On June 19, 1984, the NBA was introduced to Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
During his college basketball career at North Carolina, Michael Jordan made a game-winning jumper in the National Championship in 1982, was named ACC Player of the Year in 1984 and won the Wooden Award in 1984. His iconic No. 23 jersey is one of only seven retired by the program.
June of 1984 would catapult Jordan into the international stardom that became his NBA career.
The NBA draft looked much different in 1984. Rather than the two-round format seen today, the 1984 draft featured 10 rounds and 228 selections. There was no 14-team draft lottery, as that would be implemented in the ensuing draft.
In this era of the NBA, the most lucrative asset to teams was a dominant post presence. Centers were not quite as versatile, but very skilled under the basket and less active on the perimeter. The best perimeter players in the NBA included Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins and Adrian Dantley.
The Portland Trail Blazers had the second overall pick and were intent on drafting center Sam Bowie out of Kentucky. Bob Knight, who coached Michael Jordan in the 1984 Olympics, urged the team to draft Jordan. When Portland explained that it already had Clyde Drexler, who played the same position, Knight even suggested playing MJ at center.
Nonetheless, Akeem Olajuwon (now Hakeem Olajuwon) from the University of Houston was the top prospect that year. Olajuwon was selected first by the Rockets, Bowie was selected second by Portland, and the Chicago Bulls selected Michael Jordan with the third overall pick. The Dallas Mavericks followed Chicago by selecting Jordan’s college teammate, Sam Perkins.
As seen in the documentary “The Last Dance”, some voices around the league did not feel that Jordan, a guard, could carry an NBA team. Jordan quickly proved the doubters wrong. He led Chicago to the playoffs in his rookie season, leading his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals. He was not only the Rookie of the Year, but named to the All-Star game and All-NBA second team.
Going into his seventh NBA season, Jordan had led the league in scoring, won Defensive Player of the Year, was selected to numerous All-Star games and even won a league MVP award. The only thing missing from his impressive resume was an NBA title.
After defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in 1991, against his former teammate Sam Perkins, Jordan and the Bulls won two more before his retirement in 1993. He would return in 1995 and win three more titles with Chicago, hitting another iconic championship-winning shot in 1998.
Jordan couldn’t stay away from the game for long, as he returned to play for the Washington Wizards in 2001. At the age of 38, he became the oldest player, at the time, to score 50 or more points in a game. He also became the only player to notch a 40-point game over the age of 40.
It can be said that Michael Jordan would have been great anywhere. He could have been great in Houston. He could have been great in Portland. The final outcome of his basketball story, as it is written, was rooted in North Carolina.
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