Monday 11 December 2017 / 11:10 AM

RUSS FOLLOWING MJ’S PATIENT PATH

Michael Jordan is one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA – there is no disputing that. The spotlight often falls on his two three-peat performances with the Chicago Bulls, and the 1990s is fairly known as MJ’s decade.

But the 6x NBA champion, 6x NBA Finals MVP, 5x NBA MVP, and owner of a laundry list of other prestigious accolades’ beginnings were far from instant stardom.

We all know the story of how MJ wasn’t able to make the varsity basketball team as a sophomore. And as inspirational as this is, I want to focus on his professional career. At the 1984 NBA draft, Michael Jordan was selected with the third overall pick by the Bulls, following the Houston Rockets’ selection of Hakeem Olajuwon and the Portland Trail Blazers’ pick of Sam Bowie.

Both teams needed a center, so they drafted one. Hakeem Olajuwon would go on to win two NBA championships with the Rockets, and Bowie is considered the worst draft pick in American professional sports history.

In his rookie year, Jordan led the Bulls to their first playoff appearance since the 1980-81 season, but they lost in the first round to the Bucks. The following year, the Bulls were swept by the Celtics in the first round. The following year, he was swept by the Celtics yet again.

It wasn’t until the 1987-88 season that Jordan would advance to the second round, which was short lived with a 4-1 loss to the Pistons. Jordan spent the next two seasons getting to the Western Conference Finals, getting shut down by the Pistons both times.

The 1990-91 season belatedly saw Jordan and the Bulls elevated their game to an entirely new level. That’s six years of seasons of almost making it. Winning his first championship at 28 years old is still a major accomplishment, especially considering the ensuing years of league domination.

The Jordan story has similar origins to many players in the NBA. The majority of comparisons being made between LeBron and Jordan have only materialised because both are exceptionally talented have the potential to change the entire league.

It was only recently that Russell Westbrook started to rise in the rankings of Michael Jordan comparisons. Not only did Westbrook get MJ’s blessing earlier this season, he’s starting to re-write history books with his impressive gameplay and stat lines. Westbrook’s five straight triple doubles put him in a position to replace Jordan in the record books.

The former Seattle Supersonic is now the leader of the relatively shiny new team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is poised to become the most famous player in the heart of the United States, and has the dynamic ability to develop into a national treasure.

The Thunder aren’t currently much of a threat in the Western Conference anymore since Kevin Durant left, but things could change very quickly in the following years.

Westbrook is currently 28, and has been to the Western Conference Finals four times and the NBA Finals once. There is only so much losing at the brink of a championship that a guy like Westbrook, or a team in general, can take before moves start being made for a legitimate run towards the title.

There are several players in the NBA right now could potentially be the next Michael Jordan. LeBron is 28 right now and probably has a good decade in the tank before retirement becomes a serious consideration. The Golden State Warriors have the potential to become a Western Conference dynasty.

The 1980s was a period of Lakers-Celtics rivalry and domination – the teams combined for eight championships. Extreme talent like Michael Jordan had no choice but to stay latent, develop his skills to a higher level, and pray his team knows what it’s doing to bring the right people on board.

The 2010s shape as a decade dominated by LeBron (on the Heat and Cavs) and the Golden State Warriors.

But somewhere out there, there is a guy sick of losing with his eye patiently on the prize.

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About the author

Alex Moskov

Alex has come on board with CBS as our basketball and gridiron expert, providing opinions and analysis from the bright lights of the NBA and NFL.

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