Chicago State University’s Schlitz Malt Liquor Summer Basketball League was already one of the hottest summer basketball tournaments in the country in 1985. Then one night Michael Jordan showed up and called Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons to come down and play with him.
That night, a young Chicago man named Tracy Dildy tried to prove himself against Thomas, and Jordan’s rival stole the show. Detroit Pistons point guards taught Dildy a lesson about the difference between college ball and the NBA.
The Schlitz Malt Liquor Summer Basketball League at Chicago State University was once a big deal
Back in the day, before the Las Vegas NBA Summer League became a corporate convention surrounding an NBA-certified mini-course, there were a few summer leagues in major cities across the country.
In the 1980s, there was Drew League in Los Angeles, Rocker Park in New York City, and Chicago State in Wendy City.
These summer tournaments attracted local streetball legends, college players, and frontier NBA prospects. It was basically the best organized/mini games in the world. This is why they often draw the biggest stars in the NBA who want some running.
Some amazing NBA players came out in Chicago State in the ’80s. Native Chicagoans like Maurice Cheeks, Mark Aguirre, and Isaiah Thomas often appear to play in front of the 4,000 or so fans who came to watch (free) at the 2,700-seat Chicago State Arena.
Chicago Bulls will also be coming to town this holiday season, like Reggie Theus and Orlando Woolridge. And sometimes, a player like Terry Cummings or even Patrick Ewing might be in town and don their tops.
Then, on a hot and steamy Chicago evening in 1985, Michael Jordan appeared.
Michael Jordan appeared in Chicago and summoned some friends
Six years before legendary basketball writer Sam Smith wrote his famous book Michael Jordan, Jordan lawsBooks in the Chicago Tribune.
On July 10, 1985, in a Chicago Tribune article, Smith summed up an incredible night in the Chicago State Summer League when Michael Jordan, New Year’s Rookie for the Bulls, came to play some episodes.
Smith wrote that Jordan suddenly appeared out of the blue one night. Once he got there, he decided he wanted a higher level competition on that scorching night in Chicago. “So he asked the league organizers to call [the Detroit Pistons’ Isiah] Thomas and Mark Aguirre of the Dallas Mavericks, who were at home over the summer.”
Aguirre did not appear in Jordan, but Thomas did and stole the show.
A former high school star in Chicago playing for San Diego State in 1985 named Tracy Dildy wanted to test himself against Thomas. Detroit Piston was, by that time, a four-time NBA All-Star. Smith stated that Dildy initially outperformed Thomas, hitting “a few jumping shots at Thomas”.
That’s when Thomas showed exactly why he’s one of the greatest players in NBA history. Smith shared memories of Mike Davis, who was coaching Thomas’ team that night:
They went one-on-one for the next five minutes. On one occasion, Thomas was dribbling the ball too low, as the Globetrotters do. And when the child goes to the ball, Thomas puts it behind his back and enters the lying position. Then Thomas does a dribble, and another guy comes into a double-team, flips between them and swallows his left hand,” Smith said with a laugh. “The place went to seize it.”
Sam Smith on Isiah Thomas at the Chicago State Summer League
Dild learned a lesson the hard way on that fateful night about the difference between an NBA star and a college player. Interestingly, he seems to have learned from this lesson in a way that has helped him enjoy a lifelong basketball career.
What happened to Tracy Dildy?
There are three people in this Chicago summer story. And we all know what happened to Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas. But what happened to Tracy Dildy?
Dild was a star at King High School in Chicago before heading to San Diego State. He played two seasons on the West Coast before moving home to the University of Illinois-Chicago.
In his four years in college basketball, Dildy averaged 20.4 minutes, 4.4 points, 3.6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. While that was good enough to make the UIC Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995, according to DetroitTitans.com, it wasn’t good enough to create the NBA.
However, Dild made a long career in basketball for himself.
The Chicago native landed a job as an assistant coach at Ball State in 1994. He then returned to Chicago to do the same role at DePaul. While on the Blue Demons, he helped recruit future NBA players like Quentin Richardson, Bobby Simmons, Steven Hunter and Eddy Curry to DePaul.
Dildy went on to get assistant jobs at UIC, Auburn, Ole Miss, and UAB.
In the end, though, life came back full circle for Diddy. He became the Artistic Director of Chicago State University, a place where Thomas once lit.
For the past four years, he has served as an assistant coach for the Detroit Mercy Titans in the Horizon League.
All stats courtesy of Math reference
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