Michael Jordan and Steph Curry have a lot in common.
Both played college in the state of North Carolina, both went lower in the NBA draft than they should have, both revolutionized the game of basketball, and both had a desire to return from injuries before their respective teams thought they were ready.
Curry broke his left hand last October, and appeared to be ready to return during February. But the Warriors held him out until March 5.
Back in Jordan's second season, he broke his left foot in the third game of the year. It just happened to be against the Warriors.
"I was devastated because I never got hurt and I'm in a cast," Jordan said during ESPN's "The Last Dance" documentary Sunday. "I couldn't do anything, I was anxious. I'm pretty sure I was irritable to a lot of people."
Jordan would end up missing a total of 64 games, but before he started rehabbing with the Bulls, he went to the North Carolina campus and secretly played games for a week.
"I was itching to do something, so I talked the Bulls into letting me go back to college," Jordan said. "I just started going to the gym shooting. And then I started playing 1-on-1, then I started playing 2-on-2, then I started playing 3-on-3. Next thing you know, I'm playing 5-on-5 and the Bulls never knew I was doing it. And when I got back with the Bulls, my calf muscles and my injured calf was stronger than my uninjured calf. So they first thing they said is "What in the hell have you been doing?"
That's when Jordan, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and team doctors met to discuss when he could play again.
Jordan wanted to play, but the Bulls didn't want him to play. Eventually, they agreed to let him play, but with a minutes restriction: Seven minutes per half. 14 minutes per game.
Jordan figured out that the Bulls, who were 24-43 when he returned, were trying to lose games in order to get a better draft pick. Despite their desire to miss the playoffs, the Bulls ended up claiming the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 30-52 record.
When Curry suffered his broken left hand against the Suns on Oct. 31, there were whispers that the Warriors might tank in order to secure the 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick. After all, Curry was going to miss four months, Klay Thompson was expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season, Kevin Durant had bolted for Brooklyn and the D'Angelo Russell experiment wasn't working out.
Owner Joe Lacob and several players adamantly denied that the Warriors were tanking, but seeing video of Curry shooting coupled with the team saying he wasn't ready didn't add up.
Even when Curry did return against the Toronto Raptors, the Warriors still lost. When the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were in possession of a 15-50 record, the worst in the NBA.
While Jordan's return helped the Bulls make the playoffs, the Warriors were so far out of the playoff race, they would be eliminated from contention five days after Curry came back.