Michael Jordan once showed up at a summer league game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls, summoned Isiah Thomas onto the court, and with John Paxson’s help stole this NBA legend his only victory in an official capacity.
Michael Jordan once showed up at Schlitz Malt Liquor Summer League, summoned Isiah Thomas from the Pistons, and the Pistons great stole the show. Read more in detail here: isiah thomas pistons.
Back in 1985, the Schlitz Malt Liquor Summer Basketball League at Chicago State University was already regarded as one of the best in the nation. Then one night, Michael Jordan appeared and called Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons to join him on the court.
Tracy Didly, a young Chicago native, attempted to prove himself against Thomas that night, but Jordan’s opponent stole the show. Didly was given a lesson about the differences between college and NBA basketball by the Detroit Pistons point guard.
At Chicago State University, the Schlitz Malt Liquor Summer Basketball League was formerly a significant affair.
There were a few Summer Leagues in major cities around the nation before the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League became a corporate convention surrounding an NBA-sanctioned mini-tournament.
The Drew League in Los Angeles, Rucker Park in New York City, and Chicago State in the Windy City all existed in the 1980s.
Local streetball icons, college players, and NBA hopefuls all competed in these summer events. They were essentially the world’s greatest organized/pickup games. This is why they would often attract the NBA’s best names looking for a run.
In the 1980s, Chicago State produced some of the best NBA players. Maurice Cheeks, Mark Aguirre, and Isiah Thomas, all Chicago natives, would often appear to play in front of the 4,000 or so fans that came to watch (for free) in Chicago State’s 2,700-seat arena.
Reggie Theus and Orlando Woolridge, two Chicago Bulls players in town for the summer, would also stop by. And every now and again, a player like Terry Cummings or even Patrick Ewing would show up in town and lace on his high-tops.
Then, in 1985, Michael Jordan appeared on a sweltering, sultry Chicago evening.
Michael Jordan arrived at Chicago State University and contacted a few buddies.
Michael Jordan, Joe Daughrity, and Fred ‘Flip’ Shepherd in a RARE picture.
Chicago basketball royalty at the Schlitz Malt Liquor Summer League, July, 1985. pic.twitter.com/gmTU9M3vbj
— Adam Howes (@Howsito) August 29, 2021
Six years before writing his iconic Michael Jordan book, The Jordan Rules, famed basketball journalist Sam Smith worked for the Chicago Tribune.
Smith recapped an exciting night at the Chicago State Summer League when Chicago Bulls reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Jordan stopped by to shoot some hoops in a Chicago Tribune piece from July 10, 1985.
Jordan appeared out of nowhere one evening, according to Smith. On that scorching Chicago night, he decided he wanted some higher-level competition. “As a result, he requested that league organizers contact Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons and Mark Aguirre of the Dallas Mavericks, both of whom were on vacation.”
Although Aguirre did not appear for Jordan, Thomas did, and he stole the show.
Tracy Didly, a former Chicago high school standout who played at San Diego State in 1985, wanted to pit himself against Thomas. The Detroit Piston was a four-time NBA All-Star at the time. Didly originally had the upper hand on Thomas, scoring “a couple of jump shots on Thomas,” according to Smith.
That’s when Thomas demonstrated why he’s considered one of the best players in NBA history. Mike Davis, who was coaching Thomas’ squad that night, echoed Smith’s memories:
‘For the next five minutes, they were one-on-one.’ Thomas dribbles the ball low as the Globetrotters do at one point. When the boy reaches for the ball, Thomas throws it behind his back and shoots a lay-up. Then, as Thomas is dribbling, another player comes up to double-team them, and he runs between them and slams left-handed,’ Smith laughed. ‘Everything was up for grabs.’
At the Chicago State Summer League, Sam Smith took on Isiah Thomas.
That that night, Didly discovered the difference between an NBA great and a collegiate player the hard way. Surprisingly, he seemed to have benefited from that lesson in a manner that allowed him to continue playing basketball for the rest of his life.
Tracy Didly, what happened to her?
Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan (L-R) | Bettmann / Contributor; Focus on Sport via Getty Images
This Chicago State Summer League narrative revolves on three characters. And we all know how Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas ended up. What happened to Tracy Didly, though?
Before going to San Diego State, Didly was a standout at King High School in Chicago. Before returning home to the University of Illinois-Chicago, he spent two seasons on the West Coast.
Didly averaged 20.4 minutes, 4.4 points, 3.6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game in four years of collegiate basketball. According to DetroitTitans.com, although it was excellent enough to get him into the UIC Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995, it wasn’t good enough to get him into the NBA.
Didly, on the other hand, had a successful basketball career.
In 1994, the Chicago native accepted a position as an assistant coach at Ball State. He then returned to Chicago to take up the same position at DePaul. He helped recruit future NBA players Quentin Richardson, Bobby Simmons, Steven Hunter, and Eddy Curry to DePaul while on the Blue Demons’ bench.
Didly went on to work as an assistant at UIC, Auburn, Ole Miss, and UAB, among others.
Didly’s life, however, eventually came full circle. He went on to become the head coach at Chicago State University, the same school where Thomas had lighted him up.
He has worked as an assistant coach with the Detroit Mercy Titans of the Horizon League for the last four years.
Sports Reference provided all stats.
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