Challenging Michael Jordan to a basketball duel is the equivalent of committing kamikaze. But Gerald Wilkins ignored all the warnings from the world, and paid the price in 1993.
The idea of the existence of a Jordan stopper must have sounded absurd to any basketball fan in the 1990s. There may have been players like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson who had more accolades than him as a youngster.
But Michael Jordan dominated the league over and over on an individual level before ever tasting team success. And once he found that in the form of the 1991 NBA title, there simply was no stopping the Chicago Bulls.
They defended their championship with a 6-game Finals win over Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers in ’92. The Cleveland Cavaliers, meanwhile, had floundered in the playoffs – often knocked out by Jordan’s own play for Chicago.
Their rivalry was an underrated one – mainly because Jordan had gotten the better of the Cavs in all of their previous playoff meetings. But that did not deter Gerald Wilkins from boldly throwing the gauntlet down to MJ.
Dominique warned Gerald Wilkins not to trash talk Michael Jordan
Dominique Wilkins was on the Dan Patrick Show during this year’s playoffs. He talked about the whole Jordan stopper incident, about Wilkins saying he could stop MJ ahead of the Bulls’ second round series against the Cavs in 1993.
Gerald had his own reasons to be confident. As a defensive specialist for the Knicks, he’d played a 7-game series against the then-3-time MVP. In his mind, he had the Jordan puzzle figured out. But Dominique got on his case ahead of the matchup and warned him:
“You know what, I called my brother when he said that. And I said ‘What are you doing? You don’t wanna wake a sleeping giant, are you crazy?’ And then he said ‘Hey, he puts on his pants like I do.'”
“I said ‘Gerald, if you’re a good defensive player, you don’t have to talk about it, man. You don’t want to get him riled up.’ I think he averaged like 40 in that series.”
Jordan made a statement with a dominant Game 1 performance, in which he dropped 43 on Gerald Wilkins and the Cavs. He didn’t have to exert himself as much in the games that followed as Chicago secured a 4-1 sweep.