The latest proof comes via Joe Vardon of The Athletic in a highly entertaining piece that details the first encounters various players had over the years with the Chicago Bulls legend. The most noteworthy of the bunch comes from one of Jordan's original NBA adversaries: Dominique Wilkins.
Nearing the end of his third season in the league, Jordan was preparing to face the Atlanta Hawks by playing mind games against them well before tipoff, as Wilkins told Vardon:
"He was something else, something else, man. I remember him walking into our locker room in Chicago (April 1987) and he walked right by me. And I'm like, what the hell is he coming in our locker room for? And he walked by me, walked by Kevin (Willis), and he tapped Randy Wittman on the leg and he said, 'Lace 'em up, it's gonna be a long f--king night.' And he walked out. He had 60 that night."
Vardon points out Jordan actually scored 61 points that night, tying his career high on 22-of-38 shooting—17-of-21 from the free-throw line—to go with 10 rebounds and four steals.
It was a classic Jordan performance before that notion even had a true definition.
This wasn't MJ at the height of his powers. He would still have to wait another four years before winning his first NBA Finals in 1991. This was just a dominant player who knew he was about to catch fire, ensuring his opponents knew it too.
A year later, Jordan would defeat Wilkins at Chicago Stadium in one of the league's most iconic dunk contests —the seeds of his greatness planted firmly in the head of the Hawks legend a year earlier.