A history of Michael Jordan in video games

Michael Jordan

Emma Clark

Michael Jordan is a name that's synonymous with basketball. Here's his history with video games, which is as extensive as his professional career.

Michael Jordan, a legend of the sport of basketball, and less so of baseball, turns 53 today. He has quite the history with video games, but there were some good, some bad, and some ugly along the way. Here's a rundown of his career in video games; we've certainly come a long way.

Jordan vs. Bird: One on One (1988)

Michael Jordan's first appearance in a video game saw him as one of the stars. The Celtics' Larry Bird featured in the 3-point-shootout mode, while Jordan dominated in the slam dunk contest.

NBA Playoffs Series (1989-92)

At long last, players could take control of a full team. There was a trio of NBA Playoffs games released (Bulls vs Blazers, Bulls vs Lakers, and Lakers vs Celtics) in three years with Jordan on the roster for the Bulls in each one.

NBA All-Star Challenge (1992)

NBA All-Star Challenge pitted two players against one another. If you selected the Chicago Bulls, that player was, of course, Michael Jordan.

Team USA Basketball (1992)

The Olympics are a funny one in that you pretty much know, especially in the 90s, that the US would take home the basketball gold. In 1992, the team featured names like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. So, the moral is, pick USA and rack up points effortlessly. It's just as well that their roster is so good though; try picking out an individual player above that you want to pass the ball to in a clutch situation.

Michael Jordan in Flight (1993)

Michael Jordan dropped out of NBA games in the 90s because he owned all the rights to his own name, as he opted out of the Player's Association, and priced himself out. Michael Jordan in Flight was endorsed by the man himself and saw players play three-a-side basketball matches in space. Again, once you had Jordan, you were set.

NBA Showdown (1993)

NBA Showdown did splash the cash on Jordan; it was essentially a follow-up to the Bulls vs Blazers game and featured fully licensed rosters. It was the last entry in the NBA Playoffs series of games before it was re-branded as NBA Live.

Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City (1994)

Unlike his previous solo outing, Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City featured very little basketball. It was a side-scrolling action game in which Jordan had to save kidnapped players in time for an All-Star charity game. And he did so by throwing basketballs at enemies.

NBA Jam (1994)

Around the time of Chaos in the Windy City, Midway's NBA Jam was boom-shaka-lacking its way around arcades. If you picked the Bulls you were, eh, treated to a duo of Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant.

But it turns out that there are a handful of machines out there somewhere with Gary Payton (who creator Mark Turmell wanted in the game initially) and Jordan. According to ESPN, Payton desperately wanted to be in the game and Midway got him to send in photos of himself and Jordan. He did so and the two teamed up in-game with superstar stats.

Space Jam (1996)

Space Jam should have been...a slam dunk; a basketball game based on a Looney Tunes movie, featuring its cast and Michael Jordan. But the end result was ultimately as good as video game tie-ins are known to be.

NBA Live 96

This is a bit of a cheeky inclusion. Michael Jordan wasn't officially in the game, but if you entered the code, JORDAN, he'd appear. The Player's Association clamped down on this practice later, so EA included generic players in later games. Once the Create-A-Player feature was implemented, players could make their very own MJ.

NBA Live 2000

Michael Jordan reappeared in NBA Live 2000 in the one-on-one mode as a boss character who then became playable when you beat him. He was then featured on the Wizards team through 2003, and appeared on the 90s all-decade team in NBA Live 2004.

NBA Street (2001)

Once again, Jordan got the tribute he so richly deserved in NBA Street. He was a part of the final boss battle alongside Stephon Marbury, and Rafer Alston. They were big names at the time, believe us!

NBA Street Vol. 2 (2003)

NBA Street Vol. 2 featured not one, not two, but three versions of Michael Jordan. There was 1986's rookie Jordan, the immensely more successful 1996 Jordan, and the Wizards' Jordan. And all three could play on the same team!

NBA 2K11 - NBA 2K16 (2011-2016)

Once people had expected to no longer be able to use Jordan in a video game, 2K Games went all out, putting him on the cover and replicating his appearance and characteristics like no other had done before. Jordan was featured on the cover of 2K11 and 2K12, and reappeared once more this year on the Special Edition's cover. The very top image is from 2K16, showing that Jordan has evolved significantly from the good old days when characters were made up of blocky pixels. Now you can see the sweat dripping down his shiny head. Amazing!