This is what Michael Jordan’s rookie year was like in 1984-85

Before Michael Jordan became “His Airness” and one of the greatest players to ever to play the game of basketball, he already had been built up as the savior of the Chicago Bulls. Despite the Hall of Fame career that was to come, Jordan had to not only deal with these inflated expectations during his rookie year, but also with fitting in with the veteran players on both the Bulls and throughout the NBA. Coming out of the University of North Carolina as a college superstar, the following is a bit of what Michael Jordan’s Rookie year was like.

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Michael Jordan’s First Game in the NBA

The first game that Michael Jordan played for the Bulls was an exhibition matchup against the Indiana Pacers in Peoria. He would go on to play a total of 29 minutes and score 18 points in a victory for the Bulls. At the time, the game did not get much press due to the Chicago Cubs being in the pennant race and playing against the San Diego Padres. The anticipation of greatness by the Chicago fans would only grow from this point after the team selected him third in the 1984 NBA Draft. At this time, the league would host a larger number of preseason games in non-BNA cities as part of their marketing efforts.

Michael Jordan’s Approach to Veterans

The rookie version of Michael Jordan was very deferential to veterans despite all of the media buzz surrounding his jump to the NBA. Throughout the preseason he would make all of the right quotes one expects of a rookie who has yet to prove himself such as “I’m just another rookie and my job is to fit in as a part of the Bulls,” and “This is not going to be the Michael Jordan show.” This was despite the fact that his team’s fans were looking for a savior, and almost 100% of the Chicago press coverage started to focus in on his performance as he started to rack up the stats during the preseason. It would only take until Jordan’s second preseason game for MJ to pass 30 points in a NBA game, scoring 32 against the Kansas City Kings. Jordan would even to as far as to highlight later in his career in his book how important he felt past stars and veterans were to his development when he wrote, “Without Julius Erving, David Thompson, Walter Davis, and Elgin Baylor, there would never have been a Michael Jordan. I evolved from them.”

Impact of the Air Jordan Shoe

Air Jordan OriginalGoing back to Jordan’s rookie year, MJ and Nike would go on to unveil the first edition of the Air Jodans. The show would go on to be the most revolutionary in sports shoe history. While people at first laughed at the red and black shoe, the NBA held the stance that the shoes were illegal since they did not have the red and white from the Bulls’ team colors, but were red and black. Although Jordan was warned and fined on several occasions for wearing them, the added publicity along with his performance would go on to make the shoe line a hit that is still in production to date. One of the famous Late Night quotes from the timeframe regarding the shoes came from an interview with David Letterman. Letterman asked Jordan about the shoes, and MJ said the NBA had banned them because, “There’s no white in them.” Letterman’s response was simply, “Just like the NBA.”

Perception of Michael Jordan by the Fans

Michael Jordan was perceived as the savior of the Bulls almost from the start; however, it did take fans a bit to start responding by coming to the games. The first regular season game that he played at home was in the old Chicago Stadium on October 26, 1984. Jordan would have an Ok game scoring 16 points on just 5 of 16 shooting; however, the Bulls would go on to win 109-93. The attendance for MJ’s first game was just 13,913. Over the course of the next five home games, the Bulls would actually fail to draw even 10,000 fans to the games. As MJ got deeper into his rookie year, his comfort and scoring production would start to skyrocket, and the fans would eventually come around and fully embrace him after having the team finish just 27-55 the year before.

Earning a Spot on the NBA All-Star Team

In just his ninth game in the NBA, Michael Jordan scored 45 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against the San AntonioAir Jordan Logo

Spurs. He would score a game winning shot over the Clippers early in the season, and a 20 foot game winner back in Chicago to beat the New York Knicks in front of just 8,000 fans. Michael Jordan would go on to earn a starting spot on the NBA All-Star team during his rookies season, and continued to exceed expectations. Despite his early successes, the single toughest opponent for Jordan at this stage of his career was taking on Dr. J and the 76ers. He would only score 16 and 14 in his first two matchups against the Dr. with his team losing each game.

Perception of Michael Jordan by Veteran Players

Only hardcore Bulls and Jordan fans likely still know the name Quintin Dailey. Jordan came in to the Bulls and immediately took his spot as shooting guard and the Bulls’ leading scorer. Dailey would take a number of public shots at MJ during his rookie year. From claiming that Jordan’s mistakes would be blamed on someone else by the coaches to the fact that he go special treatment in general, Dailey was just not a public or private fan. By March; however, these issues would be resolved when Dailey would fail a drug test and get suspended.
Other veterans in the league were not early Michael Jordan fans either. During the All-Star game, Jordan just wanted to fit in given all of the publicity he had been getting all season. Nike; however, wanted more publicity and had him wear some of their gear to the slam dunk contest which made other stars feel like Jordan was being too boastful. After the game was played (and Jordan only scoring seven points on 2-9 shooting), a big story came out about All Star players on both teams conspiring to embarrass Jordan during the game by denying him the ball and letting friends score to make him look bad on defense. Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson were reported to be leading the efforts, and players were talking to the press that Jordan was selfish and spoiled.

Michael Jordan Does Not Forget

After the All-Star break was when we really started to see Jordan’s competitive nature come to the forefront. The first game for Chicago after the All-Star Game was at home against the Detroit Pistons. Jordan would go on to lead his team with 49 points, 15 rebounds, and four steals against Isaiah Thomas and company and win the game in overtime. Even later, it was also reported that Jordan played a major role in preventing Thomas from being part of the 1992 Olympic basketball Dream Team. Jordan and Magic Johnson would go on to make up.

Michael Jordan’s First Playoff Appearance

After not making the Payoffs before, Chicago would go on to play Milwaukee in the postseason during Jordan’s rookie year. During this series, the Bulls would win game three with a 109-107 victory where MJ would score 35 points, get eight rebounds, seven assists, and four steels while shooting a total of 16 free throws. During game four, he would shoot a total of 20 free throws in the game with Milwaukee wining the series 3-1.

Michael Jordan Rookie Year Accomplishments

Michael Jordan was selected as both an All-Star Starter and as the NBA Rookie of the Year during his first year in the NBA. During this season, he led the Chicago Bulls in scoring, rebounds, assists, and steals while setting a franchise record for points scored in a season. His numbers for the season were: 28.2 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 5.9 assists per game, and 2.39 steals per game. Jordan was actually human from three his rookie year with only a 17.3% average from beyond the arc. He would later make his outside shooting a point of emphasis and would finish his NBA career with a 32.7% three point average.

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