Michael Jordan Never Watched an NBA Game Before Making His Bulls Debut and It Allowed Him to Create His Own Identity: ‘I Played Like It Was Something I Had Never Experienced Before, That Was a Great Way to Enter Into the Whole Situation’
Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York, but he was raised in Wilmington, North Carolina. As a kid, the Chicago Bulls legend watched baseball, NASCAR, and college basketball, the three sports that came on the local channels in North Carolina.
It may surprise many, but Jordan never watched an NBA game before making his Bulls debut in 1984. That may have been a disadvantage for some players, but His Airness viewed it as a positive.
Michael Jordan is glad he never watched the NBA as a kid
In 1997, Jordan sat down with Tony Gervino and Russ Bengtson of SLAM Magazine for a wide-ranging interview, and he said he was glad he didn’t watch the NBA growing up as a kid.
“I played like it was something I had never experienced before,” Jordan said. “That was a great way to enter into the whole situation. You don’t have to pattern your game behind someone because you’ve never paid attention to it. Other than David Thompson or someone like that. So you create your own identity without really knowing who you would be patterning your game after.”
It’s incredible that Jordan became arguably the greatest player in NBA history despite not watching pro hoops as a kid. However, the Hall of Famer had to have someone inspire him to play basketball, and it was none other than David Thompson.
David Thompson was Michael Jordan’s childhood idol
In 2009, Jordan revealed why he asked Thompson to present him at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Evidently, Thompson was Jordan’s childhood hero.
“As I grew up in North Carolina, I was an anti-Carolina guy. I hated UNC,” Jordan said. “I was in love with David Thompson, not just for the game of basketball, but in terms of what he represented. We all go through our trials and tribulations, and he did, and I was inspired by him. When I called him and asked him to stand up for me, I know I shocked the shit out of him. I know I did.”
Jordan watched Thompson dominate at NC State and became inspired to do the same. Skywalker averaged 26.8 points and 8.1 rebounds in college and won the NCAA championship in 1974. He retired from the NBA in 1983-84, one season before Jordan got to the league.
It certainly would have been special for Black Jesus to face Thompson, who finished his career with averages of 22.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists and once scored 73 points in a game.
Along with Thompson, there was another player Jordan wanted to be like. However, he wasn’t a basketball star.
MJ loved Roberto Clemente
Jordan was a baseball fanatic as a child. He admitted to SLAM Magazine that Roberto Clemente was his baseball hero.
“I was a baseball fanatic. My father got me started in baseball, “Jordan said. “I played basketball as an alternate sport. At the time, when I was playing baseball, my father loved Roberto Clemente, and we all did too.”
Clemente played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 to 1972. He won two championships and one MVP. The Hall of Famer tragically died in December 1972 in a plane crash.
Jordan played baseball in 1994 as a way to honor his father, who was murdered in 1993. Even though he never made it to the MLB, the six-time NBA champion hit .202 in Double-A and drove in 51 runs. Those are decent stats for a guy who stopped playing baseball in high school and had very little time to change his body from a basketball frame to a baseball one.