Michael Jordan has a tendency to take things personally. From watching ESPN's "The Last Dance" and NBA TV's "The Dream Team," it's clear that it's not a good idea to get on Jordan's bad side. Whether it's made up like the beef with LaBradford Smith or warranted, Jordan always seemed to always come out on top in the end.
This wasn't always the case, though. There was a time early in MJ's NBA career when he wasn't yet a basketball god. He was well on his way by his rookie season, though.
That year, he averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists. So, It's no surprise he walked away with the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. His stats for the 1985 NBA All-Star Game, however, were surprising.
Despite playing 22 minutes, Jordan scored a lowly seven points on nine shot attempts. Maybe the Chicago Bulls superstar just wasn't feeling it that night. A more popular theory is he was froze out of the game by Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and George Gervin.
The Lead Up to the 1985 NBA All-Star Game
It may be a shock, but veterans in any industry aren't fond of young bucks who come in and shake up the establishment. In Jordan's case, not only was he dominating the league as a rookie, he had dominated the NBA's best before playing a pro game.
Prior to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Team USA, which was made up entirely of college players or to-be pros, faced off against a group of NBA players in preparation. The NBA squad consisted of players like the Lakers legend Johnson, Thomas, Larry Bird, Bill Walton, James Worthy, Robert Parish and Clyde Drexler. Now, the U.S. team wasn't a bunch of slouches. Future NBA stars like Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin were on the roster in addition to Jordan. But, a pro group of that caliber should be able to handle a bunch of youngins pretty easily.
Well, Jordan absolutely torched the NBA guys and led Team USA to eight straight wins. I wouldn't doubt Johnson and Thomas left the gym with a sour taste in their mouth.
Fast forward to 1985 NBA All-Star Weekend, and Jordan won over the Indianapolis crowd by putting on a show during the Slam Dunk Contest. Yes, dunking from the free-throw line was incredible, but he did it while wearing gold necklaces and walked into the arena wearing personalized "Air Jordan" warmups. Allegedly, his fashion choices didn't sit too well with a lot of older players. Especially since his "Air Jordan" deal with Nike was worth $2.5 million over five years. An insane amount back then.
Mix all these things together and you get an irritated Johnson, Thomas and Gervin. They came up with a plan to retaliate...allegedly.
Michael Jordan's All-Star Game "Freeze Out"
I say allegedly because all parties have denied there ever being a "freeze out,' even Jordan himself. That being said, the supposed plan was for Johnson and Gervin, who were on the Western Conference All-Stars, to hound Jordan defensively, as Kareem Adbul-Jabbar (who LeBron James recently passed as the NBA's all-time leading scorer) guarded the paint. It wouldn't be an All-Star Game without nonexistent defense. So, any defensive effort is a big no-no, and in my opinion, should be fineable.
As for Thomas, who was Jordan's teammate on the Eastern Conference All-Stars, his job was to not pass Jordan the ball. That would leave fellow Eastern Conference starters Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Moses Malone, as the Pistons guard's favorite offensive targets. If you're looking for the beginning of the Jordan/Thomas Eastern Conference finals beef, you've found it.
The results? Jordan finished the game with a mere 7 points, with three of those coming on free throws. He also had the fewest shot attempts by any starter except for Adrian Dantley, who had six. Fellow East All-Star Terry Cummings nearly doubled Jordan's attempts with 17 off the bench.
It's certainly an outlier when looking how Jordan normally performed that year. We have to remember that the Jordan then wasn't the Jordan who ran the NBA yet. He was still young, and the veterans didn't want to cede their power.
It's not like Jordan was being obnoxious or anything either. He was ushering in his style in an era that was only just becoming accustomed to it. He mostly tried to keep a low profile.
"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," said Jordan in "Michael Jordan: The Life."
Well, according to Dr. Charles Tucker, a then-advisor for Johnson and Thomas, the veterans wanted to remind Jordan who the bosses were.
"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," said Tucker, also in "Michael Jordan: The Life."
Going hard at someone defensively isn't that abnormal, it's just an obnoxious move in an All-Star Game setting. Not a huge deal. So, Johnson and Gervin didn't receive much flak, but Thomas, being his teammate, did.
The Detroit Pistons point guard has denied the allegations several times over the years. Whether he knew it or not at the time, his part in the freeze-out game birthed one of the greatest individual rivalries in NBA history.
The "Freeze Out" Fallout
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Jordan didn't have to wait long to get his revenge. (Sorry, alleged revenge.) His Bulls squared off against Thomas' Pistons in the first game after the All-Star break. He dropped a casual 49 points on 19-of-31 shooting to go along with 15 rebounds in a 139-126 overtime win. The cherry on top was Thomas fumbling the ball at the end of regulation with a chance to win the game. Jordan, of course, came up with it. That wouldn't be the first time their beef would spill onto the court.
Twenty-four years after the infamous All-Star Game, Jordan also spoke about the "freeze out" allegations in his Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech.
We all know Jordan will look for anything to motivate himself. The "freeze-out" slight was all he needed. Big mistake on Thomas, Johnson and Gervin's part. Sorry, ALLEGED mistake.
Michael Jordan's career is full of famous moments, including multiple MVP wins and his first All-Star game with Kobe Bryant. Ironically, the most infamous may have been the one that pushed him to an otherworldly level.
MORE: Michael Jordan Found Love Again After His Expensive Divorce
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