. Jordan knocks down 14 of 23 from the field and 16 of 19 from the line for 46 points. Drexler has 30, but again the Blazers fall short. This sets up the unforgettable Game 6, where the Blazers lead by 17 points near the end of the third quarter, only to have the Bulls storm back to win and claim the title.
1) June 3, 1992, Chicago: Bulls 122, Blazers 89
This one is etched in memory as one of the great Jordan performances in history. In the NBA Finals opener, he sets a Finals record with six 3-pointers and 35 points Ñ in the first half. After the sixth one goes in from beyond the arc, Jordan gives his famous shrug to the broadcasting booth as he heads up court.
'I tried to stay within the framework of our offense,' says Jordan, who finishes with 39 points on 16 of 27 from the field, and 11 assists. 'The next thing I knew, shots were falling from everywhere. It felt like a free throw from (3-point range). I couldn't miss.'
Portland's Danny Ainge says the 33-point beating is only one loss: 'It's not the Tour de France. We don't start out 33 points behind. We start out next game with the score 0-0.'
In Game 2, Ainge sets an NBA Finals record with nine points in overtime as Portland evens the count at 1-1. As the series fleshes out, Jordan is not to be denied. As usual.