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VINTAGE MJ leads Team USA vs. Uruguay in the 1984 L.A. Olympics


Episode 1 of ‘The Last Dance’ evoked memories of Michael Jordan’s unbelievable career path. The busiest summer Jordan ever had was the summer of 1984 when the two-time All-American guard got drafted by the Chicago Bulls, an NBA franchise looking to rebuild around him.

From there, Jordan went on to star for Team USA in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In the Great Western Forum, young Jordan showcased all of his superb athletic abilities and unique basketball skills. Led by his inspired performances, Team USA easily posted a perfect 8-0 record and won the gold medal. The final showcase vs. Spain, in which Jordan led all scorers with 20 points, was no different.

With another strong performance, MJ cemented his global status of a basketball player ‘who is suspended in the air’. That was something new, something revolutionary in a game that was dominated by the big man in the middle at the time. The Bulls felt lucky enough they got Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft.

“The reality is we were lucky the draft was before the Olympics. Michael became the most popular amateur basketball player in the world because of the Olympics”

Rod Thorn, The Last Dance

Still, even a superb TV show like ‘The Last Dance’ doesn’t show much of the footage of Team USA’s dominance from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Some more rare footage can be found on YouTube.

On August 1st, 1984, in a 104-68 blowout Group B win vs. the Uruguay NT, Team USA coaching mastermind Bobby Knight unleashed the kid from North Carolina for only 19 minutes on the Forum’s hardwood.

“He is the best athlete, one of the best competitors. He’s one of the most skilled players, and that makes him the best basketball player that I’ve ever seen play.”

Bobby Knight

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Jordan once again made the most of his playing time and demonstrated his ultimate winning attitude, creating havoc for the inexperienced opponent on both ends of the floor. Wearing the US jersey with #9 on it, MJ contributed 16 points, on 7-15 shooting from the field and 2-2 from the charity stripe, while also collecting 4 defensive rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.

Faced with Uruguay’s weak individual and team defense, Jordan opened the game with easy assists to teammates Patrick Ewing and Sam Perkins for an uncontested dunk and lay-up.

The highlights of this Group B stage game in the Forum came after Team USA’s lightning-quick charge in transition. Jordan finished four of those trips with uncontested two-handed Air Jordan dunks. He also displayed a nice touch from the outside by hitting a couple of jumpers over the Uruguay NT’s defense.

Leading the Uruguay NT was 23-year old Horacio Lopez Usura, who scored 24 points on 8-19 shooting and collected 7 boards and 4 dimes. The versatile 6’7” forward led the Uruguay NT to the quarterfinal stage and eventual 6th place in the competition by averaging 24.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 5.6 assists.

However, Jordan was not the leading scorer of the Tournament. He finished the tournament as #10 on the best scorers list, interestingly, between future Portland Trail Blazers European imports - Drazen Petrovic (17.5 ppg) at #9 and Fernando Martin (16.8 ppg) at #11.

MJ scored a total of 137 points in 8 games, averaged 17.1 ppg in only 21.5 minutes per game while shooting 54.3% from 2-point land and 65.6% from behind the free-throw line. Interestingly enough, during his two college seasons with the North Carolina Tar Heels, he averaged 17.7 ppg on 54.0% shooting.

The leading scorer of the 1984 Olympic basketball tournament for men was a flag bearer for Egypt, 5’10” point guard Mohamed Sayed Soliman, with averages of 25.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

The gold Olympic medal around Michael Jordan’s neck, something he would see again in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, was a special gift to his mother Deloris Jordan that always dreamed of.

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