As described in The Last Dance docuseries, before the 1984 NBA draft the Chicago Bulls were a mere shadow of Jordan‘s Bulls. For crying out loud, an indoor soccer team sold more tickets than the Bulls. But on a pure basketball level, pre-Jordan Bulls, led by a skilled guard Reggie Theus, played with great poise.
The UNLV standout was drafted with the 9th pick overall in the 1979 NBA draft. Over five and a half seasons in the Windy City, Theus performed admirably, displaying his incredible skills at both guard positions. Theus could use his height and create from the point guard position or be a designated go-to-guy anytime he was asked to carry the scoring load. With his exciting style of play, Theus amazed the fans across the early 1980s NBA.
However, on February 15th, 1984, just 15 minutes before the trade deadline, Theus was traded to Kansas City Kings. It happened mere four months before the 1984 NBA draft, which brought Jordan to the Bulls.
“I missed playing on this Bulls team, or teams prior to this year’s by 15 minutes. I got traded in February 1984, 15 minutes before the trade deadline. Then the next year, the Bulls drafted Michael Jordan.”Reggie Theus, Chicago Tribune
If 6’7” Theus eventually stayed in the Windy City, he could have supplemented the spectacular rookie in the Bulls backcourt with his streaky shooting and excellent court vision. The Bulls spend more than half of the next decade in the process of searching for the guard who could be the right match for Jordan. They’ve tried with point-guards such as Ennis Whatley, Wes Matthews, and Rory Sparrow. They’ve also been attempting to pair him with long-distance shooters such as Quintin Dailey, Craig Hodges, and John Paxson. Finally, in 1990-91, the season the fully inserted the triangle-offense, they’ve settled with Paxson and won the jackpot.
Knowing how many players fluctuated throughout this team from 1984-1991 and how hard MJ wanted his teammates to work daily, it’s hard to envision Theus staying with the Bulls until ’91. But if he eventually stayed in Chicago, he would have been a great mentor for MJ over his initial pro seasons. Also, with those two sharing the backcourt duties, the Bulls chances to advance further in the playoffs would be much considerable.
“I could have been a better John Paxson or Steve Kerr for them. I could have played the point for Michael, I think. Michael and I have laughed about that because we have become friends over the years.”Reggie Theus, Chicago Tribune
It’s no wonder that Theus and Jordan had become friends over the years. Over their tenure in Chicago, both Theus and Jordan dated the same woman – Juanita Vanoy. Mrs.Vanoy, as we all know, later married for Jordan and became Ms.Juanita Jordan. They have three children – Jasmine M., Marcus, and Jeffrey.
By 1991, when Jordan won his first-ever NBA championship title, setting the stage for the 1990s Chicago Bulls dynasty, Theus had left the NBA. After circling the league and playing for five different teams since 1984, he went on to play in Europe, where he finished his career.