Wizards

Wizards

With live basketball games paused for the foreseeable future, we at NBC Sports Washington have been watching old games and putting them through a modern lens, looking for plays and moments that would have gone viral on social media if they happened today.

The lookback series started with a Bulls-Bullets playoff game in 1997 and since we have gone through several eras of Bullets history. But there is much more to D.C. area basketball history than the Bullets and many more games to analyze with a present-day approach.

So, today we look back at the Feb. 17, 1983 upset by the Maryland Terrapins over the No. 3 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. It was a game then-Washington Post beat writer Michael Wilbon described in his story that night with this lede: "For as long as basketball is played at the University of Maryland, they'll talk about the time the Terrapins dismantled, discombobulated and dismissed a North Carolina team many say is the best in the nation."

And it was a game that pitted a UNC sophomore named Michael Jordan against a Maryland freshman named Len Bias. Jordan would go on to be the best NBA player of all-time, while Bias would be taken second overall in the 1986 NBA Draft by the Celtics before tragically passing away before his career even started.

 

Future No. 1 pick Brad Daugherty was also on UNC, as well as future No. 4 pick Sam Perkins. Adrian Branch was the star at Maryland at the time.

Here are five takeaways from the game including GIFs and screenshots of the best moments...

Bias vs. Jordan

Two of the best players in ACC history went at it in this game. Jordan was already a made man having hit the big shot against Georgetown to win the national championship the year before. Bias was just starting out and had yet to crack the starting lineup. Instead of Bias, the Terps started a forward named Mark Fothergill.

Though Jordan was already a certified star and Bias just a freshman, the two squared off directly for much of the game with each having their moments. Jordan got off to a blazing start with 15 points in the first half. That included a three with Bias all over him.

But Bias got it going as the game went on, including with an and-1 where Jordan fouled him.

And Bias also helped shut Jordan down for most of the second half. Jordan went scoreless for the first 14 minutes as Bias and teammate Herman Veal tightened their grip. Wilbon's game story detailed a great anecdote about Maryland head coach Lefty Driesell asking the team at halftime: "Is there anybody in this room that can guard Michael Jordan?" Veal raised his hand and then got the job done.

But Bias had some key moments including this sequence where he harrassed two of Jordan's shot attempts on the same play.

 

Bias' dunk

Bias' best play came against Daugherty, whom he put on a poster with a vicious alley-oop slam. It became one of the best plays of Bias' career and it was a great example of the athleticism that helped make him a top draft pick. Keep in mind this was Bias as a freshman dunking on a college superstar.

Jordan also had some highlights that didn't involve Bias. Like, this play where he got the steal and finished it on the other end.

And this play where he made a really difficult leaner on the baseline. There were many moments like this were you could see Jordan's talent and athleticism was on a different level.

Coaching legends

You can trace the lineage of the head coaching job of the North Carolina Tar Heels all the way back to 1962 in this game. Dean Smith was in his prime as the head coach at the time, having taken the job 11 years prior. He was later replaced in 1998 by Bill Guthridge, who was an assistant on his staff in 1983. Matt Doherty, who was a player and started the game, replaced Guthridge in 2001 and then Roy Williams, another assistant for Smith, took over in 2004 and remains there to this day.

In this one sequence, you can see from left to right: Williams, Guthridge and Smith.

Guthridge would later lead the Tar Heels to two Final Fours and Williams has won three national titles in Chapel Hill to surpass Smith's two. Interestingly enough, though Smith is now regarded as one of the best coaches in basketball history, back then he was just overcoming the stigma as a guy who couldn't get it done on the biggest stage. An announcer remarked of Smith on the broadcast, that "for years they had that rap about him not winning the national championship." It's always amazing to hear something like that after the fact.

 

Shot clock

Part of the conversation on the broadcast was how different Cole Field House was from other NCAA arenas. Most notably, the location of the shot clock. It was on top of the hoop, which is commonplace today, and the announcers couldn't get over how much they loved it.

"I like where they have it here at Maryland, right above the backboard... in my opinion, that's the best spot for it," one of them said.

They also remarked how the rims were particularly firm, causing long rebounds. And the fans chanted 'bulls---' at the referees, which you will be glad to know is a tradition that still holds today in College Park. 

Fans distracting free throws

The announcers liked the shot clock position, but they absolutely hated what was a new concept at the time: fans trying to distract free throw shooters from behind the basket. 

This shot right here led to a rant by the broadcasters with one of them remarking: "I've never liked it." And they told a story about how Smith had apparently admonished Tar Heel fans in Chapel Hill for doing it to an opponent.

Times have certainly changed. But this classic match-up between Bias and Jordan still holds up today.

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Bullets-Sixers Game 5 of the 1986 NBA Playoffs

Bullets-Sonics Game 6 of the 1978 NBA Finals

Bullets-Bulls Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Playoffs