Rookie Michael Jordan's college-to-NBA transition was 'pretty easy'
In his rookie season in the NBA, Michael Jordan averaged a whopping 28.2 points per game (51.5% from the field), 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.4 steals. If he made the transition from college to the pro level look effortless, maybe it's because it was.
Transition to the NBA was easy for Jordan
In an interview from 1984 with MSG Network, Jordan admitted that the adjustment from amateur to a professional ball was “pretty easy.”
He didn’t credit his supreme mastery of the sport as the main reason for his dominance. Young Mike was humble and unassuming, and knew precisely why it was a relatively seamless transition for him. Before donning the Chicago Bulls jersey, Jordan represented his country in the Olympics. And from his experience, the physicality of the games mimicked that of the NBA.
“It’s been pretty easy. I think the Olympics was kind of pre-professional. It was fast-paced, physical, and that’s just the NBA game. Coming into this level is a brand new start for me. Start from the bottom and work my way up. I think the hard work is ahead of me and I’m willing to take the challenge and go out the best I can,” Jordan said.
Bob Knight and Dean Smith played a big role
Jordan also credited his college coaches Bob Knight and Dean Smith for honing his craft. From his perspective, the two coaches were on the opposite ends of the pole regarding their coaching style. Knight, the head coach on the 1984 Olympics Team, was the “hard type” who pushed his players to the limit. Smith, who coached Jordan at North Carolina, was the “mild type” who utilized all sorts of psychological methods to his players.
(Editor's Note: Click here to read an excerpt from L. Jon Wertheim's book, Glory Days: The Summer of 1984 and the 90 Days That Changed Sports and Culture Forever, regarding more on MJ's 1984 Olympic run.)
Interestingly, Jordan’s penchant for hogging the ball — a criticism that followed him in his first few years — was already obvious to his first NBA coach Kevin Loughery. According to Jordan, Loughery reminded him several times that it is a team game, and that he should trust his other teammates rather than trying to do everything himself.
In his rookie year, Jordan powered the Bulls into the playoffs as the seventh seed. It was the first time in three years that the franchise got a taste of the postseason. The Bulls got booted out by the Milwaukee Bucks. Yes, it was heartbreaking at the time, but it was proof that the franchise was correct in picking Jordan as its third overall pick.
And it wasn't too long before MJ led Chicago to six separate NBA title runs.
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