Michael Jordan

Air Jordan

Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17, 1963), also known by his initials, MJ,[3] is an American former professional basketball player. He is also a businessman, and principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets. Jordan played 15 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. His biography on the NBA website states: "By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time."[4] Jordan was one of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation and was considered instrumental in popularizing the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s.[5]

After a three-season stint playing for coach Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina, where he was a member of the Tar Heels' national championship team in 1982, Jordan joined the NBA's Chicago Bulls in 1984. He quickly emerged as a league star, entertaining crowds with his prolific scoring. His leaping ability, illustrated by performing slam dunks from the free throw line in slam dunk contests, earned him the nicknames "Air Jordan" and "His Airness". He also gained a reputation for being one of the best defensive players in basketball.[6] In 1991, he won his first NBA championship with the Bulls, and followed that achievement with titles in 1992 and 1993, securing a "three-peat". Although Jordan abruptly retired from basketball before the beginning of the 1993–94 NBA season to pursue a career in baseball, he returned to the Bulls in March 1995 and led them to three additional championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998, as well as an NBA-record 72 regular-season wins in the 1995–96 NBA season. Jordan retired for a second time in January 1999, but returned for two more NBA seasons from 2001 to 2003 as a member of the Wizards.

Jordan's individual accolades and accomplishments include five Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Game appearances, three All-Star Game MVP Awards, ten scoring titles, three steals titles, six NBA Finals MVP Awards, and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. Among his numerous accomplishments, Jordan holds the NBA records for highest career regular season scoring average (30.12 points per game) and highest career playoff scoring average (33.45 points per game). In 1999, he was named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, and was second to Babe Ruth on the Associated Press's list of athletes of the century. Jordan is a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, having been enshrined in 2009 for his individual career, and again in 2010 as part of the group induction of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team ("The Dream Team").

Jordan is also known for his product endorsements. He fueled the success of Nike's Air Jordan sneakers, which were introduced in 1985 and remain popular today.[7] Jordan also starred in the 1996 feature film Space Jam as himself. In 2006, he became part-owner and head of basketball operations for the then-Charlotte Bobcats, buying controlling interest in 2010. In 2015, Jordan became the first billionaire NBA player in history.

Early years

Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Deloris (née Peoples), who worked in banking, and James R. Jordan, Sr., an equipment supervisor. His family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, when he was a toddler.[8]

Jordan is the fourth of five children. He has two older brothers, Larry Jordan and James R. Jordan, Jr., one older sister, Deloris, and a younger sister, Roslyn. Jordan's brother James retired in 2006 as the Command Sergeant Major of the 35th Signal Brigade of the XVIII Airborne Corps in the U.S. Army.[9]

High school career

Jordan attended Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, where he anchored his athletic career by playing baseball, football, and basketball. He tried out for the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year, but at 5'11" (1.80 m), he was deemed too short to play at that level. His taller friend, Harvest Leroy Smith, was the only sophomore to make the team.[10]

Motivated to prove his worth, Jordan became the star of Laney's junior varsity squad, and tallied several 40-point games.[10] The following summer, he grew four inches (10 cm)[4] and trained rigorously. Upon earning a spot on the varsity roster, Jordan averaged about 20 points per game over his final two seasons of high school play.[11][12] As a senior, he was selected to the McDonald's All-American Team[13] after averaging a triple-double: 29.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.1 assists.[14]

Jordan was recruited by numerous college basketball programs, including Duke, North Carolina, South Carolina, Syracuse, and Virginia.[15] In 1981, Jordan accepted a basketball scholarship to North Carolina, where he majored in cultural geography.[16]

College career

As a freshman in coach Dean Smith's team-oriented system, he was named ACC Freshman of the Year after he averaged 13.4 points per game (ppg) on 53.4% shooting (field goal percentage).[17] He made the game-winning jump shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship game against Georgetown, which was led by future NBA rival Patrick Ewing.[4] Jordan later described this shot as the major turning point in his basketball career.[18] During his three seasons at North Carolina, he averaged 17.7 ppg on 54.0% shooting, and added 5.0 rebounds per game (rpg).[11] He was selected by consensus to the NCAA All-American First Team in both his sophomore (1983) and junior (1984) seasons. After winning the Naismith and the Wooden College Player of the Year awards in 1984, Jordan left North Carolina one year before his scheduled graduation to enter the 1984 NBA draft. The Chicago Bulls selected Jordan with the third overall pick, after Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) and Sam Bowie (Portland Trail Blazers). One of the primary reasons why Jordan was not drafted sooner was because the first two teams were in need of a center.[19] However, the Trail Blazers general manager Stu Inman contended that it was not a matter of drafting a center, but more a matter of taking Sam Bowie over Jordan, in part because Portland already had a guard with similar skills to Jordan, Clyde Drexler.[20] In 2005 ESPN, citing Bowie's injury-laden college career, named the Blazers' choice of Bowie as the worst draft pick in North American professional sports history.[21] Jordan returned to North Carolina to complete his degree in 1986.[22]

Early NBA years (1984–1987)

During his first season in the NBA, Jordan averaged 28.2 ppg on 51.5% shooting.[17] He quickly became a fan favorite even in opposing arenas,[23][24][25] and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the heading "A Star Is Born" just over a month into his professional career.[26][27] Jordan was also voted in as an All-Star starter by the fans in his rookie season.[4] Controversy arose before the All-Star game when word surfaced that several veteran players, led by Isiah Thomas, were upset by the amount of attention Jordan was receiving.[4] This led to a so-called "freeze-out" on Jordan, where players refused to pass him the ball throughout the game.[4] The controversy left Jordan relatively unaffected when he returned to regular season play, and he would go on to be voted Rookie of the Year.[28] The Bulls finished the season 38–44,[29] and lost in the first round of the playoffs in four games to the Milwaukee Bucks.[28]

Jordan's second season was cut short by a broken foot in the third game of the season, which caused him to miss 64 games.[4] Despite Jordan's injury and a 30–52 record (at the time it was fifth worst record of any team to qualify for the playoffs in NBA history),[29][30] the Bulls made the playoffs. Jordan recovered in time to participate in the playoffs and performed well upon his return. Against a 1985–86 Boston Celtics team that is often considered one of the greatest in NBA history,[31] Jordan set the still-unbroken record for points in a playoff game with 63 in Game 2.[32] The Celtics, however, managed to sweep the series.[28]

Jordan had recovered completely by the 1986–87 season, and had one of the most prolific scoring seasons in NBA history. He became the only player other than Wilt Chamberlain to score 3,000 points in a season, averaging a league high 37.1 points on 48.2% shooting.[17] In addition, Jordan demonstrated his defensive prowess, as he became the first player in NBA history to record 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season.[33] Despite Jordan's success, Magic Johnson won the league's Most Valuable Player Award. The Bulls reached 40 wins,[29] and advanced to the playoffs for the third consecutive year. However, they were again swept by the Celtics.[28]