Piatkowski goes down memory lane, recalls guarding Michael Jordan

Published: May. 18, 2020 at 4:08 PM CDT
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Like basketball fans worldwide, Eric Piatkowski watched "The Last Dance," a 10-part mini-series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. With each episode, Piatkowski was reminded of his NBA career, which spanned 14 years.

The University of Nebraska graduate made his NBA debut 1994 with the Los Angeles Clippers.

"My rookie year, we had the worst record in the NBA," Piatkowski said. "We were averaging about 2,500 people per game. Everyone said 'Wait until the Bulls come to town.' Every star in town is there and there are flashbulbs going off. I'm like, 'Man, this is amazing.'"

Piatkowski remembers seeing several celebrities courtside for his first Bulls vs. Clippers game, including Tiger Woods, Denzel Washington, and Jack Nicholson. Piatkowski adds that prior to the game, his wife and family members were taking pictures with celebrities courtside.

Piatkowski, a Nebraska Basketball Hall of Fame member, squared off against Jordan multiple times over his NBA career. He jokes he lost more games than he won against the 6-time NBA champion.

"You're like 'Hey, I'm playing the best guy in the world right now,'" Piatkowski said. "He was a world-class athlete. His competitiveness. I was amazed because he brought it every night. He brought it big time."

Among the times Piatkowski guarded Jordan was prior to the 1995-96 season. The Clippers and Bulls met in an exhibition game at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln. Piatkowski scored 16 points in a 104-101 Clippers win.

"In '94, boy were they good," Piatkowski said. "They had Rodman and Pippen and they were hitting on all cylinders."

Piatkowski said he had dozens of ticket requests for the exhibition game in Lincoln.

"I remember walking into the arena and Danny Nee and his wife were there," Piatkowski said. "I had never seen anything like it at the Devaney Center."

With the game in Lincoln, Piatkowski started for the Clippers, which was just the second start of his professional basketball career.

"There was a lot of nerves," Piatkowski said. "Its a lot harder to look good against Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. I always got stuck with one of those two guys on me. I didn't embarrass myself against the best guys on the planet."

The South Dakota native remains the career 3-point leader for the Los Angeles Clippers. He played in nearly 800 games in the NBA, averaging more than 7 points per game.

In 2004, Piatkowski was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Chicago Bulls, where he spent two seasons.

"They're showing the inside of the locker room (on the documentary," Piatkowski said, "and it didn't change one tiny bit from the time Jordan was there to the time I was there. I said to my wife, 'Do you see where Jordan's locker is?' She says, 'Yeah.' I said, 'That was my locker.'"

Piatkowski adds that his wife was surprised to learn he shared the same locker as Jordan.

"She goes, 'So you had Jordan's locker?'" Piatkowski said. "Yeah. She responded, 'Well, that's pretty cool.'"