The Chicago Bulls opened the 1984-85 season on October 26th at home against the Washington Bullets, the fifth-place team from the Central taking on the fifth-place team from the Atlantic. Not exactly what compelling matchups are made of. Only 13,913 people filled an arena that had capacity for 17,374. But they missed more than just a ho-hum opener. It also happened to be the pro debut of much-heralded rookie (and ?84 Olympic star) Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
Jordan had done much to distinguish himself in his two years at North Carolina?including the game-winner in the ?82 NCAA Final?and only continued to show and prove after he left school. He held his own against NBA players in the leadup to the Olympics, dominated in L.A., then set the tone in Bulls training camp. He was a starter in that first game, alongside 22-year-old point guard Ennis Whatley.
The Bullets may have been mediocre, but they provided a tough challenge for Jordan in his first NBA game that counted. Two tough challenges, actually, namely Jeff ?McNasty? Ruland and Rick ?McFilthy? Mahorn, both of whom ran 6?10?, 240 and hit harder than anyone (or anything) in the ACC. Or Spain, for that matter.
Jordan didn?t shoot particularly well (just 5-for-16 from the floor), but asserted himself quite well for a 21-year-old rookie. He went to the line seven times, converting six, added six rebounds and seven assists to go with his 16 points, and, most importantly, survived Ruland and Mahorn. The Bulls won in a 109-93 romp, led by Orlando Woolridge?s 28 and Quintin Dailey?s 25 off the bench.
The Chicago media was not terribly enthralled by Jordan?s first performance?the Chicago Tribune?s gamer opened ?We?ll forgive you this time, Michael Jordan.? But he shrugged off any concerns. ?I wasn?t nervous,? Jordan told the Tribune. ?It was more like being overintense. I wanted to do well, for the team and for myself, so maybe I forced things a little.?
Jordan scored 21 points in his second game. He scored 37 in his third. He learned fast.
Follow Russ on Twitter @RussBengston