On Sept. 12, 1984, the Chicago Bulls signed their first round draft pick, and No. 3 overall Michael Jeffery Jordan from the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Jordan was selected behind only two players in the 1984 NBA Draft, 7-foot-3 Sam Bowie from the University of Kentucky Wildcats and 7-foot Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Hakeem Olajuwon from Houston University. The Portland Trailblazers had passed on the future six-time NBA Finals champion in favor of Bowie as they had drafted an all-star shooting guard of their own, Clyde Drexler, just a few years prior. Drexler and Olajuwon had been teammates on the Houston Cougars, forming the electric combination coined Phi Slama Jama.
The Chicago Bulls had been in disarray when Jordan found his way to Chicago, having offloaded their two biggest stars — former MVP Artis Gilmore and crafty guard Reggie Theus — in the years leading up to the 1984 draft. The Bulls themselves nearly had Earvin “Magic” Johnson join their team as well in 1979 by way of a coin flip, but lost out to the Los Angeles Lakers who picked first that year. All factors included, Jordan absolutely had his work cut out for him in this new era set to start in the Chicago Stadium.
Jordan signed his first pro deal, and a little over a month later made his professional debut on Oct. 26. While the 21-year-old Jordan only managed to drop 16 points, that proved to only be the beginning. Jordan was able to finish the year scoring 28.2 points per game and pushed a high lottery team into serious playoff contention in the span of a year. Word spread quickly of the exceptional basketball played at the Madhouse on Madison, and fans from across the league voted the rookie into the all-star game as a starter.
Even though he was the subject of a blackball-esque effort from the remainder of his all-star teammates in his first all-star game, in part due to the sudden favoritism he had been receiving, Jordan managed to push past the drama and win NBA rookie of the year in dominating fashion. His second season unfortunately was one of the most disappointing of his career, as he broke his foot only three games into the season, missing 64 cumulative contests over the course of the 1985-86 season.
In his third year, Jordan announced he was back in astonishing fashion, averaging a league-leading and career best 37.1 points per game while battling Larry Bird in one of the most hotly contested playoff battles in NBA history. Jordan’s 63 points against the Celtics in the first round of the 1986 NBA playoffs is a single-game record that still stands to this day, even though the Bulls were swept in the series.
For the next three seasons, Jordan paced the NBA in scoring while winning his first ever MVP award in the 1987-88 season. Even with all this success, the Bulls still fell to the Detroit Pistons in the postseason each year between 1987 and 1990. Jordan won his first of three NBA titles in a row in the 1990-91 season though, winning in the next two seasons as well before leaving the NBA for the 1993-94 season. His father, James Jordan, was murdered months earlier, and Michael was quoted saying his death had lead to this decision.
After taking two years off from the league, Jordan returned in the 1995-96 season where he won another MVP award and succeeded in winning the second three-peat of his career. Jordan won another MVP award in the 97-98 season, as well as championships in the 96-97 and 97-98 seasons. Following his sixth championship, he retired from the NBA for the second time in his career, before returning again to play for the Washington Wizards in the 2001-02 and 02-03 seasons.
Currently, Jordan serves as the president of basketball operations for the Charlotte Hornets, as he took over the Bobcats franchise for $175 million in 2010. His ESPN Films sponsored docu-series “The Last Dance” on Netflix debuted during the COVID-19 pandemic to rave reviews, documenting the career of one of the greatest players in NBA history. Whether you think LeBron or Jordan is the greatest, Sept. 12 will forever be an important day in the history of the Chicago Bulls, the NBA and basketball in general.