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Thursday 25 Jul 2024

Michael Jordon
Korey Varcoe


Ever wonder how Michael Jordon got to where he is now? One of the greatest players to ever walk on the pinewood and to vault his team to greatness is Michael Jordon (MJ), his Airness, Air Jordan. He is the most effectively marketed athlete, even, and has made more in endorsements than he ever has as a basketball player. He was the deciding factor in raising the appeal of the NBA to the overseas market and also to corporate America.

Here's a bit of a background on the man that would make the Chicago "Bulls," of the National Basketball Association (NBA), a household name and change the sport of basketball forever.

MJ has been a dominant force on both ends of the floor, and ended his career, after 15 solid seasons, with a regular season scoring average of 30.12 points per game. This is the highest in NBA history, but just barely ahead of the great Wilt Chamberlain, who scored 30.06 points per game. MJ lead "Bulls" to six NBA championships, and won the Most Valuable Player (MVP), for the NBA Finals, each time. Jordon has won 5 MVP awards for the regular season, and 10 scoring titles. He has been on the All NBA First team 10 times, the All Defensive Team 9 times, and dominated the league in steals three times. Since 1982, he has been on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" 49 times. No surprise, Michael Jordon is considered the 2nd most dominant force in sports for the 20th century, second only to Babe Ruth. He has elevated the style of play that Julius Erving, "Dr. J," was developing as MJ entered the NBA.

The Early Years

Michael Jeffrey Jordan was born on 17 February 1963, in the depths of Brooklyn, New York. He was the fourth son of James and Delores Jordan. Not long afterwards, the Jordon family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. MJ has two older brothers, an older sister and a young sister.

As a teen, MJ couldn't hold down a job. His family predicted he'd have problems in succeeding in life. His grades were below average, until he attended Laney High school in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was a trouble maker during his freshman year. The experience and its consequences had a lasting effect on him. As a 5-11 skinny sophomore, he was cut from the varsity basketball team. The summer before his junior year, he grew to 6-3 and began his path to super-stardom.

From this point on, MJ took the bull by its horns and focused on his life. He became a B+ student, and was heavily involved in sports. He quarterbacked his high school football team, played baseball and, of course, basketball. The irony was that during his sophomore year he was cut from the basketball team because he was short, at only 5 foot, 11 inches, and seeming unskilled. Over the next summer, Jordon grew 4 inches and practiced even harder to be a better basketball player.

In his last two high school years he averaged 25 points a game, and began to focus on basketball. He practiced whenever he could, morning, noon and night. He became the only high school player to average a triple double. That is, he averaged 29.92 points, 11.6 rebounds and 10.1 assists per game. He was easily selected to the McDonald's All American Team in his senior year of high school.

Jordon received a scholarship to the University of North Carolina (UNC), at Chapel Hill, where he major was Geography. Dean Smith coached the UNC basketball team. Jordon immediately took to the team style Smith had developed.

At UNC, MJ was an exciting player, but not the force he would later become. In 1982, he made the famous winning shot against Georgetown, which won National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Basketball Championship for UNC. This Georgetown team was lead by Patrick Ewing, future rival of Jordon, in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

After winning the Naismith College Player of the Year award in 1984, Jordon decided to leave school early and test the NBA waters out. He was selected by the Chicago "Bulls," in the first round. Overall, in that draft, Jordon was picked third. The Houston "Rockets" had first pick and took Hakeem Olajuwon. The Portland "Trailblazers" picked second, taking Sam Bowie. The selection of Bowie over Jordan is generally seen as one of the worst draft blunders, of all time and in any sport. To be fair in, the Blazers already drafted Clyde Drexler, the year before, and probably didn't see the need for another player like him.

The NBA Career

For most of the legendary career that Jordan would have, his coach was Phil Jackson. Jackson had this to say about Jordan:

"The thing about Michael is he takes nothing for granted. When he first came into the league in 1984, he was primarily a penetrator. His outside shooting wasn't up to professional standards. So he put in his gym time in the off-season, shooting hundreds of shots each day. Eventually, he became a deadly three-point shooter."

In his first game, Jordon only scored 16 points. This was the only time that season as he didn't take the NBA by storm. In his first season, MJ averaged 28.2 points a game, hitting the 40 point mark seven times. He averaged 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.4 steals per game in his rookie season. He revived the sagging "Bulls," and also got the honour of being in the All Star Game and NBA Rookie of the Year.

In the third game of his second season, Jordan broke a bone in his foot; he missed 79 games, but came back for the last 18. On his return, Coach Stan Albeck limited his playing time, at the the request of team doctors and General Manager, Jerry Krause. Their fear more injury to the foot; MJ, after all, was the hope and the future of the Chicago "Bulls."

Jordan disagreed with this decision, and this put a knifed his relationship with General Manager Krause, the rest of his time as a "Bull." Jordan felt Krause was trying to use his injury as a means to getting a better draft pick the following draft; teams that perform poorly, this year, get an early draft pick, next year. Still, though rusty from his injury time off and playing fewer minutes, Jordon helped the the "Bulls" make the playoffs, only to be eliminated by the eventual NBA Champion, Boston "Celtics."

The series with the "Celtics" is best remembered by the single-handed attempt, by Jordon, to beat the "Celtics." In Game 2, he scored 63 points, which remains an NBA record. Watching Jordan in action, one "Celtics" played surmise that "God was disguised as Michael Jordan".

In his third season, Jordan established himself as one of the best players in the NBA, scoring 50 or more points eight times during the regular season. He won his first scoring title, with an average of 37.1 points per game. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor have higher single season scoring averages. Jordon also became second player to score more than 3,000 points in a single season. That season, he was second, to Magic Johnson, in MVP voting. For all his efforts, the Boston "Celtics" swept the NBA finals.

During his fourth season Jordon averaged 35 points a game, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and finally won his first MVP award. He also accumulated 259 steals and 131 blocks during this season and won the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

His performance statistics are what other basketball guards wished for. He was also the MVP for the All Star Game. Using his famous free-throw line slam dunk he won the Slam Dunk Competition, held during the All-Star break, for the second year in a row. The Chicago "Bulls" made into the first round of the playoffs, that season, beating the Cleveland "Cavaliers," in 5 games of a a best of five series; They fell to the Detroit "Pistons," in the second round of the playoffs.

In his fifth season, Jordan averaged 32.5 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game, and was second in the MVP voting. In the final seconds of game 5 of the playoffs, Jordon drilled the winning shot over Craig Ehlo, and became known as one of the great clutch performers of the NBA. As the playing of Scottie Pippen Horace Grant evolved, the Chicago "Bulls" became more dominant. Jordon could almost do it all; Pippen and Grant rounded out the team. That year, the "Bulls" made it to their conference final, where the "Pistons," again, end their season.

The "Pistons" had a simple playoff strategy for the "Bulls." They used their punishing style of play and focused on Jordan. When he had the ball, the "Pistons" double and triple teamed him. This forced him to pass less experienced team mates, and if he didn't the "Pistons" would punish him, heavily, as he went to the basket or tried to shoot.

This next season Phil Jackson joined the "Bulls," as head coach. Jordan continued to dominate the BNA; he averaged 33.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists per game and was third in voting for regular seasons MVP. He lead the "Bulls" to the conference finals, where there were, again, ousted by the "Pistons."

In the 1990-91 season, Michael Jordan, working with Jackson, was able to help the "Bulls" overcome the disappointment of narrow defeats by the "Pistons," in the previous playoffs. This was also year Jordon finally bought into the Jackson and Tex Winter triangle offence. Jordan won his second MVP aware, in 1991, averaging 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game during the regular season.

The 1990-91 season was the first time in the 16-year history of the "Bulls" that they finished in first place, with had 61 regular season wins. It was also the year Scottie Pippen developed into an All Star. Jordan and Pippen were playing on the same page. The "Bulls" were too much for most teams, in Eastern Conference, to handle. The "Bulls" beat the New York "Knicks," in the first playoff round, then got passed the Philadelphia "76ers," and, at long last, defeated their nemesis, the Detroit "Pistons," in a playoff round. The "Bulls" finally made it to the NBA finals.

In the 1990-91 NBA finals, The "Bulls" managed to beat Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles "Lakers." During this playoff run, the "Bulls" racked up an impressive winning record of 15-2. Jordon was playoff MVP. The season is best memorialized in a photograph of Jordan hugging the Larry O'Brien Trophy, while weeping.

Jordan and the "Bulls" continued to reign. In the 1991-92 season, the "Bulls" again set a franchise record for the most regular season wins at 67. Jordan also won the second consecutive MVP award with averages of 30.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. After winning a grueling seven-game series against the "Knicks," in the second round and overwhelming the Cleveland "Cavaliers" in the conference finals, the "Bulls" met Portland "Trailblazers," in the NBA Finals. The media tried to recreate the type of rivalry reminiscent of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in previous NBA finals. In response, Jordan elevated his game play, and the "Bulls" beat Portland in six games. Jordan was named MVP of the NBA finals for the second consecutive year.

Jordan's next season would see is consecutive MVP titles come to an end, and to none other than his friend, "Sir" Charles Barkley. It seems fitting they'd two would face off in the NBA Finals. The a match up was dubbed "Altitude versus Attitude."

Losing the MVP title seemed to fuel Jordon, as he made a point of dominating the final series all that much more. The "Bulls" won its third NBA Championship. Jordon finished the six-game series with an average of 41 points per game, and was NBA Finals MVP, for the third time, and the only player to win 3 NBA Finals MVP awards.

This may have been the start a long run of dominance, by one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Except Jordan was starting to show signs of exhaustion. The game was demanding, and his off court activity, including endorsements and the time involved in fulfill these deals, took a heavy toll.

His First Retirement and Allegations of Gambling

In October 1993, Michael Jordan announced his retirement. He said he'd lost his desire to play. There was much speculation his retirement was stemmed from the death of his father, who was murdered by a car thief. Many close to Jordan said he was just burned out, and the added drain from the "Dream Team," in the Olympics, compounded his exhaustion. Plus, he was gaining more and more popularity, which seemed even more of a drain on him.

His retirement sent a wave of surprise and disbelief throughout the NBA. It was such a surprise, that it was widely reported in newspapers throughout the nation. Not since 1996, when Jim Brown had left abruptly left the National Football League (NFL), had a such dominant player left at his peak.

There have been numerous rumours as to why he had retired in 1993. The prior year he had admitted to covering $57,000 in gambling debts. The rumours got worse. Richard Esquinas claimed he won $1.3 million from Jordan, playing golf. Around this time, Jordan was spotted in casinos at Atlantic City, during the NBA playoffs. One idea is that Jordan and the NBA came to an agreement. He'd retire, take care of his gambling addiction and, in a years, give basketball another try. Supporting is lacking, but the rumour persists, especially after the NBA cleared him of wrong doing, three days after he retired.

Jordan as a Baseball Player

After retiring from the NBA, Jordan pursued his childhood dream of playing major league baseball. He signed with the minor league Birmingham "Barons," an affiliate of the Chicago "White Sox," of the American League. He had a sub-par baseball career. with averages of .202 at batting and 51 runs batted in (RBIs).

The Chicago Bulls without Jordan

In the 1993-1994 season, the "Bulls" were in third place, with 55 wins and 27 loses, just 2 fewer wins than the previous year, when the team won the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The "Bulls" fell to the New York "Knicks" in the second round of the playoffs.

With an aging core of players, the loss of Jordan and the loss of Horace Grant, this version of the Chicago "Bulls" was a shadow of the former champions. The "Bulls" needed a shot in the arm, which came when Jordan called then "Bulls" guard, B. J. Armstrong, for breakfast in 1995. This would lead to a shoot around, and the eventual return of MJ to the team.

Jordon Returns to the NBA

Jordan's poor baseball performance and the baseball strike lead to him back to the "Bulls." In a charity game, organized by Scottie Pippen late in 1994, Jordan scored 52 points. He still had what it took, and his performance in the charity game lead to his eventual return to the NBA.

In early 1995, Jordan announced he'd return to the NBA. This time he'd wear number 45, as his original 23 was retired by the "Bulls." In his first game, he scored 19 points in a loss to the Indiana "Pacers."

Despite the fact Jordan had not played a single NBA game in a year and a half, he quickly began showing signs of the old Jordan, with clutch shots and 55 points in thrashing of the New York "Knicks," by the "Bulls." He led the "Bulls" to a 9-1 record during April, which was enough to get them into the playoffs.

In the second round, the "Bulls" faced the Orlando "Magic." Jordan averaged 31.5 points in the series, but it wasn't enough to keep the "Magic" from beating "Bulls.". Nick Anderson, of the "Magic," remarked: "He didn't look like the old Michael Jordan." With this, Jordan donned his old number 23 jersey. Unfortunately, the "Bulls" failed to notify the league that the retired number was reactivated and the team was fined. Jordan didn't care, he was back and now had more to show the fans, the team and the league.

The Second Three Peat

The playoff defeat by the "Magic" seemed to be what the "Bulls" needed to repeat as champions. Jordan took the media comments and the loss personally. He was motivated to take his game to a higher level. With the addition of rebound freak, Dennis Rodman, the "Bulls" dominated the NBA in every respect, the next season, and finished with the best regular season record in NBA history, 72 wins and only 10 loses.

Jordan won the regular season and All Star MVP awards, again. In the playoffs, the "Bulls" only lost three games in four rounds. They ploughed through the Seattle "Supersonics," in the NBA Finals, and won a fourth championship with Jordon, who also won his 4th finals MVP award.

In the 1996-97 season, Jordon lead the "Bulls" to a 69-13 record, but missed the MVP award. Karl Malone, of the Utah "Jazz," was the regular season MVP, that year.

The "Bulls" made it the finals, again. This time they faced Malone and the "Jazz." The series showcased Jordan, especially his clutch shooting. He was the factor in winning game one, and in game 5 dominated despite being ill and dehydrated; he scored 38 points in this game, which gave the "Bulls" a 3 to 2 advantage over the "Jazz," in the 7-game series. The "Bulls" won the league championship in 6 games; Jordon picked-up his 5th Finals MVP award.

In the 1997-98 season, the "Bulls" had a 62-20 record. Jordan led the league with 28.7 points per game, and earned his 5th regular season MVP award. Again, he was the All Star MVP. The Bulls made it once more to the finals and once more they faced the Utah "Jazz."

Leading 3-2 in the 1997-98 finals, the "Bulls" returned to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the remaining two games. Game 6 of the series would go down in the history books; it was one of the best played games the Bulls will have ever executed.

With only 40 seconds left, Coach Jackson called a timeout. A plan was set and put into play. Jordan received the inbounds pass and drove to the basket. He made the lay up, which cut the lead to 86-85.

The "Jazz" raced the ball down the court, where Malone was up against Dennis Rodman. As Malone battled with Rodman, he didn't see Jordan, who then stole the ball from him. Jordan slowed his pace down and as the "Jazz" tried to converge on Jordan he lobbed a pass to Steve Kerr, who made the open shot.

With only seconds left, John Stockton, of the Utah "Jazz," tried to shot a three pointer, but missed. Too little, too late for the "Jazz." Chicago won the O'Brien Trophy, again.

Jordon saw the sixth NBA championship and his 6th Final MVP as a fitting farewell, a good place to end a long, successful and dignified career. That Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson were leaving the time made the decision easier for Jordon. Jordan retired, for a second time, just prior to the lockout season that was forced by the team owners.

Jordan and the Washington "Wizards"

On 19 January 2000, Jordan returned to the NBA, not as a player, but as part owner and President of Basketball Operations for the Washington "Wizards." He was responsible for the management of players and acquiring new players for the team . He was essentially in control of all the needs of the team; his aim was to make the "Wizards" a championship calibre team.

Opinions of Jordan as an executive are mixed. He purged the team of highly paid players that were also unpopular, including Juwan Howard and Rod Strickland. His most memorable move was picking high school player, Kwame Brown, first overall, in the 2001 draft. A memorable albatross, sadly.

Jordon claimed, up and down, so to speak, he'd not return as a player. After 6 months in management, with the "Wizards," he was publicly considering returning as a player, as a "Wizard," not a "Bull."

His comeback consideration was sparked by the comeback of his friend National Hockey League (NHL), star, Mario Lemieux, who made a comeback of sorts the previous season. Lemieux had retired from the Pittsburgh "Penguins" to recoup from a series of injuries and illnesses. Before he returned to hockey, Lemieux became part owner of the "Penguins."

Jordon arranged a few camps during the summer of 2001 to which only certain players were invited. Next, he hired Dough Collins, former coach of the "Bulls," for the "Wizards." Most thought these moves made it almost certain Jordon would return as a player, but he wasn't saying much.

Jordon Returns to the NBA

On 10 September 2001, a press conference was held where Jordan strongly hinted of a comeback, but still refused to give any indication if it would be true or not. The deciding factor would take place the following day when the terrorist would attack the pentagon and the world trade center buildings with the planes. This was all the motivation that Jordan would need: returning as a player would be good for America.

He quit his job in the "Wizard" front office to come out of retirement once more. He said his salary would go to the victims of the 9/11, with hopes it would offer some help to these people. His salary was one million dollars a season.

Slowed down, a bit, by age, injury and pain, Jordon managed to score 22.9 points per game, 5.2 assists per game, and had 1.42 steals per game. Not Jordan calibre numbers, but still better than most. His presence meant every "Wizard" home game being a sell out; almost every game that involved him was sold out as well. He had the "Wizards" motivated, and making a playoff run, but when he had to stop playing due to injuries it also ended any playoff hopes the "Wizards" had.

The 2002-03 was his last as a "Wizard," and as a player. He use orthotic insoles for his shoes, to help his sore knees and managed to average 20.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He made it to the All Star Game, and surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all time leading scorer in the All Star Game. Jordan also became the only 40 year old to make more than 40 points in a game when he scored 43 against the New Jersey Nets in a victory in Washington.

Attendance at "Wizard" games was a bit lower than in the previous year, but still the best in the league. In addition, the "Wizards" to sell out every game that Jordon played for the team. As with hockey legends, Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe, fans turned out to the see the great one, Jordon, play, not to watch the "Wizards."

Recognizing that this would be Jordan's final season, tributes to Jordan were given in almost every arena in the NBA. The Miami Heat retired his #23 despite that he never played for them, it was half bulls jersey and half Wizards jersey. He also got a standing ovation from the Bulls arena that he himself had to stop so that he could give a speech.

After his third retirement, Jordan assumed that he would be allowed to return to his front office job of Director of Basketball Operations with the "Wizards." This was not so. His time as an executive and an executive qua player resulted in a number of bad executive decisions, such as drafting Kwame Brown and Richard "Rip" Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse, in the 2002 season. Granted, Jordan was a player at this point, but that was beside the point in the eyes of the owner, Abe Pollin. Pollin fired Jordan from his executive position. This came as a surprise to Jordon. All he could say was, "I am shocked by this decision and by the callous refusal to offer me any justification for it."

Jordan as of Late

Jordon recently became part owner of the Charlotte "Bobcats," and its Director of Basketball Operations. He has the same duties as he had with the "Wizards," except he isn't playing for them. It is doubtful that he will try to make any comeback. His age, injuries and two previous retirements almost ensure he won't play again.

Career Summary

Jordon played 13 seasons for the Chicago "Bulls," and two for the Washington "Wizards." Initially, he was a shooting guard. This changed, when played for the "Wizards," where was more of a small forward. He was ideal for shooting guard, as he was 6 foot 6 inches, his skills, and his conditioning made this is perfect spot.

He won NBA championships and six NBA Finals MVP awards in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996,1997,and 1998.

He was NBA MVP during the regular season five times 1988, 1991,1992, 1996, and 1998.

He was the 1985 Rookie of the Year and the 1988 Defensive Player of the Year.

He won the difficult MVP triple crown (Regular Season MVP, All Star MVP, and Finals MVP) twice in 1996 and 1998. There have been only two other players that have done this Willis Reed (1970) and Shaquille O'Neal (2000).

In 1997, he is the only player to record a triple double in an All Star Game.

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