Michael Jordan put on such a breathtaking show during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls that Los Angeles Lakers head coach Pat Riley couldn’t believe a rookie could be that good. Even though he was coaching Magic Johnson, Riley was in awe of what he saw from Jordan on a nightly basis.
The Bulls drafted Jordan with the third overall pick in the 1984 draft. Most pundits expected Hakeem Olajuwon to win the Rookie of the Year Award since he was the first pick. However, Superman’s numbers and impact were simply impossible to ignore for the voters.
Pat Riley on Michael Jordan: As a rookie, he was not a rookie
In Episode 1 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, Riley talked about how incredible Jordan’s rookie season was.
“As a rookie, he was not a rookie,” Riley said. “He proved right out of the gates there was none other like him.”
Jordan played in all 82 games as a rookie. He averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.4 steals while shooting 51.5% from the field and 84.5% from the free-throw line. His Airness scored at least 40 points seven times, with his highest-scoring output being 49 on February 12, 1985, against the Detroit Pistons.
MJ may have been the most exciting youngster to watch in 1984-85. However, Riley’s Lakers finished the season as the best team in the world.
Pat Riley led Lakers to championship
Jordan and the Bulls went 1-1 against Riley and the Lakers in 1984-85. Black Jesus scored 20 points in Chicago’s win and 16 in the loss. The Bulls made the 1985 playoffs behind the strong play of Jordan. However, they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round in four games.
Riley resigned as the Lakers coach in 1990. After a year off, he was hired by the New York Knicks in May 1991. The Bulls and Knicks had a fierce rivalry while Riley was in New York, but Jordan always came out on top when it mattered most.
Michael Jordan never lost to the Knicks in the playoffs
Jordan never lost a playoff series to the Knicks. The closest Riley and New York came to eliminating Chicago was in the 1992 Eastern Conference semifinals. The series went seven games, with the Bulls winning Game 7 at home behind 42 points from Jordan.
Riley did guide the Knicks to the 1994 Finals. However, New York lost to the Houston Rockets in seven hard-fought games. Jordan didn’t play in the NBA in 1993-94. He retired after the 1993 Finals following the tragic death of his father and played baseball for the Birmingham Barons.
Both Jordan and Riley are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The latter won 1,210 games as a coach and five championships. Meanwhile, Air Jordan won six rings, six Finals MVPs, and five regular-season MVPs with the Bulls.