Rare Air time: Michael Jordan, the '84 U.S. Olympic trials and me

Wednesday April 30th, 2014
A pre-NBA (and pre-Nike) Michael Jordan stole the show in Bloomington in the summer of 1984.
Heinz Kluetmeier/SI

Of course, Jordan could play a little basketball too. He'd just finished his third season at North Carolina -- ironically, losing to Indiana in his final college game -- as the national player of the year and was pegged as a high lottery pick. At the Olympics trials, his aura grew, as he distanced himself from the other players. My friend and classmate, Pat Knight, the coach's son, regaled the seventh grade kaffeeklatsch with stories of Jordan's feats during practices. Bob Knight gushed uncharacteristically about his shooting guard and warned that any NBA team foolish enough to pass up drafting Jordan would regret the decision. "Jordan's game is made for the NBA," he declared. Knight wasn't entirely prescient that spring; the players he cut from his team included Malone, Barkley, John Stockton and Joe Dumars. But he sure had Jordan pegged.

The author got some of what would be increasingly uncommon one-on-one time in public with Jordan.
Courtesy of Jon Wertheim

"Okay," the handler said. "Michael won't be available again until tomorrow."

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