Famous European coach recalls the first time he saw Michael Jordan play in 1982: “I had just seen the best player in the world”
He was unstoppable

Famous European coach recalls the first time he saw Michael Jordan play in 1982: “I had just seen the best player in the world”

You’ve probably never heard of him, but he is one of the most legendary basketball coaches in Europe, Božidar Maljković. Coach Boža won four EuroLeague titles with three different clubs, Yugoplastika, Limoges, and Panathinaikos. And he first made his name in Split, Yugoplastika, while coaching two future Hall-of-Famers, Dino Rađa and Toni Kukoč.

Prior to Yugoplastika, Maljković was an assistant coach at Red Star Belgrade, where he first witnessed the greatness of Michael Jeffrey Jordan in an exhibition game against the UNC Tar Heels.

He is, without a doubt, the best basketball player of all time. I first saw him sometime in 1982, when he played for University North Carolina against Red Star Belgrade, where I was the assistant coach. And after the game, I told one of the journalists that I had just seen the best player in the world, and he replied, “Jordan who? Haven’t you seen Wilt Chamberlain’s footage?” But I insisted that Jordan was the best, which later proved to be true.

Božidar Maljković, Slobodna Dalmacija

Maljković actually coached Jordan in a preseason exhibition game in Barcelona in 1990, where MJ played as the only NBA invitee in the All-Star game between the best players of the ACB Spanish league.

I coached him in an exhibition game in Barcelona. The team doctors wanted to tape his ankles, but he refused and said that “he will not enter the paint tonight” and didn’t let them put bandages on him. Indeed, when he entered the game, he never entered the paint and scored more than 30 points. He was unstoppable. And when he agreed to introduce Toni Kukoc into the Basketball Hall-of-Fame, it’s clear what kind of player Toni was. This is a great recognition for the city of Split, Dalmatia, and Croatia in general.

Božidar Maljković, Slobodna Dalmacija

Jordan played two quarters on each team and finished the game with 37 points. Michael was known for showing up at all kinds of places and playing in pick-up games; he even had a ‘love of the game clause’ in his contract with the Bulls, allowing him to play anytime, anywhere.