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Michael Jordan’s Historic Playoff Game In 1986 Was Fueled By A Bad Golf Outing With Danny Ainge

Michael Jordan missed a whole lot of time during his sophomore season in the NBA due to a broken foot. He was able to return late in the year, eventually playing a major role in the Chicago Bulls making it to the playoffs that season. Once they got there, a tall task was placed in front of them: The 1985-86 Boston Celtics, considered to be one of the greatest teams in league history.

Jordan battled in Game 1, scoring 49 points in a 123-104 loss. While Game 2 ended up being a loss, it served as Jordan’s most prolific scoring output in a playoff game in his decorated career, as he went for 63 points — along with six assists, five rebounds, three steals, and two blocks — in a 135-131 loss.

Despite the loss, the game serves as a major chapter of Jordan lore, as he put forth an historic effort against an all-time great squad. As for why he was so laser-focused on taking Boston down, chapter two of ESPN’s The Last Dance revealed that it stemmed from a golf outing between MJ and Celtics guard Danny Ainge that occurred one day prior. Jordan and Ainge engaged in a bit of jawing with one another during their time on the links, and Ainge remembers taking advantage of a poor showing by the Bulls guard.

“I took a few bucks off of Michael that day, and we’re talking trash to each other,” Ainge said. “That might have been a mistake.”

“We get done, we get in the car, we drop Danny off first,” Rare Air author Mark Vancil recalled. “And Michael says, ‘Hey, tell your boy DJ I got something for him tomorrow.’”

DJ was a reference to Celtics guard Dennis Johnson, one of the greatest defensive guards in league history and the person who served as the primary defender against Jordan. Johnson would go on to foul out of the game while Jordan had an all-time great postseason scoring performance.