Pennebaker wrote:MICHAEL JORDAN IN 1988-89.(related: Michael Jordan’s assists in the 1991 Finals)
1988-89 is the year Jordan averaged 8 assists and 8 rebounds. It was also the year Jordan famously put up 7 consecutive triple doubles.
When you look at his season averages his 32.5/8.0/8.0 from 1988-89 stands out.
A legendary season (long used as an example of how Kobe doesn’t stack up to MJ, and also why Jordan and LeBron are more similar than you think).
But the full reason for why Jordan's 1988-89 season was so different than his others is rarely talked about beyond the fact that Collins moved Jordan to point guard.Jordan started stat padding in 1988-89 because he was trying to put up more triple doubles than Magic Johnson.
Some backgroud: In the previous two seasons Jordan averaged 37.1 points and 35.0 points and had acquired the ball-hog label and was criticized for having a selfish/losing approach, in contrast to Magic Johnson, who was a triple-double machine, usually the league leader in triple-doubles, and the dictionary definition of a winner.
So Jordan was playing point and getting assists and he started to get a few triple doubles. He realized that he could get a lot more triple doubles and perhaps even more than Magic Johnson.Jordan started going over to the official scorer during games to see how many more assists and rebounds he needed to get another triple double.This only stopped after the league got wind and ordered official scorers to refrain from giving out stats during the game.
Jordan started keeping track in his head.
In the end, Jordan lost the triple double battle with Johnson - 17 to 15.
But Jordan wasn’t done with trying to out-Magic Magic.
Enter the 1991 NBA Finals.
Ever wonder why Jordan put up so many assists in the 1991 Finals?
It was because the dude on the other side was Magic Johnson.
Blatant examples of stat padding by Jordan tied to a rivalry with Magic.