Michael Jordan: 35 years later, his Rookie of the Year campaign remains one of the best

Omnisport

Michael Jordan's name is synonymous with the Chicago Bulls and the NBA, and May 16, 2020 represents the 35th anniversary of him being named Rookie of the Year.

A stunning first season in the league saw a prolific Jordan turn the struggling Bulls' fortunes around and guide them to the playoffs.

He went on to lead the Bulls to six championships, be named the NBA MVP on five occasions, win Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, earn 14 selections to the All-Star Game and gain All-NBA First Team honours on 10 occasions.

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Using Stats Perform data, we look back at Jordan's incredible rookie campaign.

Happy 35th anniversary

Since 1963-64, no rookie has had more 35-point games than Jordan's 20. Three of those displays – a loss at the Milwaukee Bucks, a home win against the Denver Nuggets and a road defeat against the Cleveland Cavaliers – saw him score exactly 35 points. In the first 35 games of his NBA career Jordan scored a total of 918 points; Elvin Hayes is the only rookie since 1963-64 with more (1,052).

Among the all-time greats

Jordan averaged 28.2 points in his first season in the league. The only Rookie of the Year winners with a superior points per game are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (28.8), Oscar Robertson (30.5), Walt Bellamy (31.6) and Wilt Chamberlain (37.6). The only other first-year players to outperform Jordan in this regard are George Mikan (28.3), who played before the accolade was introduced, and Hayes (28.4), who was beaten to the award by Wes Unseld in 1969.

A force going both ways

Jordan also averaged 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.39 steals in 1984-85. No other player had at least 25 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals per game in the league that season. It was the first of seven campaigns in which he put up those numbers; the rest of the NBA has just 12 combined since steals were first tracked in 1973-74, with Rick Barry and Clyde Drexler (both two) the only players to do it more than once.

Incredibly prolific

Opponents were only able to keep Jordan below 20 points in nine of his 82 games in 1984-85 and six of those came before Christmas during a 1-8 run for the Bulls. It is the joint-fewest by any rookie with at least 10 appearances since 1963-64 (Abdul-Jabbar, also nine).

Unmatched in the modern era

In that same period, Hayes (35) is the only rookie to have had more 30-point games than Jordan's 33, while the Bulls legend's seven 40-point games is second to Abdul-Jabbar (9). Since 1984-85, just three players - Allen Iverson (5), Donovan Mitchell (2) and Blake Griffin (2) - have had multiple 40-point games.

Getting to the line

Over a quarter of Jordan's points in his rookie campaign came from the free-throw line. He made 630 shots from the stripe, with Robertson (653) the only first-year player to enjoy greater success.

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