The younger generation of NBA fans probably don’t know of Walter Davis, but he was a 6-time NBA All-Star and one of the most efficient scorers in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Davis played 15 seasons in the league and is one of the players that, in many ways, influenced Michael Jordan, who patterned a lot of his game working out with Davis. They both played college basketball for UNC, so it wasn’t hard for Jordan to reach out to Davis and get some valuable basketball lessons.
“It is humbling to hear him say that I was an influence on him growing up, that he was a fan of mine. But that is one of the things about the game of basketball, the way it gets passed on from one group to the next and how each generation influences the next. I got tips from my brothers, their friends, so I tried to return the favor when I got back to Carolina. I showed Michael a couple of moves.”
Davis said he and Jordan worked on several aspects of his game. As a true scholar of the game, Jordan wanted to learn as much as he could, and according to Davis, he would do everything he told him. He was a careful listener and surprised Davis with his work ethic and natural abilities he possessed.
“I worked with him on the jab-step and the pump fake, which were some of my favorite moves. The mid-range shot was something I emphasized, I remember telling him that it was important to make that shot. When he helped us win the 82 national championships, that was a midrange shot. Michael had a lot of natural ability with that shot. What stood out to me was Michael listened to instruction, he wanted to get better. If you told him something, he was going to work on it. We would be out there playing pick-up for two hours l, get done, go shower, get dressed, and go to dinner. That would take us an hour. When we would come back from dinner, Michael would still be out there practicing. He was practicing an hour after we had been playing for two hours.”
Michael Jordan was the total package, and Davis said several important factors enabled Jordan to be the best the game has ever seen. Jordan had incredible talent in terms of his physical ability, but on top of all that, he had the ultimate desire for the best basketball player, and he worked a lot to achieve those goals. Davis said Jordan’s mindset was to outplay his opponents every time he stepped on the court no matter what.ž
“All he seemed to do was work on his game. When you combine his work ethic, natural gifts, talent, and athletic ability, he is the total package. You can’t help from being the best player of all time when you have all that on your side. Michael got up for everybody. He always wanted to prove how good he was, he wanted to win the game, every time he stepped on the floor, that was all that was on his mind.”