Michael Jordan's Rare Awful Performance Is Still The Worst In NBA History

The Magic Johnson and Larry Bird rivalry might have helped bring new life to a then-struggling NBA, but they weren't the only players who transformed the league's image and took it to hitherto unheard-of popularity in the 1980s and beyond. As the respective on-court leaders of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, Johnson and Bird were consummate team players. But when it came to individual greatness, Michael Jordan was head and shoulders above everyone else in the NBA, even when he was lighting up defenses to the tune of more than 28 points per game as a Chicago Bulls rookie. That said, MJ was also someone who could make his teammates better, and that was evident when the Bulls went on to win six championships (via two separate three-peats) in the 1990s.

Of course, not even a player thought of by many to be the greatest of all time can be considered perfect. Even Air Jordan had some chinks in his proverbial armor, and while he has a plethora of NBA records to his name and was unmatched on both ends of the floor for huge chunks of his career, he did have a few off-nights back in the day. Furthermore, he also had at least one notable weakness in his skillset. Granted, it wouldn't have been a weakness for most other players, but it did manifest in one of those rare off-nights, and the all-time worst performance in the history of a certain NBA event.

Jordan has the worst performance in NBA three-point contest history

Get your Crying Jordan memes ready ... Michael Jordan's status as an all-time worst performer didn't take place in any kind of in-game setting, whether in the regular season or the playoffs. Instead, it happened in 1990 at the NBA's annual three-point contest during All-Star Weekend, where he still holds the record for lowest shooting percentage at 5-for-30 (16.67%).

Prior to recent tweaks that allowed players to score more than just 30 points at the end of each round (while giving them more time to do so), the classic rules of the contest stated that players have 60 seconds to shoot five three-point attempts each from five different spots on the floor. That's good for a maximum of 25 attempts each, with the fifth attempt per spot, the "money ball," counting as two points instead of one if converted. With that in mind, it may be hard to fathom for some fans how MJ, who shot a well-above-average 37.6% from beyond the arc in the 1989-90 season, could only score five points out of a maximum of 30.

Looking at Jordan's statistics, the 1989-90 campaign marked the first time he had shot better than 30% from three-point range, and that season was followed up by a pair of campaigns where he converted on 31.2% and 27% of his three-point attempts. And while it's fair to say those numbers would have likely been better had he played in today's three-point-heavy era. the fact is that he never attempted more than 3.6 treys per game throughout his career — the man was no Reggie Miller or Dale Ellis as a star player from the era whose three-point shooting was his calling card. 

Jordan once explained why he doesn't want to excel from beyond the arc

While the NBA's three-point contest is part of a broader event meant to entertain fans more so than anything else, we did establish that Michael Jordan's in-game performance as a three-point shooter was mostly nothing to write home about — he wasn't bad, but he wasn't a designated long bomber either. And that's exactly how he wanted things to be. 

In a 1992 interview, Jordan explained why he didn't work on improving his three-point shooting in the same way he worked on getting better at other facets of his otherwise well-rounded game. "My three-point shooting is something that I don't want to excel at because it takes away from all phases of my game," he said. "My game is [to] fake, drive to the hole, penetrate, dish-off, dunk. When you have that mentality ... of making threes, you don't go to the hole as much. You go to the three-point line and start sitting there, waiting for someone to find you. That's not my mentality, and I don't want to create it because it takes away from the other parts of my game."

In 15 NBA seasons, Jordan had a career three-point-shooting percentage of 32.7%. And unlike many other players who took more three-point attempts as the shot became more commonly used, MJ was the opposite, attempting less than one trey per game during his final two seasons with the Washington Wizards.

MJ wasn't the only great player to flop at the three-point contest

Michael Jordan isn't alone as an NBA superstar who turned in an abysmal performance at the All-Star Weekend's three-point shootout. According to HoopsHype's list of all-time worst career percentages at the contest, Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler scored just eight points for a 26.7% clip during the 1991 edition, just one year after Jordan went on his brick-laying spree. That has him tied for fourth-worst with Jordan's former North Carolina teammate Sam Perkins (1997), as well as Steve Smith (2002) — neither of those players were superstars, but they both had long and successful NBA careers of their own.

The seventh-place spot in HoopsHype's list is shared by two multiple-time All-Stars who were both active during the 2021-22 season. Paul George (2013 and 2018) and Joe Johnson (2005 and 2014) both converted a cumulative 19 out of 64 attempts in the two contests they participated in, giving them a clip of 29.7%. And going back to one-time participants, 2001 NBA MVP Allen Iverson currently sits tied at 14th-worst in three-point contest history, with his 10-for-30 effort in 2000 only good for 33.3%. Looks like somebody might have needed some practice going into the contest. Yeah, we're talking about practice. Not a game. We're talking about practice!