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When Bill Walton perfectly predicted Michael Jordan's return


In the second half of the '94/'95 NBA season, there was much buzz around the potential return of Michael Jordan. Reports during that time revealed that His Airness had been participating in Chicago Bulls' practice sessions. 

Bill Waltons' predictions

Though Jordan's return wasn't a hundred percent sure yet, fans and the media couldn't help but fantasize how the GOAT would fare in his return. Among all the predictions, Bill Walton offered the most realistic. In fact, his forecast was close to perfect.

"Jordan could come right away and get 54 points which should be the league high this year surpassing Willie Burton's. Jordan's strength is that his game his based on fundamentals. It's not based on physical skills. So as he gets older he can still be game's greatest player. At first there will be a situation where he would come out the first week to 10 days spectacular, then a little bit of a drop off because the physical conditioning would catch up. But as the playoffs get into full swing, he would be right there. Chicago would be at the top with Orlando in the East."

Marv Albert: So you'll see 54 points in that first game?
Bill Walton: That's the only appropriate thing. And I think that this would significantly hurt the New York Knicks psychologically.


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It took him awhile..

Jordan's first game back was on March 19, 1995, against the Indiana Pacers. He scored 19 points on just 7-of-28 shooting. Phil Jackson was correct in his observation that Jordan struggled with shooting in those practice sessions. And it showed in his first few games.

But the more games he played, the more Jordan got used to the sport again. Against the New York Knicks on March 28, in his fifth game back, Jordan dropped 55 points — one point over Walton's prediction. MJ shot 21-of-37 from the field, 3-of-4 from deep, and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line.

Walton missed the spot with regard to the Bulls' standing at the end of the regular season. They finished with a decent 47-35 record for fifth in the East. The Shaquille O'Neal-led Orlando Magic was right at the top of the East with a 57-25 record. 

The two teams did meet in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, where the Magic eclipsed the Bulls in six games. Jordan himself admitted that he wasn't in prime form during that time. 17 regular-season games weren't enough to fine-tune his body to basketball. 

As we all know, Jordan and the Bulls went on to reign supreme once again. That 1994-95 NBA season was just a way to test the waters. Those 17 regular-season games were good enough proof that Jordan still had it in him. He needed more time to acclimate his body to the game he loved the most.

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