By Dave McMenamin


Jordan has scored 20-plus points in 18 of his 22 games this season.
Rick Stewart/NBAE/Getty Images

Dec. 10, 1984 -- It appears that the only person in this world able to hold Chicago's Michael Jordan under 20 points per game was his old skipper at the University of North Carolina, Dean Smith.

After averaging 17.7 points in his three-year career as a Tarheel, the kid they call "Air" Jordan, in honor of his prodigious leaping ability, has flown up the NBA's scoring charts. Jordan dropped 37 points in a 116-110 win over Milwaukee in his third game as a pro, topped that with 45 points in a 120-117 win over the Spurs in just his ninth outing and, while he hasn't reached the 30-point mark since November 24, is consistently scoring in the twenties and has the Bulls riding a five-game win streak.

The Bulls are 13-9. The same Bulls, who without Michael Jordan last season, finished with a 27-55 record. The same Bulls who had people joking last season that the famous Chicago wind must have found its way into Chicago Stadium and set aim at only causing the shots being taken by the guys in the red, black and white to miss. It's worth repeating, the Bulls are 13-9.

It's been an up-and-down season for the Bulls already, as they started by winning seven of their first nine games and then lost seven of eight before righting themselves to the point where their place in the standings shows more Wallys than Larrys.

And it's all been because of one very special Michael.

The 6-6, 200-pound phenom whose tongue wags like the tail of that doggy in the window, is treating opposing defenses like he's their owner.

It's not just the 24.9 points per game he puts up on the board, it's how he does it. It's his putback dunks, it's his in-flight acrobatics, it's even his flashy tennis shoes.

Maybe we should have seen this coming. Jordan capped his first go-round as an NCAA basketball player by calmly canning a jumper with 15 seconds left in the 1982 National Championship game to lift UNC over Georgetown.

Now as an NBA "freshman," he's showing the same poise he did at Carolina. Sure, the surrounding cast might have changed from James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Jimmy Black and Matt Doherty to Steve Johnson, Orlando Woolridge, Caldwell Jones and Ennis Whatley, but Jordan remains the same dynamic athlete. The only thing that's really changed is that Jordan seems to have gotten even better.

Just like his nickname, "Air," Jordan is everywhere. He'll run the point on the break, post up smaller two guards on offense and guard the opposing team's best player on defense. When you watch him play, you don't think "rookie," you think "complete ball player."

Want evidence? Pick up this week's Sports Illustrated, hitting newstands today. On the cover you'll see Jordan floating in space as three Milwaukee defenders helplessly surround him like parking cones helplessly surrounding a sports car. The look on Jordan's face is one of determination and concentration seen in the eyes of a concert pianist in the middle of a sonata or a brain surgeon starting an incision.

And the headline reads: "A Star Is Born: Michael Jordan Lights Up The NBA."

If Jordan's star really was born, then I can't wait for its childhood through adulthood.

Overall Rankings - Race to ROY

1. Michael Jordan, G, Chicago
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
22 36.2 24.9 5.2 4.1 2.5 1.5 .498 .250 .839
Drafted: 3
You think Portland fans aren't checking the boxscores in their Oregonian every morning and cursing Jordan's line after plentiful line? Imagine the possibilities of Clyde Drexler and Jordan on the court at the same time ...

2. Akeem Olajuwon, C, Houston
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
22 33.2 19.0 11.6 1.4 1.1 2.5 .507 .000 .586
Drafted: 1
What more could you want from a No. 1 pick? Akeem "The Dream" is averaging a healthy double-double and swatting 2.5 blocks per game to boot. The 7-0 Olajuwon has combined with the 7-4 Ralph Sampson to create one of the most formidable frontlines in the West.

3. Charles Barkley, F, Philadelphia
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
20 26.4 12.9 9.0 2.0 1.0 1.1 .477 .000 .723
Drafted: 5
Sixers fans can thank Bobby Knight for lighting a fire under Barkley's considerable rump when he left him off the '84 Olympics squad. "The Round Mound of Rebound" looks slimmed down from his days at Auburn and could be the key piece to get Moses, Dr. J and Co. back to The Finals.

4. Mel Turpin, C, Cleveland
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
19 32.3 13.1 7.2 0.9 0.4 1.5 .495 .000 .737
Drafted: 6
There's a lot to like about Turpin, as in his scoring and rebound averages as well as his respectable percentages from the field and the free throw line, but there's also a lot of Turpin to like, as in he's listed at 6-11, 240 pounds and has the nickname "Dinner Bell Mel."

5. Vern Fleming, G, Indiana
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
21 26.9 11.6 4.1 2.3 0.9 0.1 .430 .000 .736
Drafted: 18
Fleming is the steal of the draft so far, carrying over his success with the University of Georgia and the Olympic team to the Pacers. Playing the point, he's found two easy targets in Clark Kellogg and Herb Williams. With Indiana just 5-16, it's all a learning experience for Fleming.

6. Otis Thorpe, F-C, Kansas City
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
19 17.6 9.4 5.6 1.0 0.4 0.3 .534 .000 .627
Drafted: 9
Like Fleming and the Pacers, Thorpe and the Kings stumbled out of the gates and have a 4-15 record. The 6-10 forward out of Providence has showed signs of life when he's played, but is currently behind LaSalle Thompson and Mark Olberding in Kansas City's big man rotation.

7. Sam Perkins, F, Dallas
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
21 25.3 8.2 6.1 1.8 0.5 0.8 .469 .250 .818
Drafted: 4
While his younger UNC teammate Michael Jordan is getting most of the attention this year, Perkins is quietly putting together a solid campaign. A quiet campaign seems about right for a guy who never seems rattled on the court and plays the game with a laid-back demeanor.

8. John Stockton, G, Utah
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
22 20.3 7.0 1.4 6.2 1.6 0.1 .479 .333 .736
Drafted: 16
Stockton is the "Little Point Guard That Could" as he beat the odds to become the first NBA player ever out of tiny Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. If you project his assists per game average over 48 minutes, you get a gaudy 14.7 average.

9. Jay Humphries, G, Phoenix
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
23 25.2 9.1 1.5 4.6 1.0 0.1 .464 .286 .813
Drafted: 13
Humphries has filled in admirably for injured All-Star Walter Davis who is out with torn ligaments in his left knee, but the Colorado rookie's 9.1 points per game average is still 10.9 points off what Davis was putting in last season.

10. Alvin Robertson, G, San Antonio
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
21 18.5 8.0 3.1 3.7 1.6 0.2 .482 .333 .735
Drafted: 7
Robertson does a little bit of everything on the court, as you can tell by his stat line, but it's his defense that puts him in the top 10. The 6-3, 185-pound muscle commodity is a tenacious on-ball defender.

The Next 10 (alphabetical order): Ron Anderson (CLE), Sam Bowie (POR),
Michael Cage (LAC), Tony Campbell (DET), Rick Carlisle (BOS), Kenny Fields (MIL),
Jerome Kersey (POR), Tim McCormick (SEA), Terence Stansbury (IND),
Kevin Willis (ATL)


Noteworthy

Willis

What's the over/under date when Diff'rent Strokes inspired "What you talkin' about, Willis?" jokes made to Kevin Willis (ATL) start to get old?
It's still too early to call No. 2 pick Sam Bowie (POR) a bust, but the bluegrass big man is only averaging 6.1 points and 6.4 rebounds. At least he's shooting .532 from the floor.
Jerome Kersey (POR), selected with the 46th pick, has turned out to be a contributor for Portland, averaging 5.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in 11.6 minutes per game.
Like Kersey, Ron Anderson (CLE) has been another second-rounder-turned-pleasant-surprise, as he is averaging 9.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in five games since breaking into the Cavs' lineup.

Editor's Note: Michael Jordan went on to win the 1985 Rookie of the Year Award,
receiving 57.5 votes to Akeem Olajuwon's 20.5 votes.

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