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Playing Michael Jordan Was The First Time Charles Barkley Felt He Wasn’t The Best Player In The World

For how brilliant Michael Jordan was during the 1992-93 NBA season, his final one prior to his first retirement from the league, he was not named MVP that year. The honor went to Charles Barkley, who led the Phoenix Suns to a league-best 62-20 record while averaging 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game.

Jordan was, however, able to extract a measure of revenge by leading the Chicago Bulls to a 4-2 series win over the Suns in the NBA Finals, marking the third year in a row that Chicago won a championship. The Bulls knocked Phoenix off in Game 1, something Barkley chalked up to nerves. In Game 2, Barkley had an absolutely torrid performance, scoring 42 points and ripping down 13 rebounds.

The huge game was not enough — Jordan had 42 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists en route to a 111-108 win for the Bulls. During episode 6 of ESPN’s The Last Dance, Barkley explained that this particular game stuck with him, because it let a thought creep into his mind that he had never considered before.

“In Game 2, I played as well as I could play,” Barkley said. “And Michael just out-played me. That was probably the first time in my life that I felt like there was a better basketball player in the world than me, to be honest with you.”

To his credit, Barkley was quite good during these Finals, averaging 27.3 points, 13 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in 46.2 minutes per game. He just got out-played by someone better, which is hardly an insult when that person is Michael Jordan.