Michael Jordan already established himself as one of the best players in the NBA in his rookie season, showcasing incredible maturity and dominance on both ends of the floor. His unbelievable rookie campaign awarded him with his first All-Star appearance in his rookie (1984/85) season, in which the main goal was to promote his new partnership with Nike and Air Jordan shoes.
That type of publicity heading into the All-Star game didn’t sit well with the rest of the NBA stars who decided to make Jordan’s debut living hell. According to dr. Charles Tucker, who served as an advisor for Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas, the rest of the NBA stars wanted to ‘freeze out’ Jordan at the main event so he can learn a lesson.
The guys weren’t happy with his attitude up here. They decided to teach him a lesson. On defense, Magic and George gave him a hard time, and offensively, they just didn’t give him the ball. That’s what they’re laughing about.Charles Tucker, via Michael Jordan: The Life
On the other hand, Jordan never wanted to impose his popularity and overshadow other players simply because he had so much respect for them and looked up to a lot of them growing up, especially Julius Erving.
I was very quiet when I went there. I didn’t want to go there like I was a big-shot rookie, and you must respect me.Michael Jordan, via Michael Jordan: The Life
After the game, one of the instigators of making Jordan’s debut a nightmare was Isiah Thomas, who said nobody even thought about doing something like that to their fellow All-Star.
How could someone do anything like that? It’s very childish.Isiah Thomas, via Michael Jordan: The Life
Sonny Vaccaro was a sports marketing executive who signed Michael Jordan to his first deal with Nike, talked about the incident, and admitted it was Nike’s fault. The company actually had a great marketing campaign, and with Jordan already doing remarkable things in the league, it came naturally that most attention was pointed towards Jordan. Vaccaro also made an interesting point saying how at that time, Dr.J was still the fan-favorite.
Nike was the enemy. It was Nike. We created this guy. It was Nike. It wasn’t so much he appeared in the dunk contest and was a fan favorite. Dr.J was a fan favorite. Nobody got mad at Dr.J. It was what we did with him.Sonny Vaccaro, via Michael Jordan: The Life
Jordan finished the game with only seven points which nobody expected, and it’s hard to say whether any of those things are really true or not, but the old saying goes, ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’ It does make sense that some of the older players felt irritated by the fact Jordan received the most attention even though he was only a rookie, and we all know rookies are usually treated when they first come to the league.
All of those big-time players have incredible egos, and Jordan’s first appearance there probably shook them a bit. Realizing this kid will be somebody you will have to go through on your way to a championship, and he is getting all the shine in his first All-Star probably made them feel, they need to make their presence felt more, which they wanted to do by playing hard defense on him or denying him the ball. We’ll never really know for sure; however, it’s a perfect example of how times were different then, and now that would never happen in today’s NBA.