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Michael Jordan

"that Boy Is Devastating"

Jordan began to distinguish himself on the junior varsity team, and was soon averaging more than 20 points a game. "I remember going to Laney High on a Friday night, Michael's junior year, and now he'd grown to, maybe 6 foot 1," Jordan's uncle Gene Jordan later recalled to Kevin Paul Dupont in the Boston Globe. "Before the game he's telling me, 'Watch me, I'm going to slam dunk three balls tonight. You'll see. I'm going to slam three.' And I'm there saying, 'Boy, who you kiddin'? You can't slam no ball.' Well, he didn't slam three, but he sure as hell slammed two. And I told my brother that night, 'Hey, that boy is devastating.'"

Even so, Jordan was not on the lists of most college basketball team recruiters. He was noticed by recruiters at the University of North Carolina, however, and there he went to college, playing guard on the school team under coach Dean Smith. True success touched Jordan for the first time at the NCAA tournament in which his team played against the Georgetown Hoyas. Jordan scored the three of the last five winning shots to bring North Carolina its first title in a quarter of a century. "I've never seen anybody pick up the game so fast," one of his former UNC teammates and later Lakers player told Filip Bondy in the Daily News years later. "Michael just doesn't repeat mistakes."

After his success at the NCAA championship, Jordan became nationally famous, and a celebrity in North Carolina. He even landed on the cover of the Chapel Hill telephone book. Next came his selection to the U.S. team in the Olympic Games, played in Los Angeles in 1984. Team U.S.A. took home the gold medal. Jordan graduated college in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in cultural geography. After college, Jordan was picked up as the first choice in a draft lottery by the Chicago Bulls.

When Jordan signed on with the Bulls, he began a marketing relationship with Nike that was to last throughout his career; Nike released a sport shoe called Air Jordans. As for his performance as a player, he was soon unrivaled as an unstoppable force. As his coach, Kevin Loughery later said to Bondy in the Daily News, "If I put him with the starters, they win. If I put him with the second team, they win.… No matter what I do with Michael, his team wins."


1963 Born in Brooklyn, NY
1970 Moves with his family to Wilmington, North Carolina
1979 Is cut from his high school varsity basketball team
1982 Scores game-winning basket in NCAA championship game for the University of North Carolina
1984 Plays on gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team in Los Angeles
1984 Signs as a player with the Chicago Bulls
1984 Plays on the gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team
1985 Named NBA Rookie of the Year
1987 Breaks Bulls record by scoring 58 points in a single game
1987 Breaks the record again by scoring 61 points in one game
1987 Breaks NBA record by scoring 23 points in a row
1990 Scores his career best of 69 points in a single game
1991 Scores his career best of 19 rebounds in one game
1992 Plays on gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team in Barcelona
1993 Father James Jordan murdered
1993 Announces retirement from playing basketball, briefly plays baseball
1995 Returns to playing basketball
1996 Named one of the top 50 basketball players of time
1997 Called by People one of the Most Intriguing People of the Century
1998 Publishes autobiography, For the Love of the Game
1999 Named the 20th century's greatest athlete by ESPN
1999 Retires again
2000 Becomes part owner and director of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards
2001 Comes out of retirement to play for the Washington Wizards
2002 Again announces retirement

Related Biography: Father James Jordan

James Jordan was in the habit of driving long distances overnight, stopping only for brief naps in his car, rather than staying in hotels. "Oh, I know he's stopped in Lumberton before," his brother, Gene Jordan, told Kevin Paul Dupont in the Boston Globe after James's death. "I'm sure he's pulled over at that exact spot before. A hotel room? That wasn't James, uhuh. After Michael's fame and everything, people used to ask him, 'Are you going to get a bodyguard? He'd laugh at that. Stopping at the side of the road was nothing for my brother. He didn't think anything of it. He figured he didn't have an enemy in the world."

Not enemies, but thieves took James Jordan's life as he napped in his car on a Lumberton, North Carolina roadside in the early morning hours of July 23, 1993. James Jordan was on his way home from the funeral of a former coworker at the General Electric plant where he used to work. After the killing shot to the chest, the thieves took off in James Jordan's car, later stripping it, and then dumping Jordan's body in a nearby creek, where it was found a week and a half later. Jordan would have turned 57 less than two weeks after the day he died. "The world's lost a good man," Gene Jordan told Dupont.

James Raymond Jordan was born on July 31, 1936 in rural North Carolina, the first child born to sharecropper William Jordan and his wife Rosa Bell Jordan. He began a career at General Electric in 1967, moving up to become a parts department manager. He retired from GE in the late 1980s, at which time the Jordan family moved from Wilmington, North Carlolina, where Michael Jordan grew up, to the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Those who knew both James and Michael Jordan noted that Michael was very much like his father. Both had shaved heads, and both stuck their tongues out when concentrating on a difficult task—in Michael's case, when lining up a shot. Their handwriting was alike enough that many people couldn't tell them apart. Proud supporters of Michael Jordan's basketball playing from the beginning, James Jordan and his wife, Michael's mother Deloris, never missed a game Michael played in during his time at the University of North Carolina.

James Jordan was buried alongside his grandfather and parents in the graveyard of the Rockfish African Methodist Episcopal Church in Teachey, North Carolina. His tombstone reads simply, as reported by Dupont, "James Jordan, 1936-1993."

Jordan was slowed at the beginning of 1985-86 season, when he suffered a stress fracture in his foot. Nevertheless, in 1986, he scored 63 points in a playoff game against the Celtics. In 1988, he was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year, leading the NBA in steals. He also earned MVP honors at the 1988 All-Star Game, held that year in Chicago. Another gold medal at the Olympics followed in 1992 when he again played on U.S. Olympic Team. By 1993, Jordan led the NBA in scoring, and been named the NBA's Most Valuable Player 3 times. He was also earning $30 million a year, not including millions of dollars more he earned endorsing products.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsBasketballMichael Jordan - Cut From His High School Team, "that Boy Is Devastating", Chronology, Related Biography: Father James Jordan