Bobby Knight was a huge admirer of Michael Jordan and his game and he never missed a chance to praise the Chicago Bulls legend for his quality on the court. Ever since he was a young player, Knight knew MJ was going to do big things in the game. He had the chance to coach Jordan in 1984 when the North Carolina alumni played in the Olympics, claiming MJ was the best athlete he'd seen playing the game of basketball.
“The kid is just an absolutely, great kid. If we're going to pick the three or four best athletes I’ve ever seen play basketball, he’d be one of them. I think he’s the best athlete I’ve ever seen play basketball, bar none. If I were going to pick people with the best ability I’ve ever seen play the game, he’d be one of them. If I were going to pick the best competitors that I’ve ever seen play, he’d be one of them.
So in the categories of competitiveness, ability, skill and then athletic ability, he’s the best athlete, he’s one of the best competitors, he’s one of the most skilled players. That to me makes him the best basketball player that I’ve ever seen play," Knight said in a press conference in 1984.
Knight even tried to get his good friend Stu Inman to draft MJ. Inman was the Portland Trail Blazers general manager at the time, but he had different plans for his team. Portland had the No. 2 pick in that draft and they were planning to pick a center since they already had a good shooting guard in Clyde Drexler.
During those years, having a good center was mandatory to have success in the league, which is why Inman wasn't convinced about Jordan. Knight made it clear that he would make a big mistake if he didn't pick Jordan, even telling him to use him in a very different position.
“Play him [Jordan] at center, and he will be the best center in the league,” Knight told Inman.
In the end, Inman picked Sam Bowie with that pick. MJ would go to the Bulls, changing the story of the team, winning six titles during the 90s, becoming the best player of all time. As for the Blazers, they traded Bowie in 1989 to the New Jersey Nets. They only played in the Finals once with Clyde Drexler, with Michael Jordan dominating them to win their second NBA title in 1992.