Michael Jordan Didn't Talk to Bulls Before 1984 NBA Draft, Ex-GM Rod Thorn Says

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2020

CHAPEL HILL, NC - 1983: Michael Jordan #23 of the North Carolina Tar Heels rests against the Clemson Tigers circa 1983 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1983 NBAE (Photo by Anthony Neste/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Chicago Bulls were certain about Michael Jordan ahead of the 1984 NBA draft, even if they didn't speak to him directly.

"We never had a conversation until we drafted him," then-general manager Rod Thorn said, per Fred Katz and Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

Thorn was close friends with North Carolina head coach Dean Smith, who "provided intel" on Jordan ahead of the draft. The team was also able to scout him during practices, and the Bulls took advantage to see an extra side of the eventual Hall of Famer.

"You could see the competitiveness in a drill," scout Mike Thibault said. "You could see him want to win a sprint or drill or whatever. You could see him do some things with the basketball that you might not see in their system during a game. I thought that was really informative for us."

Thibault said he saw Jordan six or seven times at UNC during the player's final year at the school.

Jordan put together an incredible collegiate career that featured an NCAA title (where he hit the game-winning shot as a freshman), two years as an All-American and a Naismith Award as the best player in the country during his junior season.

Despite his success, Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon was considered the consensus top pick of the 1984 draft. 

Per Katz and Mayberry, the Bulls also knew the Portland Trail Blazers were going to take Sam Bowie with the No. 2 overall pick 10 days before the draft, as long as the Kentucky center passed his physical. This put the Bulls in position to select Jordan with the third overall pick.

The team reportedly received several enticing offers for the right to take Jordan, including All-Star forward Mark Aguirre, but had no interest in making a deal.

"Rod and I jokingly made a pact the day before the draft that if anybody came in from the ownership group to try to convince us otherwise, we were gonna lock them out of the room until the pick was made," Thibault said. "Or lock them in a closet if need be."

Portland picked Bowie at No. 2 while Jordan became a superstar with the Bulls, leading the team to six championships while earning 14 All-Star selections, 10 scoring titles and five MVP awards.