Xavier McDaniel on 1992 Clash with MJ: He Was Already on Fire, I Didn't Poke the Bear

Exploring a pivotal clash in NBA playoff history.

by Nouman Rasool
Xavier McDaniel on 1992 Clash with MJ: He Was Already on Fire, I Didn't Poke the Bear
© Rick Stewart/Getty Images

In the heat of the 1992 Eastern Conference semifinals, the Chicago Bulls were pushed to the brink by the New York Knicks, setting the stage for a Game 7 that would etch itself in NBA lore. Michael Jordan, a player synonymous with unparalleled greatness, ensured the Bulls’ journey toward another championship ring continued with a performance that can only be described as transcendent.

Amid the high stakes of this playoff series, an incident involving Jordan and former Knicks forward Xavier McDaniel became a focal point. Speculation swirled that McDaniel’s confrontation with Jordan had sparked the latter's exceptional play.

Yet, McDaniel himself refuted such claims, insisting he hadn’t provoked Jordan, who was already demonstrating his legendary prowess in that decisive game. “His Airness” was not merely playing; he was dominating, seemingly untouched by the pressures that had built up to this climax.

McDaniel, known as "X-Man," contended that even prior to their altercation, Jordan was in the midst of a remarkable performance, a sentiment echoed by those who witnessed his scoring onslaught.

McDaniel's Playoff Ascendancy

The 1992 series spotlighted not just the competitive ferocity between Jordan and McDaniel but also underscored McDaniel’s significant role with the Knicks.

Despite a less than stellar regular season by his standards, McDaniel rose to the occasion in the playoffs. As the series’ second-leading scorer, he demonstrated an impressive efficiency from the field, overshadowing even Patrick Ewing’s contributions and playing a crucial defensive role aimed at isolating Jordan.

The tension reached a boiling point in Game 7, with an on-court exchange between McDaniel and Scottie Pippen capturing the intensity of the rivalry. Jordan’s intervention, marked by a heated exchange with McDaniel, was seen by some as a turning point that fueled his drive.

Yet, by then, Jordan had already scored 16 points, on his way to a game-high 42, leading the Bulls to a commanding 110-81 victory and a spot in the Conference Finals. The aftermath of the series saw McDaniel, whose performance had been a bright spot for the Knicks, facing uncertainty.

Despite proving his worth, a lackluster contract offer from the Knicks led him to sign with the Boston Celtics, leaving a void the Knicks would deeply feel in the following year's Eastern Conference Finals against the Bulls.

Jordan and Pippen’s dominance continued unabated, with the duo decimating the Knicks’ defense, highlighting the absence of McDaniel’s defensive prowess. This pivotal moment in NBA history not only showcased Jordan’s indomitable spirit but also the strategic missteps and the high-stakes drama that define playoff basketball.

As the Bulls marched on, the legacy of this Game 7 encounter remained a testament to the intensity and the unforgettable narratives that the NBA playoffs consistently deliver.