NBA

Michael Jordan Was the Envy of Many NBA Players but Who Was His Basketball Idol?

Be like Mike. Nearly everyone who grew up playing basketball in the 1980 and 90s wanted to do just that. They emulated Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player of all time. Jordan racked up six NBA titles and five MVPs during his reign with the Chicago Bulls. Everyone wanted to be like Mike, but whom did Mike want to be like when he was growing up?

Michael Jordan brought the NBA to a whole new level

Chicago Bull Michael Jordan chases after a ball that he couldn’t control in the first half as Toronto Raptor John Wallace looks on at Toronto’s Skydome 19 February. AFP PHOTO/Carlo ALLEGRI (Photo by CARLO ALLEGRI / AFP)

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Is Michael Jordan the GOAT of the NBA? It’s a question that will forever be debated, but he’ll always be in the running. Jordan’s six championships, five MVPs, and 10 scoring titles are tough to beat. He got all of his titles with the Chicago Bulls and got them all before creating super teams became a thing.

Jordan helped the NBA’s popularity reach new heights. His athleticism and high-flying dunks helped turn the NBA into a global sport. He was a marketing machine and his Jordan brand was everywhere.

Jordan was a major force in boosting television ratings. That helped lead to bigger contracts for NBA players. According to Sports Illustrated, Jordan is credited with driving gate receipts to NBA games, as well as generating sales of merchandise, apparel, and various other products. It opened doors for sneaker deals to unproven rookies such as Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady. Jordan’s presence was felt just as much off the court as it did on it.

What player did Jordan look up to when he was young?

Most young basketball players had hoop heroes while they were growing up. Michael Jordan was that hero to many. Players pretended to be No. 23 for the Bulls, sticking their tongue out and trying to see if it was actually possible to fly from the foul line to the rim.

When Jordan was growing up, his basketball idol was Walter Davis. Davis spent 15 years in the NBA, 11 with the Phoenix Suns, who drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the 1977 NBA draft. Davis was a six-time NBA All-Star, and Jordan modeled his game after Davis.

“It is humbling to hear him say that I was an influence on him growing up, that he was a fan of mine,” David said of Jordan, according to Basketball Network. “But that is one of the things about the game of basketball, the way it gets passed on from one group to the next and how each generation influences the next. I got tips from my brothers, their friends, so I tried to return the favor when I got back to Carolina. I showed Michael a couple of moves.”

Jordan and Davis both played college ball at North Carolina

Michael Jordan watched and learned from his basketball hero Walter Davis, who also played collegiately at the University of North Carolina eight years before Jordan. Davis took Jordan under his wing early and then he watched Jordan’s work ethic take over. Jordan’s work habits are what impressed Davis the most.

“I worked with him on the jab-step and the pump fake, which were some of my favorite moves,” Davis once said, according to Basketball Network. “The mid-range shot was something I emphasized, I remember telling him that it was important to make that shot. When he helped us win the 82 national championships, that was a midrange shot. Michael had a lot of natural ability with that shot.

“What stood out to me was Michael listened to instruction. He wanted to get better. If you told him something, he was going to work on it. We would be out there playing pick-up for two hours, I get done, go shower, get dressed, and go to dinner. That would take us an hour. When we would come back from dinner, Michael would still be out there practicing. He was practicing an hour after we had been playing for two hours.”

All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.