Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan, (45) drives to the hoop past New York Knicks' John Starks and Derek Harper (11) during first period action at New York's Madison Square Garden Tuesday, March 28, 1995
Kevin Larkin—AP
By Sports Illustrated
February 18, 2015

Michael Jordan turns 52 on Tuesday, which means it’s the perfect time to look back on some of our favorite stories about the greatest of all time.

In 1995, Jordan scored 55 in his first game at Madison Square Garden after his first retirement. It was only Jordan’s fifth game back from his 17-month sabbatical, and he unleashed on offensive fury on the defensive-minded Knicks. Jordan dazzled with his typical jump-shooting brilliance and assisted on the game-winning basket after commanding a double team in the final seconds.

SI‘s Alexander Wolff chronicled the affair, unearthing some classic M.J. anecdotes in the process.

For example, although Jordan had only been back in the league for 11 days by the night of his game in New York, his competitive streak was already in tip-top shape:

On Tuesday the 28th, at the Bulls’ game-day shootaround, the Garden is rank with the smell of elephants, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus having arrived five days earlier. But Jordan and a teammate, Ron Harper, are engaged in a game involving a different species: a version of H-O-R-S-E, half-court shots only.

“How much?” Harper asks, playing to Jordan’s wagering jones.

“Fifty,” says Jordan.

“I got you.”

Three times they match each other, miss for miss, before Jordan bottoms one out. Then Harper launches his try into the air, and, amazingly, it too swishes through the hoop.

But here is what makes Jordan Jordan: His next shot, another 43-footer, is perfect. Harper is literally at a loss.

“Hah!” says Jordan, adding a sort of amen to an omen.

And this is so ’90s:

Jordan is normally available to the press until the locker room closes 45 minutes before tip-off. He particularly likes to engage the New York writers, to consider their smarter-than-average questions. But tonight he hides out in the training room, playing solitaire on his portable computer.

Also, if you think Chicagoans are a little annoying about Jordan now, they were insane about him in 1995:

Thus the city must get all it can out of its single world-class celeb. Two nights after Jordan’s New York epic, SportsChannel Chicago will air 24 hours of highlights and documentary footage of, and interviews with, the man himself. And a Windy City radio station will poll its listeners on the pressing matter of whether Jordan should be named King of the Universe.

It’s a wonder that only 41% say yes.

Head over to the Vault and read all of Wolff’s observations about Jordan and the 55-point game. And you can go behind the scenes with Wolff and see how the story came about here.

This article first appeared on SI.com

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