7. Beating Jordan and the Bulls
In the spring of 1985, the second-seeded Milwaukee Bucks bested the seventh-seeded Chicago Bulls in a four-game series. On the surface, that may not sound all that remarkable, but with some context, I bet you’ll realize why it carries real significance.
The Bucks finished the regular season with 59 wins and with Don Nelson crowned as the NBA’s Coach of the Year for the second time in the space of three seasons. But a first-round meeting with a rookie by the name of Michael Jordan hardly seemed like a reward for that regular season excellence.
Jordan had just completed a historic rookie season, playing in all 82 games, averaging 28.2 points per game, and swooping to Rookie of the Year and All-NBA Second Team honors.
In other words, describing a series with Jordan as a potential banana skin would have been significantly underselling the threat he posed to the Bucks.
The Bucks were by no means lacking in talent of their own, though. Collectively Milwaukee was able to find a way to take care of business, with Terry Cummings and Sidney Moncrief leading the charge with averages of 29.5 and 26.5 points per game respectively, and Paul Pressey and Ricky Pierce also chipping in with meaningful scoring.
Jordan, himself, averaged 29.3 points per game on an inefficient 43.6 percent from the field. That fact can largely be attributed to the pressure defense of Moncrief, who had been the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in the two previous seasons.
Of course, Jordan famously later described just how difficult it was to match up with Moncrief.
"“When you play against Moncrief, you’re in for a night of all-around basketball. He’ll hound you everywhere you go, both ends of the court. You just expect it.”"
Going up against Jordan, even as a rookie, was no easy feat either, yet the Bucks didn’t let it stop them. By the time they were swept by the 76ers in the next round, they may have wished it was Jordan in their shoes, though.