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Here Comes Mr. Jordan

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By Terry Boers, Chicago Sun-Times, Jan., 1985

MICHAEL JORDAN DIDN'T HAVE TO WIN A JOB during training camp. There was never any question that the Bulls would find a place for the Olympic hero, a prominent place. But the first training camp still represents a major period of transition in any athlete's life, no matter how talented. To record the intricacies involved in the making of an NBA star, HOOP asked Bulls beat writer Terry Boers to record the progress and pitfalls encountered by Jordan during the four weeks prior to his NBA debut.


The Bulls didn't roll out the red carpet for Michael Jordan when he arrived for the start of training camp. They did, however, introduce him to the "Purple Palace" a.k.a. the Lincolnwood Hyatt.

Michael Jordan

Jordan showed he was ready for the big leagues in his first pro game, tallying 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

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"I never saw a purple building before," Jordan said of his first impression of the NBA.

The headquarters for Bulls coaches, veterans and rookies alike during training camp, the Hyatt sits at the corner of Lincoln and Touhy. The color scheme makes it a grape place to visit, but you probably wouldn't want to live there.

Jordan doesn't mind a bit. He apparently has seldom heard a discouraging word.

Looking fit and fresh, Jordan spent the last month of his final pre-NBA summer running and playing golf in the mornings. In the afternoons he met with old North Carolina friends such as James Worthy, Phil Ford and Mike O'Koren for some pickup basketball games. In the evenings he worked on the correspondence courses he's taking toward getting his degree from North Carolina.

"That's my way of relaxing," Jordan says.

Day 1: Oooh so quiet. The Bulls don't get much media attention with the Cubs preparing for the playoffs and the college football season in full swing.

"It was kind of lonely," says Coach Kevin Loughery.

Day 2: Jordan's talents are obvious and enormous. Loughery wastes no time in formulating plans to put in an offense that will be specifically designed to get the ball to Jordan as much as possible.

" I didn't know what to expect, but these first two (days) haven't been bad," Jordan said. "I'm very very sore, but I'm looking forward to more."

The first thing he noticed?

"That professional players can sit down during practices," he said. "You never, ever sat down in one of Dean's (Smith) and you sure never sat during one of Bobby's (Knight)."

And what about that white wristband he wears halfway up his left arm?

"I have it there because I do this all the time," Jordan says as he rubs the back of his arm across his forehead. "I can't wear it on my wrist because the sweat would get on my hand."

Day 4: The snazzy black shoes with red stripes Jordan has been wearing are an attention-getter.

"He's wearing those shoes for a reason," joked trainer Mark Pfeil. "This is like our quarterback drill. He's wearing those so nobody will hit him."

After the evening session ends, assistant coach Bill Blair come up with a couple of interesting observations.

First, Jordan can get his entire hand above the square on the backboard. Second, when Jordan stands toe-to-toe with Orlando Woolridge, Jordan's reach is only about a quarter of an inch less than Woolridge's.

"People have been comparing him to Dr. J," Loughery said. "That's not right. The way he plays is like Jerry West. He has the same movements, particularly on defense."

Day 5: A morning eye-opener: Jordan, on a move to the hoop, gets clipped in mid-air. He does a 180-degree turn and puts up a reverse layup that just drops off the rim. General Manager Rod Thorn smiles and shakes his head.

Quintin Dailey has yet to take his first backward step as he plays Jordan in practice.

Using his muscle and experience, Dailey is doing a slow bump-and-grind. During a break, Dailey walks to the edge of the court. "Michael's great," Dailey says. "But don't tell him I said that."

Moments later, Jordan puts up a 12-foot shot that could win the scrimmage game. The ball rolls around the rim and Jordan comes flying in to make sure it stays down. "Did you see that?" Thorn asks. Meanwhile, Woolridge reverses his shirt from red to white so he won't have to run laps with the rest of the losing team.

Day 6: Guard Dirk Minniefield, whose closest friend in the world is fellow Kentucky product Sam Bowie, is awestruck.

"Michael is unbelievable," he says. "Houston and Portland are both going to be sorry they didn't draft him. The thing is, he keeps getting better every day. If he keeps doing that, he'll be Superman. Wait, he already is Superman."

Loughery gives the Bulls a night off, but Jordan stays after practice to shoot footage for a series of TV commercials for ProServ, the management firm that represents him.

That evening, Rod Higgins takes Jordan to dinner at his parents' house. "There's nothing I need more than a good home cooked meal," Jordan says.

Michael Jordan at UNC

Jordan brought veteran poise and intensity to his rookie season.

Day 7: A mystery man, who identifies himself as being from the Washington Post, shows up to take a headshot of Jordan. "I won't smile," Jordan says. "You're not supposed to smile after practice."

In a full-blown scrimmage game, Jordan, Ennis Whatley and Higgins lead their team to an upset victory over a team of regulars.

Day 8: Debut night at the Peoria Civic Center against the Indiana Pacers. Jordan can play in Peoria or anywhere else, but the crowd is surprisingly small.

Jordan doesn't start and when he does get into the game late in the first quarter, he's playing point guard for the first time in his life. Before the exhibition season is over, he'll also play off-guard and both forward positions.

Asked by Loughery to concentrate on rebounding, Jordan gets eight boards and 18 points in the Bulls' victory.

"It's like starting from the bottom again," Jordan says afterward. "I was nervous, but I'm OK after I run up and down the court a few times. That gets it out of my system. I like playing the point because you run the whole show. I'm pretty proud of myself."

Day 10: In the second exhibition game vs. the Kansas City Kings in St. Louis, Jordan has 32 points, shooting 10-for-11 from the field and 12-of-13 form the foul line.

"And if you think he was good in the game, you should have seen him in practice," says Bulls scout Mike Thibault.

Day 12: An enthusiastic crowd at East Chicago Washington H.S. loves every Jordan move against Milwaukee, which will soon become the Bulls' third straight victim.

"What you have here is a situation where a lot of people are coming out to see how good Michael Jordan is," Loughery said. "He hasn't disappointed anybody."

Certainly not the writer from The Sporting News following Jordan, who will be the lead story for the magazine's pro basketball edition.

"This was fun," Jordan said. "It reminds me of my days in high school."

Day 14: Jordan poses for a Sporting News shot after practice. I'm too tired to dunk," he says.

Later Jordan is taking a ribbing from teammates about how the women of Chicago are treating him.

"I just want to say," Jordan says, "I don't have any girlfriends."

Outside, forward Steve Johnson sums up the attitude of the Bulls' veterans.

"We all knew he was supposed to be a great player when he got here,"Johnson said. "But I think everybody wanted to sit back and see all this for themselves. We wanted him to show us if he really was as good as everybody said. Let me tell you something. I am impressed."

Day 15: Another day, another cover. This time Jordan and Thorn are photographed for Crain's Chicago Business Report.

"Why not?" says Woolridge. "Michael is already a corporation."

"I get tired of it all sometimes," Jordan says. "But you have to do it."

Day 16: Jordan tastes defeat for the first time as a pro. Milwaukee's Sidney Moncrief, determined to show Jordan some of his stuff, scores 19 points in the third quarter to fuel the runway.

"A great player," Jordan says of Moncrief. "A great player."

Day 18: Jordan and the Bulls take their show to Glens Falls, NY, where they beat the Knicks 91-90 before a sellout crowd of 6,500 in a town with a population of 14,000. Jordan gets 21 points.

"The thing that makes Michael Jordan is his elevation," says Knicks coach Hubie Brown. "By that I mean his ability to pass the ball while he's hanging in the air. That's big. That's great. He'll draw people to him and that's going to mean a lot of easy baskets for the other guys.

"In my 12 years in the league I've never seen anybody who's able to pass the ball from that height."

Day 21: On to Madison Square Garden and a rematch with the Knicks. A pro-Jordan crowd of 16,000 exchanges high-fives and low-fives all night, whooping and hollering widely every time Jordan, who scores 23 points, touches the ball.

For a time in the second quarter, Jordan is matched against superstar Bernard King. They take turns showing their offensive prowess.

"All I can say," King says, "is that the people in Chicago are in for a real treat."

Knicks guard Rory Sparrow sits in front of his lockerroom muttering to himself, "God's gift."

Day 22: The first real downer and it comes in Jordan's first game at the Chicago Stadium. Kansas City wins and, even though Jordan goes for a game high 25 points, he doesn't play well in Loughery's estimation.

The first shot he tries is blocked by Mike Woodson -- "I was fouled"-- and he dribbles the ball of his foot in the open court seconds later.

"It was just one of those nights," Jordan says. "Those things happen."

But the day isn't an entire washout. Jordan's new silver BMW arrives from a dealer in Raleigh, N.C.

Day 25: CBS- TV's Pat O'Brien is at Angel Guardian to tape an interview with Jordan for halftime of the October 27 Dallas-Houston game, CBS' first telecast. "I know when I see you here something's up," Woolridge tells O'Brien.

When David Greenwood comes in for his workout, Woolridge promptly tells him about life with Jordan.

"Everywhere we went in New York we had police escorts," Woolridge says. "It's like being on the Michael Jackson Victory Tour. He's Michael and we're the Jacksons."

Day 26: A revelation. Jordan wears dark blue shorts with the letters U.N.C. (University of North Carolina) under his pants at practices and games.

"You have to have some blue on somewhere," he says. "All this red stuff is the devil's colors. Blue is for heaven."

He's spent his free time shopping and getting to know the city. "It's to find your way around," he says. " But you sure to have some wild drivers in this town. They ain't like that in North Carolina."

Day 27: The subject is the first impressions. Some opposing players have mentioned Jordan acts as if no one is supposed to touch him.

"I'm a little surprised at how much bumping and how physical it's been," Jordan says. "I've got to learn not to get out of my style of game when that's going on, but it does get frustrating. I have to learn to deal with that.

"I'm not fragile, I can take some beatings."

Assistant coach Fred Carter has a more pleasant thought for the day.

"When God decided to create the perfect basketball player and send him down here, he gave him to the Jordans. They said, 'Thank you.' "

Day 28: It's an early practice on the eve of the season opener.

Jordan who's been busy making preparations to move into a Northbrook townhouse, and the other Bulls are getting dressed for a downtown luncheon.

Jordan lends Woolridge his belt. He also proves adept at tying a tie without the benefit of having it around a neck.

"I'm anxious to get started," he says. "I'm tired of winning games that don't count. I'm ready to play."

His public awaits...and before long, admires.

This article originally appeared in the January 1985 issue of Hoop.

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