Michael Jordan is probably one of the three or four most famous athletes in history. If he isn’t the most famous, he’s up there. Jordan has probably had more of an effect on how sports stars are marketed than any other athlete. From high school to the pros, here’s a look at his work history.
A lifetime of motivation
Jordan did not make the varsity team at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, when he was a sophomore. He took that really hard, and it was clear that the incident sparked a fierce desire to win that sometimes came close to being pathological.
North Carolina and national attention
After being a star for Laney’s varsity team as a junior and senior, Jordan went on to play for the legendary Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina. He was a success right away. In 1982, when Jordan was a freshman, he made a jump shot in the last few seconds that helped the Tar Heels beat Georgetown and win the national championship. This put Jordan on the fast track to becoming a star. After two more great seasons in Chapel Hill, he got a call from the NBA.
Olympic gold in college
Jordan first competed in the Olympics in 1984, when he played for the U.S. team coached by the legendary Bob Knight. Jordan led the U.S. team to a gold medal by scoring 17.1 points per game on a team with future NBA stars Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin. The U.S. team won all eight of its games by at least 10 points.
1984 NBA Draft: Bowie over Jordan
It is remembered as one of the worst or, at the very least, the unluckiest draft picks in NBA history, and maybe in sports history as a whole. After Hakeem Olajuwon went to the Houston Rockets, the Portland Trail Blazers chose Sam Bowie from Kentucky, even though Bowie had been hurt a lot in the past. Portland thought that it already had a player with similar skills to Jordan in Clyde Drexler. With the third pick, the Bulls chose him, and the rest is history.
Rookie of the Year
Jordan won NBA Rookie of the Year in 1985 after averaging 28.2 points per game. Even though the Bulls had a losing record (38-44), they made it into the playoffs. However, Milwaukee beat Chicago in the first round.
Air Jordans and the start of a popular trend
In 1983, if you had told someone the words “Air Jordan,” they would have thought you were crazy. In 1984, Nike made the first version of the shoe that would become the most famous athletic shoe ever. David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, banned the first Air Jordans because they broke a rule that said shoes had to have a lot of white in their color scheme.
Legendary in defeat
Jordan’s second season was mostly ruined by injuries. In the third game, he broke his foot. But he came back in time for the end of the regular season, and even though the Bulls had a 30-52 record, they still made it to the playoffs. The Celtics, one of the best teams in NBA history, would play the Bulls in the first round. Even though the Bulls were swept 3-0, Jordan still made his mark by scoring 63 points in Game 2, which was an NBA playoff record.
Dominant scorer and MVP
Jordan’s third season, 1986-87, was amazing. He averaged 37.1 points and became only the second player, after Wilt Chamberlain, to score 3,000 points in a season. He lost the MVP award to Magic Johnson, but the next year, when he averaged 35 points, he won it back. From his third season on, until his second retirement in 1998, he won the scoring title every full season he played.
In Cleveland, Ohio, in 1989, Jordan became known as the best player ever when it mattered most. With three seconds left, Craig Ehlo made a layup to put the Bulls behind by 100-99 against the Cavaliers, who were the favorite. On the next inbounds play, Jordan beat a double team to get the ball, moved to his left, and then hit a double-clutch foul line jumper, beating Ehlo’s tight defense to give the Bulls a 101-100 win and the first-round playoff series.
The Pistons and the “Jordan Rules”
Even though Jordan was a great player on his own, the Bulls kept losing in the playoffs to the tough and talented “Bad Boys” Pistons teams. The “Jordan Rules” put limits on how free Michael Jordan could be on offense, and the Pistons beat the Bulls in the second round of the playoffs in 1988 and in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1989 and 1990.
Getting past the Pistons
In the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, Jordan and the Bulls finally beat the Pistons. They swept them and got back at them for losing three straight playoff series. Chicago’s assistant coach Tex Winter and head coach Phil Jackson came up with the triangle offense, which they used to beat Detroit’s physical, almost dirty style of defense.
At last a championship
In the 1991 NBA Finals, the Bulls played the Los Angeles Lakers. In the 1991 Eastern Finals, they beat their rival very easily. A well-balanced Bulls team led by Jordan was too much for the Lakers to handle, and Chicago won in five games. MJ scored 31.2 points per game on average and won the first of six Finals MVP Awards.
The Dream Team
In 1992, Jordan had just won his second straight NBA championship. Later that summer, he added another trophy to his collection by averaging 14.9 points for the U.S. The Olympic team called “The Dream Team” beat all of the other teams and won the gold medal. Jordan was the only player on that team to start all eight games. Most of the games were over in the first 10 minutes, so he didn’t have to do much work.
Three-peat, Part 1
Charles Barkley beat out Michael Jordan for the NBA MVP Award in 1992-1993. But he had the last laugh when his Bulls beat Barkley’s Suns in six games to win their third straight championship. Jordan averaged 41 points per game during the series, which was a Finals record. He also became the first player in history to win three straight Finals MVP Awards.
Battles with the Knicks
After Jordan left the Pistons in the dust, he needed a new opponent. He found one in the rough-and-tumble Knicks, whose team was led by Patrick Ewing, who Jordan had played against in college. The Knicks never beat Jordan and the Bulls in the playoffs, but their games, which were full of bad blood and interactions between Jordan and the Madison Square Garden crowd (Spike Lee! ), were must-sees in the early 1990s.
Jordan was on top of the basketball world after winning three straight championships, but in July 1993, his father, James, was killed in a carjacking. What MJ did next shocked the sports world.
Stepping away … for baseball?
After his father died in October 1993, Jordan quit basketball because he no longer wanted to play the game. He also said that his father’s death was a factor. In February 1994, he surprised everyone by signing a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. He later said that he did this in part to fulfill his late father’s dream that he would play baseball professionally.
Even though he was starting to do well with the Double-A Birmingham Barons, Jordan gave up baseball because of the MLB strike and other things. On March 18, 1995, after rumors had been going around for a while, Jordan said that he was going back to basketball. “I’m back,” said the short news release.
At guard, No. 45, Michael Jordan
The Bulls had taken away Jordan’s number 23, which he had worn since high school, in November of the year before. He decided to keep a link to the short time he played baseball by wearing the same number with Chicago, 45, as he had with the Barons.
“Double nickel” at the Garden
Jordan scored 55 points in a game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 28, 1995. The game became known as “Double Nickel,” and it helped the Bulls win 13 of their last 17 games of the regular season. But Chicago’s attempt to win another championship fell short. In the Eastern Conference semifinals, it lost to Orlando in six games.
Three-peat, Part 2
At the start of the 1995–96 basketball season, Jordan was fully back and committed to the game. He used a new move, a fadeaway jumper, to torture his opponents. In his first full season back, Jordan led the Bulls to a then-record 72-10 record, and he started a run of three straight scoring titles, three straight titles, and three straight Finals MVP Awards. Not bad for someone who was obsessed with baseball a year ago. In the Finals of 1996. In six games, the Bulls beat the Mariners.
The “Flu Game”
In the NBA Finals of 1997, the Bulls played against a strong Jazz team that included league MVP Karl Malone. After beating the buzzer to win Game 1 for Chicago, Jordan outdid himself in Game 5, which was very important. Jordan had a stomach virus that made him weak. At times, he needed help from his teammates just to stand up. He still managed to score 38 points and hit the game-winning three-pointer with less than 30 seconds left. Some people thought it was Jordan’s best game ever, even though he was sick. It became known as the “Flu Game.”
“The Shot,” Part 2
Jordan’s Bulls played the Jazz again in the 1998 Finals, and Utah was once again a tough opponent. In Game 6, Chicago was down by three points and trying to win the series. There were 41 seconds left. Jordan made a jump shot to cut the lead to one, and then on the next possession, he stripped Karl Malone of the ball. Jordan was alone on Bryon Russell as he brought the ball down the court. He faked right, went left (maybe pushing off), and then made the winning shot with five seconds left.
Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson, and Dennis Rodman were all about to leave the Bulls, and the NBA was in the middle of a lockout. So, on January 13, 1999, Jordan said that this would be his second retirement. If Jordan hadn’t tried out baseball, it’s possible that the Bulls wouldn’t have won eight straight titles.
The Wizards years
In January 2000, Jordan became part owner of the Washington Wizards and moved to the front office. Jordan also became the president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards. In this role, he had the final say on all matters related to the team’s players. Jordan joined the Wizards as a player at the start of the 2001 season. He couldn’t stay away from the court and was inspired by his friend Mario Lemieux’s comeback in the NHL. Jordan had his farewell tour during the last part of the 2002-03 season, which was his second year in Washington.
The final game for real
On April 16, 2003, Jordan played his last game. It was in Philadelphia against the 76ers. He only scored 15 points in the end, making only 6 of 15 shots. After the crowd and Washington’s head coach, Doug Collins, asked him to come back into the game, he did so in the last few minutes. Eric Snow then fouled him on purpose. After Jordan made two free throws, the Wizards intentionally fouled him so he could leave the game. Jordan got a standing ovation that lasted for several minutes as he left the court for the last time.
More than a man, Jordan the brand
Jordan became famous because of what he did on the court, but his marketing skills made him bigger than life. He was the first athlete to have control over how his image was used in advertising. He was a well-known and effective pitchman for products like Gatorade, McDonald’s, and Nike. Because his Air Jordan shoes were so popular, Nike made a separate brand called the Jordan Brand, which uses the “Jumpman” logo, for all things Jordan.
From player to owner
In 2006, Jordan bought a small share of the Charlotte NBA team and, just like he did with the Wizards, took over running the basketball team. In 2010, Jordan became the team’s majority owner, making him the first former player to do so and the only African-American majority owner in the league. In the 2011-12 season, which was cut short because of a lockout, Charlotte went 7-59, which is the worst record in league history. Since Jordan has been the owner, the team hasn’t done very well.
The Last Dance
Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls was the subject of a highly anticipated documentary series on ESPN. The series captivated a sports-starved audience in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The series wasn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but it did have its moments, and it put Jordan’s name back in the news. It also made some of his old teammates angry, especially Horace Grant, but the end result was that Jordan was once again the center of the sports world.
From the court to the race track
Jordan the NASCAR owner might sound like a strange thing to say or write, but he has been interested in the sport since he was a child. Later, he was a teammate of Brad Daugherty, who is known to be a racing fanatic. Jordan and driver Denny Hamlin announced their partnership and plans to form a team in September. Bubba Wallace will be their driver, which means that the only Black driver at NASCAR’s top level will be paired with a Black majority owner. Jordan made it clear that NASCAR’s commitment to racial equality after racist incidents involving Wallace made him feel like the time was right for him to get involved in the sport in a big way.