Michael Jordan has always had a soft spot for Dean Smith. Jordan’s coach at the University of North Carolina brought him to Chapel Hill, and Smith put the then-freshman on the floor during the closing minutes of a national title game. Jordan went on to hit the famous jumper to beat Georgetown for the 1982 National Championship, becoming a star in the process. Smith was an important figure in Jordan’s development, both as a player and as a person. So while MJ can hold grudges with the best of them, his UNC coach will always have a special place in his heart.
So, fittingly, Jordan will honor his former coach with a pair of Jordans.
The Jordan Series .01 pays tribute to MJ’s past, and it now includes Smith
The Jordan Series .01 shoes honor the friends and family members who helped the six-time NBA champion become great. According to SneakerNews, the line includes a 90s throwback pair to Jordan’s younger days, a pair dedicated to his older brother, and a pair dedicated to his mom. Now a fourth pair, the .02, will be dedicated to Smith.
The shoes are, of course, Carolina blue and white with (again, of course) a red Jordan Brand logo on the tongue. As with the other .01 series shoes, this pair includes a message dedicated to Smith. The outside of the shoes has the words “Dear Dean” stitched on. The phrases “swing for the fence,” “there was never any doubt,” and “it went down in the backyard” are also included to honor Smith.
Michael Jordan has always shown love to Dean Smith
Smith told Jordan in the 1982 title game, if he was open, to let it fly. This helped form MJ in two ways — his coach showed confidence in him even as a freshman, and His Airness had the guts to actually shoot with a national championship on the line.
Smith was known for being a father figure and spending time with each player who came through his program. Jordan was no different. The five-time MVP has said that Smith saw his potential and pushed him to work harder, and he eventually developed the greatest work ethic of all time. After his sophomore season, Smith was the one who pushed MJ to turn pro.
After Smith’s passing in 2015, Jordan released a statement about his college coach:
“He was more than a coach – he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father.
“Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life.”Michael Jordan on Dean Smith
Even as the program enters a new era, UNC still continues the Smith tree
Roy Williams was an assistant coach under Smith before he became the head coach at Kansas. He left Lawrence to return home and rebuild the Tar Heels’ program prior to the 2003-04 season. Williams retired at the end of last year, and North Carolina announced Hubert Davis as his successor. Davis has been an assistant to Williams since 2012 and played for Smith from 1988-92.
Long after his retirement, Smith still rules the UNC basketball program. And long after his own retirement, Jordan still recognizes it.