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Jordan Off to Stellar NBA Start

November 13, 1986|ANTHONY COTTON | Washington Post

It's obvious that Michael Jordan couldn't be an NFL quarterback, because he would pay no attention to the concept that it takes five years to develop.

"On the second day of practice, we knew he was a superstar," said Kevin Loughery, the Washington Bullets' coach, who was the coach in Chicago when Jordan made his debut with the Bulls just a little more than two years ago.

Nor could Jordan play the often bland role of a winger in hockey, dutifully skating up and down the ice, forechecking and backchecking and only occasionally looking for a shot on goal.

"His spontaneity is the best thing about him," said Atlanta Hawks General Manager Stan Kasten. "If he did any one single thing, it would be easier to stop him, but he has variety, and I don't think we've seen it all yet."

In his chosen profession, even Michael Jordan wasn't supposed to be able to make the Chicago Bulls a winner. Not this season, with a team that has only one other player--forward Charles Oakley--with anything remotely resembling star quality. Yet here they are, tied for first place with Atlanta in the Central Division at 5-1 and one of the league's big surprises.

Some might argue that Chicago's success is a paean to team basketball: work hard and play together, and good things happen. Yet if Jordan were to decide to pursue his true love--golf--it's easy to envision a near-collapse of the Bulls.

That's how dominant the 6-6, 195-pound guard has been this season. The Bulls have averaged 105.8 points a game, and Jordan has accounted for more than 36% of that output, scoring 38.5 points a game. Although opponents concentrate on him endlessly, Jordan, 23, is shooting almost 49% from the field. In addition, going into Tuesday night's game, the former North Carolina star averaged 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.8 steals and two blocked shots per game.

"He's one of the great players in the game," said Loughery. "I don't see how you could be any better."

At his current clip, Jordan would finish the season with the sixth-highest scoring average in league history. The first five positions on that list are held by Wilt Chamberlain. The sixth position is held by Rick Barry, who averaged 35.6 points for the 1966-67 San Francisco Warriors. Barry, a 6-7 forward who was considered one of the league's finest all-round performers, also averaged nine rebounds and almost four assists per game that season.

The league's current standard-bearer, the Celtics' Larry Bird, has had a series of spectaular seasons, but also at forward and with a much better supporting cast. The thing that separates Jordan from Barry, Bird or even Bob McAdoo (who averaged 34.5 points, 32% of the total for the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves) is that Jordan is making his presence felt from the backcourt; in effect, flying in the face of conventional wisdom that says a little man can't dominate the game.

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