“The Rivalry That We Didn’t Get,” Fans Get Emotionally Overwhelmed as Michael Jordan’s Rare Photo With a Lost Hoops Talent Emerges

Published 06/02/2023, 5:44 AM EDT

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On-court rivalries between players like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, have played a crucial role in defining the NBA. When it came to Michael Jordan‘s era, however, not many players could match the Chicago Bulls icon. Magic had Bird, but Jordan had Charles Barkley? Isiah Thomas? Perhaps, Karl Malone. The jury is still out on that one. In college, however, MJ did have an opponent who gave him a tough time, but the two sadly could not lock horns in the NBA.

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A picture of a young Jordan and his college rival resurfaced, with many in the hoops world growing emotional after coming across the then-youngsters in action.

A rare photo of Michael Jordan and his college rival emerges


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Similar to the league, Michael Jordan was widely lauded as the best college player of his time. Unlike his NBA stint, however, a fellow college player would emerge to contest His Airness. MJ’s contender was University of Maryland superstar, Len Bias. The Maryland player, according to many coaches, was as good as Jordan. Whenever the two locked horns, Len Bias exhibited composure and held his ground against the great Jordan. The hoops world was all set to witness the iconic college rivalry in the NBA.

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Two years after the Bulls drafted Jordan, the Celtics drafted Len Bias in 1986. Given the fanfare around Jordan and Bias, any Chicago-Boston matchup would have been a blockbuster. Sadly, however, a Jordan-Bias matchup could never take place in the NBA. Shortly after Boston drafted him, Len Bias succumbed to a cocaine overdose, tragically leaving the world at 22. Bias never made his NBA debut.


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Now, ‘rare-sports’ has posted a photo of Jordan and Bias from their teenage days on Instagram. The two could be seen trying to win a tipoff during a basketball camp. Many in the community were moved, thinking of the rivalry the NBA never witnessed and the loss of young talent.

Fans get emotional after seeing the picture of the then rivals

Seeing the iconic old photos, quite a lot of fans are reminiscing about the lost basketball talent’s legacy. Fans seem to be well aware of Len Bias’ basketball prowess and they seemingly think that he could have stood up to the mighty Jordan. “That’s the rivalry that we didn’t get,” said a fan.

Here are some responses from the fans.

“Look at Len … he was at that point light years ahead of MJ …”

“MJ might not have six titles if Len Bias didn’t die.”

“The basketball universe got robbed of an epic rivalry. Len & MJ was supposed to be the late 80’s/90’s version on Bird & Magic. Eastern Conference Finals would’ve been must see TV for the next decade.”


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“One of NBA biggest what if.”

“Magic vs. Bird was supposed to be followed up with Bias vs. Jordan!”

“He woulda gave Mike the challenge that Nique and Clyde just wasn’t able to .”


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“One of the saddest stories in the history of life the death of Len Bias.” 

WATCH THIS STORY: “This Dude Fought Me Every Single Day”: Teary-Eyed Michael Jordan Confessed His Competitive Siblings Took His Pettiness To Another Level



Written by:

Krishna Prasad M


One take at a time

Krishna Prasad is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He holds professional qualifications in English and Journalism from reputed institutions. As a trained reporter, Krishna's intense passion for sports writing prompted him to become an NBA journalist.
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Edited by:

Jayant Chhabra




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