By Jen Breitegan
Michael Jordan is a legend in the sport of basketball. He’s a six-time NBA champion, five-time NBA MVP, and a 14-time NBA All-Star. He won Rookie of the Year. He retired with the NBA’s highest-scoring average.
These are just a few of Jordan’s incredible achievements as a professional basketball player.
What makes all of this even more remarkable is the fact that he was cut from his high school varsity basketball team during his sophomore year. He was offered a spot on the junior varsity team instead, but the sting of rejection had an impact.
Learn how Jordan handled this setback and ended up becoming one of the most decorated basketball players of all time!
Jordan was born on February 17, 1963, to Delores and James Jordan in Brooklyn, New York. When Jordan was very young, his parents moved with him and his four siblings to Wilmington, a city on the coast of North Carolina.
Delores and James were engaged parents. Jordan and his brothers and sisters were taught to work hard. Jordan was expected to help with household chores and stay away from the dangers of street life.
Jordan and his father shared a love of sports, particularly baseball. However, it was Jordan’s older brother Larry who sparked Jordan’s lifelong passion for basketball.
In middle school, Jordan excelled in football and basketball. In high school, he stood out in three sports: football, basketball, and baseball.
Jordan tried out for his varsity basketball team during his sophomore year of high school. At the time, he was around 5’ 10” tall and reportedly on the skinny side. The coach chose another sophomore (Jordan’s close friend who measured 6’ 7”) for the varsity spot and placed Jordan on junior varsity instead.
This was a heartbreaking rejection for Jordan. It was also a pivotal moment for him. He could quit basketball and focus on other sports, as many young athletes do in similar situations. Or he could accept his spot on the JV team, work hard, and try again the following year.
Fortunately for Jordan and the sport of basketball, he decided not to quit. He was a star on the JV team that year and continued to hone his skills. He would practice in the school gym before class in the morning, a testament to his strong work ethic. He was determined he wouldn’t be cut from varsity a second time.
The summer before his junior year, Jordan had a growth spurt. He measured 6’ 3” and made his varsity team.
Jordan scored 35 points in his first game and never looked back. He was named a McDonald’s All-American. He led his team to a first-place ranking his senior year, though they would lose the championship game. Still, Jordan’s stats and skills were impressive enough to earn him an offer to play as a Tar Heel at North Carolina.
Jordan was the fourth freshman in North Carolina history to win a starting position on the basketball team. That year, he helped his team win the national championship with a game-winning 16-foot jump shot in the final 15 seconds.
During his sophomore year, Jordan became the team’s leading scorer, averaging 20 points per game. He was also second in rebounding.
By the end of his junior year (his final year playing at North Carolina), Jordan had amassed a long list of awards and accomplishments, including:
In 1984, following his junior year at North Carolina, Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls. He was the third overall pick—quite a different situation from his sophomore year of high school.
Like his first year at North Carolina, Jordan’s first year as an NBA player was tremendous. He averaged 22.8 points per game, third in the league that year. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year.
Jordan also helped the Bulls win 11 more games than they had the season before. They made it to the NBA playoffs that year.
Basketball fans loved Jordan’s style and skill. He was seen as likable and authentic. Nike sponsored him early in his career, which ended up being a hugely successful business deal for both the brand and the player. The demand for Air Jordan shoes continues to this day.
In his third season with the Bulls, Jordan began breaking NBA records, a trend that would continue throughout his career. When he retired, he was one of the most decorated players in basketball.
Michael Jordan (#23), of the Chicago Bulls on March 28, 1991, via Wikimedia.org.
Jordan’s impact on his beloved sport reverberated throughout the world. Basketball became a globally popular sport because of Jordan’s success and likability.
The famous phrase “Be like Mike” inspired an entire generation of youth to pursue their dreams of becoming the best in their chosen sports and activities.
Just a few of Jordan’s all-time NBA accolades include:
Jordan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
He also became the owner of the Charlotte Hornets basketball team in 2010.
He continues to impact his community through philanthropy, and he regularly donates time and money to Charlotte charitable organizations and causes.
Imagine what the basketball world would have lost had Jordan let his high school setback stop him from pursuing his dreams.
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