In his first-ever TV appearance in ’81, an 18-year-old Michael Jordan had 17 points, 11 of which came in the second half, as he led the UNC to a win over Rutgers. Three years later, he made his national TV debut as an NBA rookie sensation, and he once again failed to disappoint.
The Chicago Bulls were facing the Spurs in their ninth game of the 84/85 regular season. Michael came into the game averaging 25.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.8 steals per contest, as he already established himself as the most exciting prospect in the association. But what he was about to do against San Antonio would make his case even stronger.
Chicago beat the Spurs 120-117 after being down 3 going into the fourth quarter. It was MJ who led the comeback, scoring 16 points in the final 12 minutes of the game and capping off one of the best individual performances of the season with a win. Michael finished the game with 45 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocked shots. He went 18-for-27 from the field, 1-for-1 from behind the line, and 8-for-11 from the charity stripe, for Chicago’s seventh win of the season.
Every starter for the Spurs scored in double figures, with George Gervin being the team’s leading scorer with 28. However, their collective effort was no match for Jordan’s individual excellence. He was the star of the show, and he didn’t let the lights of a national stage get the best of him. Instead, Michael put up the best performance of his young NBA career, securing more shots for himself and the Bulls at playing nationally televised NBA games.
NBC utilized that the best, purchasing the rights of televising NBA games in the middle of Jordan’s prime. For eight years, Michael was a significant part of the network’s business, reaching unprecedented thresholds in the domain of NBA broadcasting. MJ’s Bulls ended up being 30-40 percent of NBC’s NBA-licensed apparel business, all due to Michael’s unmatched basketball gifts and the ability to deliver when millions are watching.
And it all started on November 13, 1984, in what is today known as one of the best national TV debuts in the association’s history.