Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan says food poisoning and not the flu was responsible for him being sick for Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz.

Episode nine of 'The Last Dance' - ESPN's 10-part docuseries on the Bulls team that won the 1997-98 NBA championship to complete a second three-peat in eight years - featured a section on what came to be known as the 'flu game'.

It has been widely believed Jordan had been suffering from flu-like symptoms ahead of the clash in Salt Lake City, but the five-time MVP has provided a different version of events.

"The day before Game 5 in Utah, I'm at the Marriott. It was George [Kohler, personal assistant], myself, Tim [Grover, personal trainer], and I think a couple of security guards. But it's like 10, 10:30 at night, I'm hungry," Jordan explained.

Grover and Koehler managed to find a pizza place that was open and placed an order but were surprised to see five people deliver it.

Jordan continued: "I eat the pizza all by myself, nobody else eats it. I wake up about 2:30, throwing up left and right.

"So really it wasn't the flu game, it was food poisoning."

He added: "I stayed in bed all day, couldn't eat anything, couldn't hold nothing down.

"Phil [Jackson, Bulls coach] comes in and says, 'What do you think?' And I say, 'Look, I'm gonna try, it's Game 5, if anything I can be a decoy.' So I'm going out and I'm gonna play."

Despite suffering from sickness, news of which emerged in the media before tip-off, Jordan scored 38 points to lead the Bulls to a 90-88 victory and a 3-2 series lead.

Jordan also had seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block in a display that remains one of the most iconic in the history of the league.

The 1997-98 Chicago Bulls could win championships "in any era" and would stack up well against today's Los Angeles Lakers or Milwaukee Bucks, Rusty LaRue has said.

ESPN's 'The Last Dance' - a 10-part docuseries on the Bulls team that won a sixth championship in eight years in 1998 – has now concluded after reporting huge ratings across the past five weeks.

Throughout most of the 1990s, no team could stop Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman as the Bulls became one of the most dominant outfits in sport.

The NBA has changed significantly, though, with three-point specialist Stephen Curry spearheading the Golden State Warriors' run to the previous five NBA Finals.

However, LaRue, a rookie point guard with the 1997-98 Bulls, is adamant the Chicago team he was on would be able to mix it up with Curry, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"I certainly think that team is going to be competing for the championship, probably win it," LaRue told Stats Perform.

"The one thing that you can't forget is the Bulls were a little ahead of their time.

"While they weren't necessarily the three-point barrage teams of today, the multi-position guys were basically big guards who could play all over the court - that was their roster.

"You had Steve Kerr who was a normal-sized guard but Jordan's 6ft 6ins, Pippen's 6ft 8ins, [Toni] Kukoc's 6ft 10ins, Ron Harper was 6ft 6ins.

"Those guys could guard multiple positions, play multiple positions. I think that lends itself well to today's game where you go out and you have multi-faceted people.

"Pippen could guard about any position on the court, so could Dennis Rodman, Jordan pretty much could, so I certainly think that team would be at the top of the echelon and probably be winning consistent championships in any era."

The Lakers are the only team to have three-peated since the Bulls, with former Chicago coach Phil Jackson leading them to a trio of championships between 2000 and 2002.

Golden State's bid for three Larry O'Brien Trophies in a row was dashed by the Toronto Raptors last year.

However, the 2015-16 Warriors team broke the 1995-96 Bulls' record for most regular-season victories when they went 73-9.

A pair of signed sneakers worn by the legendary Michael Jordan during his stellar career were sold for a record $560,000 at auction on Sunday.

Jordan's Nike footwear were estimated to fetch a quarter of what they went for, Sotheby's revealed.

The Air Jordan 1s were designed for the Chicago Bulls great in 1985 before he went on to be named NBA MVP five times.

A pair of 1972 Nike running shoes known as the 'Moon Shoe' previously held the record for sneakers sold by Sotheby's last year, with $437,500 forked out on that occasion.

Jordan has been in the headlines recently with the huge success of documentary 'The Last Dance.'

Sotheby's director of eCommerce development Brahm Wachter said: "We saw tremendous bidding up until the moment the sale closed, with the value more than doubling in the final hour alone.

"That coupled with strong international bidding from six countries on four continents shows not only the incredible appeal of Michael Jordan... but also that sneaker collecting is truly a global and growing market."

It is 35 years since Michael Jordan was named NBA Rookie of the Year and England claimed an elusive first major one-day trophy on this day a decade ago.

Jordan has been in the headlines with "The Last Dance" documentary going down a storm 35 years after he was named best rookie in the league.

May 16 was also a day England cricket lovers can reflect on with great memories, having beaten fierce rivals Australia to win the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 final in Bridgetown, Barbados.

It has also been a day of great significance for former Italy striker Roberto Baggio.

 

1985 - A sign of things to come from magnificent Jordan 

Making the step up to the NBA was no problem for Jordan, who lit the league up in his rookie season.

He finished third in the scoring charts and fourth with his tally of steals, steering the Chicago Bulls into the playoffs for the first time in four years.

In the first 35 games of his NBA career Jordan scored a total of 918 points; Elvin Hayes is the only rookie since 1963-64 with more (1,052).

Jordan averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.39 steals in his debut season, so there was really only going to be one man landing the gong. 

 

2004 - Please don't go, Baggio 

It was on this day 16 years ago that the classy Baggio played the last match of his magnificent career.

The majestic playmaker was unable to celebrate a fitting winning finale, his Brescia side losing 4-2 at Milan.

A packed San Siro gave the ex-Italy maestro an emotional send-off, though, rising to give Baggio a standing ovation when he was substituted late on.

Both sets of players also stopped to applaud the 37-year-old, who had been among the best players in the world when in his prime.

 

2010 - England conquer in the Caribbean

It was England's day at the Kensington Oval, where they won the third edition of the men's T20 World Cup by seven wickets.

Australia posted 147-6 after Paul Collingwood put them in, Ryan Sidebottom taking 2-26 and David Hussey top scoring with 59.

England cruised to victory following a blistering second-wicket stand of 111 between Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen. 

Kieswetter was named man of the match after smashing 63 from 49 balls, with Pietersen's swashbuckling 47 coming off just 31 deliveries before Collingwood and Eoin Morgan put Australia out of their misery.

Count Zlatan Ibrahimovic among those who approve of Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan's confrontational leadership style.

ESPN's docuseries 'The Last Dance', which looks at the 1997-98 Bulls team that three-peated, shone a spotlight on Jordan's treatment of team-mates in one of the recent episodes.

He revealed how he came to blows with current Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr during practice and used tough love to try and coax the best out of Scott Burrell.

"Winning has a price and leadership has a price," a choked-up Jordan said at the end of episode seven.

"I pulled people along when they didn't want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn't want to be challenged.

"I earned that right because my team-mates came after me. They didn't endure all the things that I endured.

"Once you join the team you live at a certain standard that I play the game, and I wasn't going to take anything less."

That struck a chord with brash striker Ibrahimovic.

"Nice to see The Last Dance," he wrote on Twitter.

"Now you see how it is to play with a winner. Either you like it or not. If not then don't play the game."

Ibrahimovic is currently at Milan and has received praise from head coach Stefano Pioli, who likened his work ethic to that of 20-time grand slam winner Roger Federer.

However, the Swede has also been known to clash with former coaches and team-mates.

During his time in MLS with LA Galaxy, Joao Pedro said Ibrahimovic threatened to "kill" players following a loss to Houston Dynamo.

Sebastian Lletget also said it was "super frustrating" playing with Ibrahimovic at the Galaxy.

Michael Jordan only tolerated competitive players and his team-mates needed "thick skin" to survive in Chicago, according to former Bulls guard Rusty LaRue.

The seventh episode of ESPN's docuseries 'The Last Dance' – a look at the 1997-98 Bulls team that three-peated – detailed Jordan's attitude towards other players and the notion he could not be a nice guy in practice because he was demanding.

"Winning has a price and leadership has a price," a choked-up Jordan said.

"I pulled people along when they didn't want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn't want to be challenged.

"I earned that right because my team-mates came after me. They didn't endure all the things that I endured.

"Once you join the team you live at a certain standard that I play the game, and I wasn't going to take anything less."

LaRue was an NBA rookie that season with the Bulls, joining a Chicago team where the status quo had already been established with five championships in the previous seven seasons.

The former point guard revealed it was Jordan, arguably the greatest player of all time, who set the tone and he had no issues with his leadership style.

"By the time I had gotten with the team it was 'The Last Dance'," LaRue told Stats Perform.

"Everyone there had kind of been through the trials and understood the deal and knew what to expect.

"Obviously Mike's a competitive guy. I think everyone knew where they stood with him.

"You didn't make it with the Bulls organisation or that team with him if you weren't a competitive guy.

"All the guys that were there had kind of passed the test – for lack of a better term – and were in it for the right reasons and a piece of that team for different reasons.

"Michael, if he didn't think you were on board or weren't competitive, he certainly would ride you and you had to have thick skin.

"It didn't really bother me, I had high expectations for myself and I think any time you play with a competitor, they want you to compete.

"You're competing against them every day and you compete on a daily basis and you won't have any problems."

LaRue, who played college basketball alongside Tim Duncan at Wake Forest, was a role player with Phil Jackson's team that season and believes not being overawed by Jordan helped him make the Bulls roster.

"You know he's one of the greatest players – if not the greatest player – to ever play," LaRue added of Jordan.

"I think for me that was part of what helped me make the team, that I wasn't intimidated. I'm pretty confident in my abilities and I just kind of come and be who I am.

"I've always been a believer in you go in and compete to the best of your ability and let the chips fall where they may, that's what I did in that situation."

When he was a child, Russell Westbrook passed up the chance to meet Michael Jordan because he was too busy playing basketball.

Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls, with whom he won six NBA championships, are back in public focus due to the new 10-part documentary 'The Last Dance'.

Houston Rockets guard Westbrook attended one of Jordan's basketball camps in his formative years and detailed how he snubbed the five-time NBA MVP.

"The first time I had an opportunity to meet Michael Jordan… I probably was about 10 or 11. I went to a Michael Jordan camp. My parents sent me to his camp in Santa Barbara," Westbrook told NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

"At the end of the camp, usually every kid on every team brings something for Michael Jordan to sign. You need to stand in line and be ready to go.

"When my team was up to get a basketball signed — my parents gave me a basketball to get signed — I don't know why, I don't know what I was thinking, but when it was my team and my time to go, I was in the middle of a game. I was playing pickup with other kids.

"My coach was like, 'Come on, come on, come on. You're going to miss the opportunity to get a picture with Michael Jordan and an autograph with him.' Myself, I said, 'Don't worry, I'm okay, I don't need it right now.'

"So I didn't get a picture with Michael Jordan, didn't get an autograph. I literally didn't get in line. I just kept playing basketball, kept hooping.

"When camp was over and I got home, my mum and dad were like, 'Did you get the ball signed?' I literally was like, 'No, I was playing a pickup game.' At the time, it didn't click to me."

Westbrook's decision seemingly did not have any impact on their relationship as the Rockets star signed with the Jordan brand in 2013.

Arsene Wenger began his long goodbye at Arsenal on this day in 2018, while April 20 is a day fondly remembered by Chicago Bulls icon Michael Jordan and racing driver Danica Patrick.

The end of a near 22-year love affair, which admittedly soured a little by the end, was announced by Wenger who revealed the 2017-18 season would be his last with the Gunners.

NBA great Jordan posted an astounding new playoff benchmark, while Patrick earned her own place in history.

Here's a reflective look at April 20 of yesteryears.

 

2018 – This is Gunner be tough. Wenger prepares for Arsenal goodbye

The news that Wenger was to leave Arsenal after almost 22 years had a certain inevitability about it.

'Le Professeur' oversaw one of the most successful periods in the club's history, winning three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups – including the double in 1998 and 2002, while he was the man in charge of Arsenal's 'Invincibles', who produced an unbeaten top-flight campaign in 2003-04.

But there was an increasingly growing "Wenger Out" brigade and, with Arsenal set to miss out on Champions League football, there was little surprise when he announced 2017-18 would be his last in charge.

"I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years. I managed the club with full commitment and integrity. To all the Arsenal lovers, take care of the values of the club," Wenger said.

2008 – Patrick makes history in Japan

Three years previously, Patrick had made history by becoming the first female to ever lead the historic Indy500 race.

And on April 20, 2008, she etched her name further into the record books by winning the Indy Japan 300 in Montegi, Japan.

It was the first time a female driver had won a race in the IndyCar series.

Patrick was 5.8 seconds clear of pole-sitter Helio Castroneves, with leader Scott Dixon having pitted with five laps to go and Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan doing likewise a lap later.

"It's a long time coming. Finally. It was a fuel-strategy race, but my team called it perfectly for me. I knew I was on the same strategy as Helio and when I passed him for the lead, I couldn't believe it. This is fabulous," said Patrick.

1986 – Jordan's playoff heroics the best ever game?

The history books show a double-overtime 135-131 defeat for the Chicago Bulls and a 3-0 first-round defeat to the Boston Celtics.

But in one of the NBA's greatest arenas – the Boston Garden – Jordan, regarded by many as the greatest of all time, put on the performance of a lifetime.

Jordan scored 63 points – a record in a playoff game – to take it to the champions, and saw Larry Bird utter the famous "God disguised as Michael Jordan" assessment.

The Celtics went on to win the Championship that year, but Jordan would become a six-time NBA champion, winning the Finals MVP in each of those successful series with the Bulls.

Scotland rugby union fans have been starved of success in recent times but March 27 is a date when they can always raise a glass to a moment of history.

Way back in 1871, Scotland beat neighbours England in the first ever international in Edinburgh.

It was also a memorable day in the NBA, with a record crowd in attendance as Michael Jordan starred at Georgia Dome in 1998.

Here, we take a look back at the some of the most notable sporting moments that occurred on this date down the years.

1871 - Buchanan and Scotland make history

A crowd of 4,000 flocked to Raeburn Place in Edinburgh to watch history be made.

It was the hosts who came out on top, scoring two tries and a goal to England's solitary try – with Scotland's Angus Buchanan the first man to touch down over the whitewash at international level.

There were two halves of 50 minutes apiece, with 20 players on each side and the contest decided by goals scored.

1998 – Bulls clip the Hawks' wings in front of record crowd 

Twenty-two years ago, 62,046 spectators watched on at the Georgia Dome as the Atlanta Hawks took on the Chicago Bulls.

It remains the largest crowd at any game in NBA history, having surpassed the record of 61,983 set at Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics in 1988.

Inspired by NBA icon Jordan, the Bulls downed their hosts 89-74.

2007 – Video replays introduced to help NFL officials

On March 27, 2007, NFL owners voted to utilise video replays as a tool to assist officials – the vote passed with 30 owners in favour of the move.

Cincinnati Bengals and the Arizona Cardinals did not agree to the use of replays, with each team paying up to $300,000 to have the necessary equipment fitted at their stadiums.

"It's a long time coming," said then-Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay. "It made sense to us this year to do it. Instant replay is an accepted part of the game. It's what we are. There was not really much discussion about it."

In the same meeting, a proposal to allow a second interviewing window for assistant coaches on Super Bowl teams was approved, though it was decided defenses would not be allowed to use a coach-to-player communication device.

It is 48 years to the day since the Los Angeles Lakers set a new NBA benchmark with 69 regular-season wins.

Bill Sharman's Lakers routed the Seattle Supersonics to end the year with a 69-13 record and the best win percentage (.841) posted by a team.

The stunning Los Angeles season bettered the Philadelphia 76ers' mark from five years earlier, although the Chicago Bulls and then the Golden State Warriors have since set the standard.

The Warriors' record will stand for at least another year, too, with the 53-12 Milwaukee Bucks faltering following Giannis Antetokounmpo's injury.

With the campaign now paused amid the coronavirus pandemic, we take a look at the teams and seasons that led the way.
 

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: 1966-67 - 68-13 (.840)

Since the Washington Capitols ended the first 60-game NBA season with a 49-11 record in 1946-47, no team had been able to post a regular-season win percentage of .800 or above - until the Sixers.

Philadelphia dominated from start to finish in 1966-67, led by MVP Wilt Chamberlain. The campaign was the first and only to include 81 games, adding another to make the existing 82-game schedule the following year, and the Sixers finished eight games clear of a strong Boston Celtics outfit in the East.

Chamberlain was the only Philly player to make the All-NBA First Team, but the Sixers' depth made them one of the greats, and they ended the year as champions with an NBA Finals success against the San Francisco Warriors.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS: 1971-72 - 69-13 (.841)

With an extra game to play with, it did not take the Lakers too long to edge past the Sixers. And Chamberlain was again the star.

After leaving the Sixers in 1968, Chamberlain was outstanding once again in his penultimate season in the league, while Jerry West - whose silhouette graced a new NBA logo that remains to this day - also impressed.

Chamberlain refused to compare LA to his Philadelphia team after breaking the record, but they ultimately matched the Sixers by claiming the championship, with the veteran the Finals MVP against the New York Knicks.

CHICAGO BULLS: 1995-96 - 72-10 (.878)

It took 24 years and arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport to break the Lakers' record. Michael Jordan lifted the Bulls to the first ever 70-win season in 1995-96.

Playing his first full season back following his initial retirement, there was still no stopping Jordan as he kickstarted the Bulls' second run of three straight championships.

The guard was the MVP, the league's leading scorer and then the Finals MVP, while Chicago finished 12 games clear of the Orlando Magic.

They only lost three more games in the playoffs, too, sweeping the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals before beating the Seattle Supersonics to take the title.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: 2015-16 - 73-9 (.890)

Only two teams have ever broken the 70-win barrier, but the second, the Warriors, remarkably could not follow up their regular-season success with the title.

Golden State won three championships over a four-year stretch but could not get the job done against LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals in 2016.

The Warriors' stunning regular-season efforts overshadowed an impressive 67-win San Antonio Spurs campaign, with Stephen Curry the MVP and top scorer, but the NBA's outstanding team went down to the Cavs in Game Seven.

Live sport is proving difficult to come by amid the coronavirus pandemic, so we looked back through sporting history to identify major events or news to occur on this day.

March 19 certainly wasn't short of options, though we managed to nail it down to five occasions that were particularly notable.

They include the indictment of one former baseball player and another returning to the basketball court where he made his name.

Below, take yourself on a trip down memory lane… Or just get a little sporting education.

 

1978 – Nicklaus wins his third Players Championship

Jack Nicklaus enjoyed many a famous victory during his sparkling golfing career, but his win at the 1978 Players Championship was a peculiar one. In demanding weather conditions, with wind wreaking havoc, Nicklaus won his third Players title, beating Lou Graham by a single shot. No one finished the tournament below par, with Nicklaus' one-over 289 incredibly enough to secure him the title.

1984 – Former MLB pitcher McLain indicted

Regarded as a great during his time as a professional pitcher in baseball, Denny McLain's life away from the sport was rather more chaotic. Having gone off the rails after his career ran its course, McLain was charged with racketeering and narcotics violations on March 19, 1984, before being sentenced to 23 years in prison. He served two-and-a-half years, before an appeals court threw out the verdict and set McLain free. He went back to prison in 1996 on charges of embezzlement, money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy.

1991 – Phoenix stripped of 1993 Super Bowl

The 1993 Super Bowl was due to be held in Phoenix, Arizona. However, the state's lack of recognition for Martin Luther King Jr. Day saw them stripped of the event. President Ronald Reagan had declared Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday eight years earlier and, at the time, Arizona adhered to the legislature. It wasn't until 1987 when Republican governor Evan Mecham took office that the MLK celebration was cancelled. The holiday returned to Arizona in 1993 following a vote the year before.

1995 – Michael Jordan returns

After 17 months away from basketball, during which time he had a spell in baseball, Michael Jordan was back on this day in 1995. Twenty-four hours after Jordan had announced "I'm back", he was playing once again for his beloved Chicago Bulls, scoring 19 points in an overtime 103-96 defeat to the Indiana Pacers.

2019 – Harden makes NBA history

Just last year, Houston Rockets guard James Harden made history when he became the first NBA player to score at least 30 points against every opponent in the league. He accomplished the feat with a haul of 31 in a win over the Atlanta Hawks. Just the game before, Harden had seen his 32-game streak of scoring 30 points or more end – that remains the second-longest such run in NBA history.

Michael Jordan stunned the world with two simple words 25 years ago.

In an era before innovative social media announcements were the norm, Jordan released a statement through his management company "in response to questions about his future career plans" on March 18, 1995.

His response of "I'm back" signalled the return to basketball of one of the all-time greats.

Here, to mark the anniversary of that press release being issued, we look at Jordan and other greats who performed retirement U-turns.

 

MICHAEL JORDAN

Whether you are an ardent NBA fan or have simply seen Space Jam, you know the story. Chicago Bulls star Jordan retired in 1993 after his team three-peated and shortly after his father's death, stating that "the desire is just not there any more".

For the next year, Jordan turned to baseball as a minor league player as he pursued a dream his father had of his son making it in the MLB. Then, amid rumours he was heading back to the NBA, came that Jordan utterance: "I'm back". 

The Bulls, led by perhaps the greatest ever, would win three successive championships again between 1996 and 1998 at which point Jordan retired once more. He then came back for a two-year stint with the Washington Wizards before finally calling it a day once and for all in 2003.

 

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER

Seven-time Formula One champion Schumacher was 37 when he announced the 2006 season - when he was pipped to the title by Fernando Alonso - would be his last.

However, he remained around F1 as an advisor for Ferrari and returned for Mercedes to race in 2010 saying: "I have the energy back."

He would appear on the podium just once across three seasons, though, and he retired again in 2012, a year before he suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident.

 

KIM CLIJSTERS

A former world number one and the 2005 US Open champion, Clijsters retired at the age of 23 due to a series of punishing injuries.

Clijsters got married and gave birth in her time away from sport, and then after appearing in an exhibition match held at Wimbledon in 2009, the Belgian returned to the WTA Tour. In just her third tournament back, Clijsters won the US Open, becoming the first unseeded woman to win the tournament in the Open era and the first mother to win a grand slam since 1980.

She triumphed at Flushing Meadows again in 2010 and won the Australian Open in 2011, recently returning to tennis for a third time after a seven-year hiatus.

LANCE ARMSTRONG

American Armstrong retired as a seven-time Tour de France champion in 2005. But the story, of course, didn't end there.

Dogged by doping allegations during his career, Armstrong faced questions again when he returned, aged 37, in 2009 and finished third in that year's Tour.

Armstrong retired once more in 2011 while he was the subject of a federal investigation into doping allegations. Another probe from the United States Anti-Doping Agency led to charges which resulted in Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour titles in 2012, with the cyclist publicly coming clean on his doping the following year.

 

GEORGE FOREMAN

There was a full decade between Foreman's 47th and 48th fights.

He lost on points to Jimmy Young in 1977, falling ill in the dressing room after the bout and suffering what he said was a near-death experience, leading him to find God.

A born-again Christian, Foreman returned at 38. Despite defeats to Evander Holyfield and Tommy Morrison in title bouts, Foreman would become heavyweight champion of the world again in 1994 - at the grand old age of 45 - by stopping Michael Moorer.

BRETT FAVRE

Long-time Green Bay Packers quarterback Favre, the king of indecision, bowed out from the NFL in March 2008, passing the baton to a certain Aaron Rodgers. However, he had a change of heart four months later. The Packers, who wanted to move on with Rodgers, traded Favre to the New York Jets.

After one season with Gang Green, Favre retired again. And then he performed another U-turn, paving the way for him to join the Minnesota Vikings, one of Green Bay's arch-rivals.

He enjoyed by far the best year of his career with the Vikings in terms of quarterback rating (107.2) but Minnesota lost the NFC Championship Game. More indecision followed after that, though 2010 would prove to be the final year of a Hall of Fame career.

Zion Williamson was amazed to learn his latest rookie achievements have included matching the great Michael Jordan.

The number one overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft has sparkled since his belated debut last month following arthroscopic knee surgery.

And Williamson's 24 points in a 116-104 success against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday lifted his resurgent New Orleans Pelicans to ninth in the Western Conference, just two games shy of the playoff line.

It was the 19-year-old's individual exploits that garnered most attention, however, as Williamson became the first teenager ever to post 20-plus points in 10 straight games.

Earlier in his dominant run, Williamson had four consecutive games with at least 25 points while shooting at least 57 per cent from the field. Jordan was the last rookie to achieve this feat.

The former Duke sensation did not believe team-mate Jahlil Okafor when initially told of the statistic and turned to Pelicans security officer Chico Robinson for confirmation.

"Chico, my name's next to Michael Jordan?" Williamson asked. "Wow, Jahlil was for real.

"I mean, it's dope. I can't even lie. [He was] one of my favourite players growing up. I said in some interview, my mom told me to study film of him, so to be in that category, it means a lot."

Still, Williamson insists his focus is on delivering success for New Orleans, with their playoff bid now very much alive.

"I think the world and the media is more happy for me than myself," he said. "Honestly, I don't even think much of it if I'm being honest.

"I just want to get the win. You know, my stepdad taught me growing up: if the team has success then the individual things will follow. I guess it's just one of those things."

Zion Williamson dunked so hard during the NBA Rising Stars Challenge that he broke the backboard but jokingly suggested it may not have been his fault.

The rim was left askew after the New Orleans Pelicans rookie threw down a pass from Trae Young late in the second quarter of Team USA's 151-127 defeat of Team World at the United Center on Friday.

Arena staff at the venue for this year's All-Star festivities had to re-align everything during half-time, when Williamson discovered what had happened from team-mates.

Asked if he realised what he had done, Williamson said: "Not at all. I went into half-time and my team-mates started telling me about it.

"I don't know which dunk it was on, but I don't think it was me!"

The first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and Ja Morant, who played together for AAU team the South Carolina Hornets in 2014, caught the eye with some sensational plays.

Morant produced a through-the-legs alley-oop pass for a Williamson slam, but it was a different sequence that caused the Pelicans star to reflect on how far he and his former team-mate have come.

Asked for his favourite moment from the game, Williamson responded: "When Ja threw me the lob from half court. Reminisced on that, back to ninth grade.

"It was crazy honestly because after I caught it and we got a timeout or subbed out, I was thinking about our Hornets days and never in a million years would I have thought would we have been in this game or be in the situations we're in, so it would've been that moment."

Prior to taking to the floor, Williamson met Barack Obama at an NBA Cares event in Chicago and explained why he developed a newfound appreciation for the former United States president.

"First off he's a cool dude man, it's Obama, c'mon," said Williamson. "I gained so much more respect for him just by him saying that [he kept up with my games].

"I was like you probably have one of the most busy schedules and you're able to keep up with a rookie, superstars, college people, even high school people, and tell them their stats, what they've been doing good, what they can work on.

"When he told me that I just gained so much more respect for him."

Williamson was not born until after Michael Jordan had led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, but he still has a great respect for the 14-time All-Star's exploits.

"It was my mom that led me to watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls. I asked her when I first started playing who should I go watch and she told me Jordan, [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson]," he said.

"I think I started with Magic, I was like man he can pass the ball. Bird, he can shoot and is an all-around player but when I got to Jordan she told me to watch full games, not highlights.

"I watched full games and as a kid the stuff he was doing was incredible to watch. Getting a steal, saving it and then doing a backwards layup or floating through the lane through three people, dunking it.

"So as a kid that really caught my attention and from then I just watched every full game Michael Jordan clip I could find."

Michael Jordan has paid tribute to "little brother" Kobe Bryant after his fellow NBA legend died in a helicopter crash.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people on board a helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, a city in California, on Sunday.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed Bryant and Gianna, who also played basketball, died in the incident after the news was initially reported by American outlet TMZ.

Bryant, who spent his whole NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, will go down in history as a great of the game.

Jordan said in a statement released through his manager that Bryant was like family to him.

"I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing," Jordan said.

"We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much.

"He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.

"Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply - and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball.

"Yvette [Jordan's wife] joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa [Bryant's wife], the Lakers organisation and basketball fans around the world."

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