Michael Jordan Surprised Bulls With How Physically Gifted He Was in 1st NBA Practice: ‘The Physical Strength Was Amazing, This Cat Is Different’

The Chicago Bulls organization should count their blessings every day that Hakeem Olajuwon was in the 1984 NBA Draft and the Portland Trail Blazers had Clyde Drexler. Those two factors allowed them to draft Michael Jordan with the third overall pick in the 1984 draft.

The Houston Rockets selected Olajuwon, the consensus best player in the draft, at No. 1. Meanwhile, the Blazers took Sam Bowie since they already had their shooting guard in Drexler. That enabled Jordan to fall right into the Bulls’ laps and No. 3.

The UNC product became the most popular amateur basketball player in the world during the 1984 Olympics. However, Jordan considered himself the lowest on the totem pole going into his first practice with the Bulls, where he turned heads left and right away.

Michael Jordan showed teammates and coaches he was different on first day

It took one practice for Bulls coaches and players to know that Jordan was already the most gifted player on the team. Rod Higgins and head coach Kevin Loughery spoke about MJ’s talent in Episode 1 of The Last Dance docuseries.

“When he arrived into the gym on the first day of practice, you can see that this guy is the best player here,” Higgins said. “This cat is different.” Loughery later added, “When we drafted Michael, I did not know how good Michael was. The strength he had, the physical strength, was amazing.”

Jordan struggled in his first regular-season game, shooting just 5-of-16 from the field for 16 points. However, he scored 21 points in his second contest on 61.5% shooting and earned his stripes in the third game.

Michael Jordan scored 37 points to lead Bulls to come-from-behind win

The Bulls faced the Milwaukee Bucks in the third game of the 1984-85 season and trailed 85-76 heading into the fourth quarter. Before Jordan got to Chicago, guys on the team would give up on themselves if they were losing late. However, that changed once His Airness came to town.

Jordan went off for 37 points and led the Bulls to a 116-110 win. From that point on, everyone knew who the most skilled player on the team was. Even Bucks star Sidney Moncrief, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, couldn’t believe how explosive Jordan was.

“Every time we went to trap him, he would split, go down the lane, make a really difficult shot. He was so explosive,” Moncrief said in The Last Dance. “I don’t think there’s anybody that could defend Michael.”

The Bulls went 38-44 during Jordan’s rookie season. Although they lost to the Bucks in the first round of the 1985 playoffs, Mike put on a spectacular show all season long.

MJ won Rookie of the Year

Jordan defeated Olajuwon in the 1984-85 Rookie of the Year voting. He received 57.5 first-place votes, while the Dream got 20.5. Air Jordan appeared in all 82 games for the Bulls and averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists.

Along with 17 double-doubles and three triple-doubles, Jordan racked up seven 40-point games as a rookie. His highest scoring output came on February 12, 1985, against the Detroit Pistons. He finished with 49 points and shot 61.3% overall.

Jordan would go on to play 13 seasons with the Bulls. He won five regular-season MVPs, 10 scoring titles, one Defensive Player of the Year Award, six championships, and six Finals MVPs. The Bulls legend also finished his NBA career as the all-time leader in points per game (30.1) and player efficiency rating (27.9).

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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