As a rookie in North Carolina, Michael Jordan scores the game winning basket in the 1982 NCAA championship game, vaulting him towards superstardom.
Hitting the game winning shot in the 1982 championship game had a profound effect on Michael. He now believed he could accomplish anything in his basketball career. Michael continued to elevate his game with his amazing athletic skills, becoming well known for his high flying acrobatics and powerful slam dunks.
Here is a 1983 game vs. Georgia Tech where Michael scores 39 point and dazzles the crowd with his gorgeous moves.
Here is a well made highlight reel of Michael as a Tar Heel.
Air Jordan was slowly coming into being. He had gone from an unknown in high school to a college basketball star in just a few short years. Much of the credit goes to Michael and the amount of hard work he put into his game. But a lot of credit must also be given to coach Dean Smith. Here is a clip of Michael’s ex coaches and teammates talking about Michael’s growth during those years at UNC.
Now that Michael had become one of the best players in college, he was ready for a bigger stage. And in 1982 Michael Jordan had earned a spot on the Pan American Games basketball team.
As a junior in college, Michael Jordan had already accomplished more than most basketball players have in their entire lives. He won a NCAA championship his freshman year, won player of the year honors the next two years, and also won a gold medal at the Pan American games. He was fast becoming a household name in America, and the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles would make him an international basketball star.
The U.S. Olympic team entered the 1984 Games under strange circumstances. 4 year earlier in 1980, 62 nations boycotted the Olympic games in Moscow in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The U.S. basketball team, unable to participate in the games, began hosting the Gold Medal Series, a series of games against NBA all-stars in various cities.
Here is one of those games from 1984, with Jordan leading the team.
Olympic team vs. NBA all stars
The 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team was coached by University of Indiana’s Bobby Knight, and led by Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullen, and Sam Perkins. The gold medal series of matches gave the young Olympic team plenty of run against world class opponents, adequately preparing them for the 1984 games, during which they assembled a 7-0 record going into the finals. Jordan however, left the biggest impression on everyone.
“When Michael gets the ball on the break only one thing’s going to happen,” said Olympic teammate Steve Alford. “Some kind of dunk.” “Sometimes the players get into the habit of just watching Michael,” Alford said, “because he’s usually going to do something you don’t want to miss.”
It’s worth noting that in response to the boycott of 1980, the Soviet Union and a number of other communists states boycotted the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles. At the time the Soviet Union was considered to be the biggest challenger to the U.S. in basketball. However, many agree that the Soviet’s participation would not have changed the final outcome of the games.
The finals was a match up against Spain, another great challenger for the U.S. But seeing as the U.S. had cruised through their earlier matches with an average winning margin of 32 points, the final result seemed to be a forgone conclusion. The U.S. won the game with a score of 96-65.
Gold medal game
Now Michael Jordan had a NCAA title, a Pan American games gold medal, and an Olympic gold medal, all before playing his first professional game in the NBA. While he was busy preparing for the Olympics, the lowly Chicago Bulls had drafted Michael Jordan with their 3rd pick in the 1984 draft, turning the next decade in into one few basketball fans will ever forget.
When it came to basketball, older brother Larry was the more talented one of the family and Michael’s biggest opponent. Larry, being taller and stronger, would beat the smaller Michael in all their 1-on-1 games, frustrating Michael to no end. But the losing only sparked Michael incredible competitiveness, and prompted Michael to work extra hard to beat Larry.
The JV player
When Michael was 15, he grew to 5’10”, 2 inches taller than Larry. After the hard work he put in, he was now able to defeat Larry. He also joined the JV team at Laney high school. Larry was still a big influence on Michael’s at that point. Larry wore number 45 for the Laney high school Buccaneers, and since Michael wanted Larry’s number but couldn’t have it, he divided the number by 2, rounded up, and got his number 23.
I want to be tall
Contrary to popular belief, Michael was never cut from his high school team. That was a piece of fiction meant to make a good story, similar to the PEZ story about Ebay. Michael was already a member of the JV team when the varsity team needed more players for the upcoming playoffs. Michael tried out along with his best friend Leroy Smith. Michael felt confident that he would be chosen.
Although Michael was very skilled, the varsity team was looking for size and maturity and selected Leroy (6’4″) over Jordan (5’10”). Michael was shocked. It was a major disappointment and a turning point in Michael’s career. He vowed to never let such a thing happen again and completely committed himself to becoming the best basketball player he can be.
After the disappointment at the tryouts, Michael pleaded with his parents to be tall. His parents saw how desperately Michael wanted to be tall and told him to be tall in his thinking, and that the tallness was inside him. Luckily for Michael, he didn’t need to rely on just thinking. He grew 5 inches between his sophomore and junior year, becoming the only one over 6 feet in his family, and started the next season standing tall at 6’2″. As Michael outgrew Larry, Michael began to dominate Larry in their 1-on-1 basketball games. And those skills honed on the practice courts quickly translated into great performances for the varsity team.
Here is a video about Michael playing at Laney high school and his path to the University of North Carolina. The video is well researched and has great information on Jordan’s high school career.
New York City is one of the top basketball cities in the world, and the birthplace of many legendary NBA players. Many of these players grew up on the blacktop basketball courts around the city, where they honed their skills during the scorching summers and harsh winters. There was much talent to be found in New York, and many players went on to achieve NBA stardom. A few of the most notable names from the list are Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Julius Erving, Pat Riley, Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens, and Red Holzman. It is interesting to note that Riley, Brown, Wilkens, and Holzman all returned to New York after their playing careers to coach the New York Knicks towards the dream of championship glory.
However, a fact that few people seem to know is that the greatest player to have ever played the game of basketball was also born in New York. And the irony is that it was this New Yorker who would repeatedly shatter the Knicks’ championship dreams all throughout the 90’s.
That player was Michael Jordan.
Here is a Air Jordan commercial, and what looks like rare footage of a young Michael in middle school at the very end of the commercial.
MJ as a child
Michael Jeffrey Jordan was born in Cumberland hospital in the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn on February 17, 1963. Although born healthy, the doctors kept little Michael in the hospital a few days to make sure his lungs were clear of mucus, obviously making sure that he would have the lung capacity to reach the altitude he would later visit on a nightly basis in the NBA.
Michael’s parents had moved to Brooklyn in 1962 with his older brother Larry. His father James Jordan came to New York to get mechanic’s training on the GI bill and studied airplane hydraulics, while his mother Deloris Peoples found work at a local bank. James and Deloris had left their two eldest children with James’s mother in Wallace, N.C. Michael was the fourth child out of five. He has two older brothers James and Larry, an older sister Delores and a younger sister Roslyn.
The drug and gang culture was beginning to take hold in the streets of Brooklyn, making it a less than ideal place to raise a family. So when James finished his traning, he decided to moved the family back down to Wilmington, N.C. while Michael was still a toddler. The family stayed in New York for only 18 months
Family had a very strong influence in Michael’s life. His mom would often get tired of having young Michael underfoot and send him out to help his father and brothers. James enjoyed working on cars and engines, and tried to get Michael involved. However, complex machines and getting his hands dirty was never something Michael never took an interest in. So he returned to his mom, who eventually taught him to cook, sew, and take care of himself. Despite learning those skills, Michael was still a mischievous child. He always tested the boundaries and even got his friends to do his chores for a cut of his allowance money.
Much of Michael’s character came from his disciplinarian mother. One day when he was 12, Michael was suspended from school for fighting. Instead of letting Michael stay home and watch TV all day, Deloris brought Michael with her to work and made him stay in the car all day to read. She kept an eye on him from her window at work. That evening, she brought Michael to a nearby library where he was made to read some more. Michael quickly learned not to get into trouble again after that. Today, Michael jokingly calls his mom’s form of punishment “child abuse”.
The young athlete
Interestingly, Michael’s first love was not basketball, but baseball. At the age of 12 he was named the best player in his league, playing both as pitcher and outfield. He then attended D.C. Virgo Junior High School, where he played baseball, football, and basketball, without committing to any. At one point he even became the quarterback of the Laney high school football team.
Michael’s love of basketball, as we will see next, was actually inspired by his brother Larry.
The 1983 Pan American games was the first international competition Jordan participated in, a fact that is not widely known. A quick look at the other sites about Jordan, including NBA.com, found no mentions at all about these games.
The games were held from August 15 to August 27, 1983 in Caracas, Venezuela. Jordan competed in these games as a junior at UNC, the year he also won NCAA player of the year honors. The team was coached by Kansas State’s Jack Hartman, and featured future NBA standouts Mark Price, Wayman Tisdale, and Sam Perkins. Jordan finished the competition averaging 17.3 points per game.
Here is the video of the Gold Medal match between the U.S. team and the Brazilian team. The first half of the game is not shown, and both teams begin the second half with the game tied. Based on the commentary Jordan did not have a good first half but his play in the second half guaranteed a victory for the U.S.
Jordan did not have much of a chance to display his athletic ability as much playing against the zone defense of Brazil. But he did show off his creative abilities with the ball. This Gold Medal would be the first of many the Michael helps win for the United States.
Michael’s initial goals as a freshman was to help the team reach the Final Four. He had no idea he would accomplish that, and much much more.
Jordan won only one NCAA championship during his 3 years at UNC. He won it in 1982 as a freshman playing along side future NBA players James Worthy and Sam Perkins. That year the Tar Heels defeated the Georgetown team led by future NY Knick Patrick Ewing. This was the first time Jordan prevented Ewing from getting a championship, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Here is the final four game vs. the University of Houston team led by Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. Jordan scored 18 points and UNC won the game, earning them a shot at the title against Georgetown.
Here are the highlights of the championship game from 1982.
The full game can be watched here.
Jordan was fairly quiet during the game, scoring a few baskets and getting one nice layup. . But as the clocked ticked down to the final minute, Jordan showed the ability to execute under pressure he later on became famous for by hitting the game winning shot. He later said that that shot changed his entire basketball career.
Jordan played 2 more years at UNC. Although he did not win another championship, his stellar play was well noted by basketball fans all over the country. He was quickly growing into the nickname he would eventually carry.