Michael J. Jordan

Michael J. Jordan

Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17, 1963, in Brooklyn, New York) is a former National Basketball Association player, and is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player of all time.

A remarkable force at both ends of the floor, Jordan ended a career of fifteen full seasons with a regular-season scoring average of 30.12 points per game, the highest in NBA history (ahead of Wilt Chamberlain's 30.06). He won six championships, notched 10 scoring titles, and was league MVP five times. He was named to the All-Defensive First Team nine times, and led the league in steals three times. Since 1983, he appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated a record-49 times, and was named the magazine's "Sportsman of the Year" in 1991. In 1999, he was named "the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century" by ESPN and placed #2 on the Associated Press list of top athletes of the century. His leaping ability, vividly illustrated by dunking from the foul line and other feats, earned him the nicknames "Air Jordan" and "His Airness." These and other achievements have persuaded many fans and several basketball legends[2] that Jordan was the best ever to play the game.

Collegiate career

Jordan earned a basketball scholarship with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a freshman, Jordan was an exciting but not dominant player. Nonetheless, he made the winning shot in the 1982 NCAA championship game against Georgetown, led by future NBA rival Patrick Ewing. He was selected by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 1984 NBA Draft as the third pick overall.

NBA career
Jordan played 14 seasons for the Bulls, generally as a shooting guard, but his height 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m), skills, and physical conditioning also made him a versatile threat at point guard and small forward. He won six NBA Championships (1991-1993 and 1996-1998) and was league MVP five times (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996 and 1998). He was also named Rookie of the Year (1985) and Defensive Player of the Year (1988), and won the Finals MVP award every year the Bulls reached the Finals -- a feat not likely ever to be duplicated. He also earned the elusive MVP triple crown (league, finals, all-star game) twice when he won All-Star MVP in both 1996 and 1998 (he also won in 1988). Only Willis Reed (1970) and Shaquille O'Neal (2000) have won all three MVP awards in the same season. In 1997, he also recorded the only triple-double in an All-Star game.

Jordan's coach for most of his career was Phil Jackson. He had the following 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."

Tragedy and retirement
In July 1993, two months after the Bulls won their third consecutive championship, Jordan's father James Jordan was murdered. While returning from the funeral of a friend on July 23, 1993, he pulled over onto a rest area off of Interstate 95 near Lumberton, North Carolina, for a nap. Two local criminals Daniel Green and Larry Martin Demery killed him and stole his Lexus, a gift from Michael. The perpetrators made several calls from James' cell phone and were quickly captured. James' body was found on August 3 in a swamp, and not identified until August 5. Jordan was devastated by the sudden and senseless death of his father. Two days before the 1993-94 NBA season, he announced that he was retiring from basketball. The Bulls retired his #23 jersey.

Baseball career
Michael Jordan on the Birmingham BaronsJordan spent the next year pursuing a childhood dream: professional baseball. He had an unspectacular professional baseball career for the Birmingham Barons, a Chicago White Sox farm team, batting .202 with 3 HR, 51 RBI, 30 SB (tied-5th in Southern League), 11 errors and 6 outfield assists. He led the club with 11 bases-loaded RBI and 25 RBI with runners in scoring position and two outs. He was never called up to the majors.

Jordan, who cited his father's love for baseball as his motivation for trying the sport, was criticized by journalists and other observers for his foray. Some felt that his below-average performance tarnished his legacy as an NBA superstar, while others argued that Jordan had used his influence with Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf to take a spot on the Barons that could have been filled by a "true" minor-leaguer.

"I'm Back": Return to the NBA
Jordan's underwhelming performances in baseball, and the professional baseball player's strike of 1994, prompted him to consider rejoining the Bulls. On March 18, 1995, Jordan announced his return to the NBA through a two-word press release: "I'm back." The next day, he donned jersey number 45 (his number with the Barons, as his familiar #23 had been retired) and took the court with the Bulls to face the Indiana Pacers.

Although Jordan was on a two-year absence from the NBA, Jordan played well in his return, including a 55-point performance against the New York Knicks on March 29, 1995. He led the Bulls to a 9-1 record in April of that year, propelling the team into the playoffs. The Bulls advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, against the Orlando Magic. Jordan averaged 31.5 points a game against the Magic, but Orlando prevailed in six games.

Freshly motivated by the playoff defeat, Jordan trained aggressively in preparation for the 1995-96 season. That year, the Bulls dominated the league, finishing a record of 72-10, to date the best regular season record in NBA history. Jordan won the league's regular season and All-Star Game MVP awards. In the playoffs, the Bulls lost only three games in four series, defeating the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals to win the championship. For his performance in the series against Seattle, Jordan was named the Finals MVP.

In the 1996-97 season, Jordan led the Bulls to a 69-13 record. The team again advanced to the Finals, where they faced the Utah Jazz. The series against the Jazz featured two of the more memorable clutch efforts of Jordan's career. He won game 1 for the Bulls with a buzzer-beating jump shot. In game 5, with the series tied 2-2, Jordan gamely scored 38 points despite suffering from a stomach virus that had rendered him feverish and dehydrated at the start of the game. The Bulls won the contest 90-88 and went on to win the series in six games. For the fifth time in as many Finals appearances, Jordan received the Finals MVP award.

Jordan and the Bulls compiled a 62-20 record for the 1997-98 season. During that year, he led the league in scoring with 28.7 points per game, securing his fifth regular-season MVP award. Jordan also received honors for All-NBA First Team, First Defensive Team and the All-Star Game MVP. The Bulls won the Eastern Conference playoffs for a third straight year, moving on to face the Jazz again in the Finals. However, because the Jazz had beaten the Bulls in both of their regular-season matches, Chicago would not have home-court advantage for the series. After losing the first game, the Bulls won game 2 in Utah to capture the advantage, and seemed poised to win the championship after victories in games 3 and 4. But Utah prevailed in game 5, sending the series back to Utah. Chicago now had to beat the Jazz once more on their home court to claim the series. The prospect of losing the series to the rejuvenated Jazz suddenly appeared very real.

Jordan, however, refused to allow the Bulls to fail. In game 6, he trumped his performances in the 1997 Finals with a series of plays that may compose the greatest clutch performance in NBA Finals history.

With the Bulls trailing 87-84 and less than a minute remaining in the game, Chicago called a timeout. On the inbound, Jordan cut to the basket, received the inbounds pass and laid the ball in, trimming the Utah lead to 87-86. The Jazz brought the ball upcourt and fed the ball in to forward Karl Malone, who was set up in the low post. As Malone cradled the ball, Jordan sliced in front of him and swatted it out of his hands for a steal. Jordan then slowly dribbled upcourt and paused at the top of the key, eyeing his defender, guard Byron Russell. With less than 10 seconds remaining, Jordan started to dribble right, crossed over to his left (so abruptly that Russell lost his balance and fell backwards, though many felt Jordan helped him aside with a shove), pulled up, and fired his shot. The two-point jumper went in with 5.2 seconds left. After a desperation three-point shot by the Jazz missed, Jordan and the Bulls had won their sixth NBA championship. Once again, Jordan was voted as the Finals' MVP.

Jordan's game-winning shot, 1998 NBA FinalsJordan's Game 6 heroics seemed to be a perfect ending to his career. Uncertain whether the Bulls would fire his coach, Phil Jackson, or certain of his teammates, such as forward Scottie Pippen, and in the latter stages of an owner-induced lockout of NBA players, Jordan retired again on January 13, 1999.

The 3rd coming: The Washington Wizards era
In 2001, Jordan, then a president with the Washington Wizards, stepped down from the front office and out of retirement. His skills were noticeably diminished by age. Despite an injury-plagued 2001-02 season, he still averaged nearly 23 points per game. Playing through pain, especially in his knee, he was still an important player for the Wizards. He returned for the 2002-03 season and averaged 20 points. He played in his 13th and final NBA All-Star Game in 2002-03. The 2002-03 season was heralded from the beginning as Jordan's final goodbye to his fans and he retired for the third time at the season's conclusion.

At the beginning of the 2001-2002 basketball season, Jordan donated his $1 million salary to help the victims of the September 11 attacks.

Out of respect for Jordan, the Miami Heat retired his #23 jersey on April 11, 2003, even though he never played for the Florida team. It was the first jersey the Heat retired in their then-15-year history, and it was half Wizards blue, half Bulls red.

Philadelphia was the setting for MJ's final game, on April 16, 2003. Playing limited minutes, Jordan still managed 15 points despite the eventual Wizards loss. He would also leave fans with one final moment to remember when, with 1:44 remaining, he sank his last two free throws prior to exiting to a standing ovation, which would last over three minutes.

The Olympics
Jordan played on two Olympic gold medal-winning American basketball teams: as a college player in the 1984 Summer Olympics, and in the 1992 Summer Olympics as a member of the original "Dream Team," with other legends such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. It is often rumored that Jordan kept guard Isiah Thomas off the roster due to personal differences. Nonetheless, it was a star-studded roster that cruised through pool play and the medal round, restoring America to the top of the basketball world.

Jordan's legacy

Jordan's basketball talent was clear from his rookie season in the NBA. His breathtaking dunks, tenacious defense and apparent ability to score at will amazed fans and opponents. After Jordan poured in 63 points against the Boston Celtics in a 1986 playoff game (still a playoff record), Celtic superstar Larry Bird famously described him as "God disguised as Michael Jordan."

Still, many critics refused to consider him as good as the two great players of the 1980s, Bird and the Los Angeles Lakers' Magic Johnson. Jordan, it was said, was nothing more than a spectacular scorer who could not elevate the play of his teammates, as Bird and Johnson had. These critics pointed out that the Celtics and Lakers had immediately become playoff-caliber teams upon the arrival of Bird and Johnson, while Jordan's Bulls wallowed in mediocrity throughout the mid-1980s. But the rise of the Bulls dynasty in 1991 and Jordan's maturation as a player quelled many doubters.

Jordan loved proving critics wrong. In a game against the Utah Jazz, Jordan dunked on guard John Stockton, whereupon a Jazz fan yelled "Dunk on someone your own size!" On the next possession, Jordan dunked it over 6'11", 285-lb. center Melvin Turpin, then asked the fan, "Was he big enough for you?"

Even as he rounded out his game, Jordan's strengths remained scoring and defense. He led the NBA in scoring 10 years, tying Wilt Chamberlain for consecutive scoring titles with seven in a row, but was also a fixture on the All-NBA Defensive Team, making the roster nine times. By 1998, the season of his famous Finals-winning shot against the Jazz, Jordan was feared throughout the league as one of the game's best clutch performers. In the regular season, Jordan was the Bulls' primary threat in the final seconds of a close game; in the playoffs, he was the only one the team wanted to have the ball.

Some players who have been tagged as the "next Jordan," include LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the Chicago Bulls, once said regarding Jordan's jersey number, which was number 23, these words, "For what Michael has meant to the NBA, this number could very well be retired in every arena in the league."

Jordan was ranked #1 in SLAM Magazine's Top 75 NBA Players of all time in 2003.

Personal life
Jordan spent his childhood in Wilmington, North Carolina. He attended Emsley A. Laney High School, where he was a B+ student and a three-sport star in football (quarterback), baseball, and basketball. At UNC, he majored in geography.

Jordan has two older brothers, Larry and James R.; one older sister, Delores; a younger sister, Roslyn; and a son, Jeffrey. James R. Jordan is a Sergeant Major in the 35th Signal Brigade of the XVIII Airborne Corps in the U.S. Army. James gained certain celebrity when he announced, at the age of forty-seven, that he intended to stay in Iraq until the U.S. occupation ended.

Jordan currently lives in Highland Park, Illinois.

Jordan is one of the most marketed sports figures in history. He has been a major spokesman for such brands as Nike, Gatorade, Hanes, McDonald's, and MCI. He first appeared on Wheaties boxes in 1988, and acted as their spokesman as well.

Nike created a signature shoe for him, called the Air Jordan. The hype and demand for the shoes even brought on a spat of "shoe-jackings" where young boys were robbed of their sneakers at gunpoint. The innovation of designer Tinker Hatfield spurred the basketball shoe industry to new heights. Subsequently Nike spun off the Jordan line into its own company named appropriately "Jordan Brand." Athletes who endorse the company include basketball players known as "Jumpmen" such Ray Allen, Michael Finley, Derek Anderson, Eddie Jones, Mike Bibby, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Quentin Richardson, Richard Hamilton, and Carmelo Anthony. Not only basketball, but Jordan has branched out into other sports with baseball players Derek Jeter and Andruw Jones, along with football players Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Ahman Green, Eddie George, Jason Taylor, and Warren Sapp. Of course, the college basketball arena is a good way to market as well and Jordan has taken full advantage of this, sponsoring North Carolina, Cincinnati, Cal, St. John's, Georgetown, and North Carolina A & T.

Michael Jordan with Bugs Bunny in "Space Jam."Jordan has also been connected with the Looney Tunes cartoon characters. A Nike commercial in the 1991 Super Bowl where he and Bugs Bunny played basketball against some Martians inspired the 1996 live action/animated movie Space Jam, which also starred Michael and the Looney Tunes in a fictional story set during his first retirement. They have subsequently appeared together in several commercials for MCI.

After his second retirement, Jordan formed the MVP.com sports apparel enterprise with fellow sports greats Wayne Gretzky and John Elway in 1999. It fell victim to the dot-com bust, and the rights to the domain were sold to CBS SportsLine in 2001.

NBA Most Valuable Player Award: 1987-88, 1990-91, 1991-92, 1995-96, 1997-98
NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award: 1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98
NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award: 1987-88
NBA Rookie of the Year Award: 1984-85
Naismith College Player of the Year: 1984
John R. Wooden Award: 1984
Adolph Rupp Trophy: 1984
ACC Men's Basketball Player of the Year: 1983-84
NBA All-Star Dunk Contest Champion: 1987, 1988

Team Honors
Six NBA championships (1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98)
Two Olympic gold medals (1984, 1992)