In 1986, on April 20th, Michael Jordan surprised the world with his historic 63 points at the Boston Garden in Game 2 of the first-round series between the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics.
Beyond the Bulls' defeat, it was MJ's first big NBA moment.
As Jordan shone against the exceptional Celtics, setting an all-time NBA playoff scoring record, there was another hero who was previously known for his scoring dominance.
No, we are not talking about Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale or Bill Walton. And of course, we aren't referencing Orlando Woolridge either, who was then the Bulls' second-best player.
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We are talking about George Gervin. Remembered by few, the Iceman was Jordan's teammate for the 1985-86 season.
After starting his career in the ABA with Virginia Squires as a teammate of Julius Erving in 1972, Gervin became a symbol of the San Antonio Spurs for the nine years starting 1974, including the ABA-NBA merger.
In 12 seasons with the Spurs, Gervin established himself as one of the best scorers of all time, leading the league on four different occasions and averaging 26.3 points from 1973 to 1985.
His highest-scoring game? On April 9 in 1978, he scored 63 points to clinch his first career scoring title.
However, in October 1985, things looked different for Gervin. The 33-year-old guard had scored 21.2 points in 1984-1985, showing the first signs of decline. Despite that, everybody was surprised by the Spurs' decision. A few days into the 1985-86 season, they traded Gervin to the Bulls in exchange for Dave Greenwood.
The Bulls' thinking was clear. Gervin could function as a mentor to Jordan, who was just coming off his rookie year. Instead, Jordan and Gervin shared a less-friendlier relationship.
"Doc [Julius Erving] probably appreciated me a lot more than Michael, because I was old and on my way out. Michael was coming in and really trying to show his presence and he probably looked at me a little different. [He] always called me "the old man" and I said well 'you going to get there one day,'" recalls Gervin in an interview with Bill Simmons for Grantland.
With Jordan missing a majority of his second season with a foot injury, the former Spur started 75 of the 82 regular-season games, averaging 16.2 points. However, at the start of the playoffs, when Jordan recovered, he fell out of the rotation. He only played six minutes in Game 1 of the series against the Celtics and five in Game 2, after which he never saw any minutes either in that series or in the league.
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"I don't know how I stayed on the bench that long," said the Detroit native. "He going to get 63 but let me pass him the ball a couple of times."
By the history books, Gervin's final NBA game was on April 20th in 1986, the day Jordan set the all-time playoff scoring record. A quiet final game for a star who is etched in everybody's memory.
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