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When 21-year-old Michael Jordan named the best player he ever saw

MJ didn't just study and steal from Hall of Famers. He knew game wherever he saw it.
Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Though many regard Michael Jordan as the Greatest of All Time, the man was like any other athlete in the sense that he also looked up to his colleagues and those that came before him. During his rookie year in the NBA, Jordan named the best player he’s ever played against (at that time.)

Outstanding baller

Right from the get-go, Jordan impressed everyone with his basketball skills. The game seemed to come so easy for him. He flew in the air, drained perimeter shots efficiently, and entertained the crowd with dazzling displays of athleticism. And so people were curious to learn more about the young gun, particularly his thoughts about the sport. Bryant Gumbel asked the 21-year-old Michael Jordan some interesting questions back in 1984.

Bryant Gumbel: Who’s the best player you ever saw?

Michael Jordan: To play against? [It has to be] Walter Davis. I played against Walter Davis in the summertime. He’s been outstanding as a basketball player.

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Your idol’s idol

For those unaware of who Walter Davis is, he played in the NBA from the 1977 to 1992 season. He was crowned Rookie of the Year, made the All-Star Team six times, and was a member of the All-NBA Second Team twice. Just like Mike, Davis was a potent scorer.

A look at Davis’ game would immediately tell you why Jordan looked up the man. Davis was a solid perimeter scorer. His jump shot from the baseline almost always swished the net. He did his damage through catch-and-shoot or hand-off situations. But Davis also unveiled a one-dribble pull-up which Jordan utilized during his illustrious NBA career.

Davis was also aggressive in his ways. He didn’t just settle for mid-range shots. He wouldn’t hesitate to take it to the hole when the defense gave him an open lane. Though Davis did not have Jordan’s supreme athleticism, he did have a soft touch. Floaters and tough lay-ups over towering defenders were common during Davis’ games. Finally, Davis also liked to run the ball. He was a great finisher on the break and also had decent playmaking skills.

It’s an interesting tidbit from the past. People look at Jordan nowadays as if he’s the God who invented basketball. But the reality is Jordan was like any diligent student of the game. He had heroes whom he tried to emulate. 

Walter Davis was one of Jordan’s idols. In the same way Kobe Bryant stole Jordan’s moves, Jordan reaped Davis’ offensive arsenal.

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