In an ugly playoff win over the Heat in 1997, Michael Jordan scored 23 points but made just 4 of 15 shots from the field. JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

May 22 in sports history: In ugly playoff game, MJ was lousy

Here's a look back at notable sports news on May 22 through the years:


1997: Not every playoff performance by Michael Jordan included rainbows, magical moments and MJ enjoying a huge postgame victory cigar.

In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Miami, the Bulls won, 75-68 — the lowest-scoring playoff game in modern NBA history at the time. The 143 combined points were two fewer than the previous postseason low set by Syracuse and Fort Wayne in 1955 — the first year of the shot clock.

This game wasn't included in "The Last Dance" for a very good reason: It was uglier than 137 miles of bad road. Tim Hardaway led the Heat with 15 points. MJ was 4-of-15 from the floor — he actually missed 11 shots! Jordan and Scottie Pippen led the Bulls with 23 points apiece.

"It wasn't the Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals here Thursday," wrote Chicago Tribune columnist Sam Smith. "It was the humility — of both teams in what was officially the worst playoff game in NBA history."

"Even the Dolphins used to play higher-scoring games ..." wrote Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote.

BASKETBALL BRILLIANCE

1988: In a magnificent display of hoops skills, Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins and Boston's Larry Bird traded buckets in the fourth quarter of the Celtics' 118-116 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Wilkins finished with 47 points, 16 in the fourth quarter; Bird scored 34, 20 in the final 12 minutes.  "We were sitting on the bench," Boston's Reggie Lewis told the Boston Globe about the Wilkins-Bird duel, "and saying it was like The Shootout at the Old Corral." Hmmm, OK.

Said Wilkins: "It was the greatest two-man shootout I've ever been involved in."

1975: Behold the greatness of 7-foot-2 center Artis Gilmore, who in his playing days had one of the all-time great Afros.

In the deciding Game 5 of the American Basketball Association finals, the future Basketball Hall of Famer scored 28 points and grabbed — yikes! — 31 rebounds to lead the Kentucky Colonels to a 110-105 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

"I've never been in such fierce competition in my career," said Gilmore, who also had five assists and three blocks.

MANTLE'S MONSTER MASH

1963: Mickey Mantle hit several colossal home runs in his career, including a blast in Washington in 1953 that traveled an estimated 565 feet.

On this date, the Yankees outfielder hit another tape-measure blast, this one smashing into the facade of the 117-foot-high, right field stands at Yankee Stadium. The epic homer in the bottom of the 11th gave New York an 8-7 win over the A's. According to newspaper accounts, it was the closest any fair ball had come to being hit out of the legendary ballpark.

"The hardest ball I ever hit," the Mick told reporters of the letter-high fastball delivered by Bill Fischer.

"The hardest ball I ever saw hit," said Kansas City coach Jimmy Dykes, who had spent five decades in the big leagues.

'PRIME TIME' VS. 'THE COMMANDER'

1990: Perhaps it was just a generation gap thing.

In a game at Yankee Stadium, Chicago's 42-year-old catcher Carlton "The Commander" Fisk wasn't pleased when 22-year-old Yankees rookie outfielder and NFL star Deion Sanders started drawing with his bat in the dirt during an at-bat.

According to the New York Daily News, "Prime Time" was drawing dollar signs. "I've been doing it (drawing in the dirt) since I was a kid," Sanders said.

The two started jawing at each other and, this being baseball and all, the benches and bullpens for both teams emptied. But the home plate incident didn't spark a brawl.

After the game, Fisk didn't have much to say about the flare-up. "Go over and ask them what the story is," he screamed from the showers.

Naturally, Sanders did. Pressed by a reporter, he denied making a mean face at the veteran catcher.

"I can't make a nasty face, as good-looking as I look," Prime Time said, according to the Daily News.

Years later, Fisk confirmed Deion drew dollar signs in the dirt and didn't show respect for the game. "If you don't start playing the game right," he told former big leaguer Joe Morgan (above), "I'm going to kick your a** right here."

BASEBALL SHENANIGANS

2015: Ejected from the game against Atlanta the previous night for having a foreign substance on his pitching arm, Brewers reliever Will Smith was suspended for eight games. The illegal substances were rosin and sunscreen, commonly used by pitchers to get a better grip on the ball. Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez called the cheating "blatant," but the suspension was later reduced to six games.

BASEBALL NUGGETS

1957: In the sixth inning of an 11-0 win over Cleveland, the Red Sox's Gene Mauch, Ted Williams, Dick Gernert and Frank Malzone homered. The blasts were among the first 16 pitches by Cal McLish. "They got everything I know how to throw," the beleaguered pitcher told the Boston Globe afterward.

1990: In the Cubs' 2-1 win over the Reds, Chicago's hot-hitting Andre Dawson was intentionally walked five times — a big league record. "As a young player I would have been upset about being passed over that many times," he told reporters, "but as a veteran I understand you pitch around a hot hitter." Dawson was leading the league with 13 homers and 41 RBI.

2000: In the bottom of the ninth in the first game of a doubleheader against Houston, the Brewers scored seven runs to overcome a 9-2 deficit. Milwaukee won, 10-9, in the 10th on a homer by Jose Hernandez. The Brewers were so jacked after the win, manager Davey Lopes said, that "some guys were ready to play three [games]."

SHE'S GOT GAME

2003: At the Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, Annika Sorenstam became the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years. Vegas oddsmakers made 76 1/2 the over/under for her first-round score. Sorenstam, the object of attention of most of the gallery of 50,000, carded a 71.

"She was like a machine," her playing partner, Aaron Barber, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Said Sorenstam of her first round: "It was more than I ever could have expected." She missed the cut the next day by four shots.

Happy birthday ...

  • Novak Djokovic, No. 1 ranked men’s tennis player. Djokovic has won 17 Grand Slam singles titles, including eight Australian Opens and five Wimbledon championships. (33)
  • Patriots star receiver Julian Edelman. The former college quarterback who turned wide receiver in the pros has won three Super Bowls with the Patriots and was named the MVP of Super Bowl LIII. (34)
  • Marcus Dupree, standout college running back, who played professionally in the USFL and NFL before struggles with weight and injuries ended his career. (56)
  • Tommy John, former MLB pitcher who has an elbow surgery named for him. John played for 26 years and in 1974 became the first pitcher to undergo the famous “Tommy John” surgery to repair damaged ligaments in his throwing arm. After full recovery, he returned to the mound for another 14 years. (77)

R.I.P.: 

1990: Middleweight boxing champion Rocky Graziano, best known for his bouts with Tony Zale. Over his 11-year career, Graziano had 67 wins, including 52 knockouts. He was portrayed by Paul Newman in the movie “Somebody up There Likes Me” and after retiring from boxing had a successful career in entertainment as a talk show host and a commercial pitchman. He died of heart failure at the age of 71.

2015: Marques Haynes, member of the Harlem Globetrotters. Famous for his dazzling dribbling ability that amazed audiences around the world, Haynes became the first Globetrotter inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He was 89 when he died of natural causes.


May 21: A bloody good show by Ali

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