If you are a top tier high school basketball player, you will be at the annual Five Star Basketball Camp. Over the years, the camp has hosted dozens of all-time greats and has produced over 500 NBA players and over 10,000 Division-I players since ’66. For every young basketball player that dreams of one day playing ball at the high level – this is the place to be.
Back in ’80, the camp was loaded with talent. The likes of Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, and Chris Mullin were there. It’s one of the greatest collections of talent the camp has ever hosted. But it turned out it was even greater than it was originally thought because there were two guys who also attended the camp, but were relatively unknown at the time. I’m talking about Michael Jordan and Len Bias.
MJ and Bias developed a relationship at the camp. With the world still not recognizing their talents, they both could’ve related to each other. And it didn’t end there, as MJ and Bias stayed in touch even after the camp was over. However, over the years, as they were both climbing the ladder on the list of top high-school players in the nation, their friendship turned to competition. There wasn’t any animosity between the two, but when that ball went up, they both knew it was time to play.
The two continued to compete at the collegiate level. By the time Bias got to the University of Maryland, Jordan had already won an NCAA championship, hitting a shot that immediately turned him into a household name. Bias, on the other hand, didn’t have nearly as successful freshman campaign. He was viewed as raw and undisciplined and had seen very little of playing time.
On February 16th, 1983, the two-faced each other for the first time. Jordan came out on fire, dropping 15 in the first half alone. He was lighting Maryland up, dominating the game on both ends of the floor. In the game that featured six future NBA players, four of which end up as top 4 picks in NBA drafts, MJ was by far the best player on the floor. Bias came off the bench and tallied up 11 points of his own, including a sick dunk over Brad Daugherty. Jordan finished with 21 points, leading the Tar Heels to a one-point victory over Maryland. It was apparent Jordan was a better player. But not for long.
It took Bias a year to close the gap. His sophomore campaign was much more successful compared to his first year at Maryland. He became a starter and had upped his scoring average from 7.1 to 15.3 points per game. When it was time to play Jordan again, Bias was ready.
The game took place on January 12th, 1984. It was an epic display by both Jordan and Bias. The two went at each other the whole game, with MJ once again coming out victorious, as UNC beat the Terps 74-62, despite only leading by two with two minutes left on the clock. As evident as it was that MJ was a better player in their matchup the previous year, it was much closer this time.
Bias finished the game with 24 points, pouring in 16 in the first half to keep his team in the game. MJ had 21 and was the team’s second-leading scorer behind Sam Perkins’ 26 points performance. No matter the outcome of the game, one thing was sure; Len Bias was coming. What was also sure is this: Jordan didn’t like it. So he made it his mission to let Bias know he was the better player between the two. He took it personally.
In their last ever matchup, Jordan tortured Maryland for 25 points and 7 rebounds on 71% shooting. Bias couldn’t match his efforts, as he had a quiet 15 points outing. MJ once again led his team to a 15 points victory, putting an end to the whole discussion about who was the better player between two of them. Don’t get me wrong – Bias was elite. But MJ was simply on a tier of his own. At least at that time.
Unfortunately, we never got to see their matchups in the NBA, as Bias’ life was cut short only a few days after he was drafted 2nd overall by the Celtics. Judging by the way he was improving at college, it sure would’ve been the rivalry for years, and Bias would’ve gotten his chance of finally proving he was better than His Airness.