Michael Jordan’s Brother Helped to Instill His Legendary Competitiveness

Michael Jordan is considered by many to be basketball’s all-time greatest player. It’s hard to imagine a world where that wasn’t the case. Without the influence of Michael Jordan’s brother, though, things might have been different. Here’s a look at those early years.

Michael Jordan’s early life

Michael was born to James and Deloris Jordan in Brooklyn, New York, on February 17, 1963, the fourth of their five children. The oldest was James Jr. (called Ronnie), followed by Deloris, Larry, Michael, and Roslyn. Michael spent his early years in rural North Carolina in a multi-generational family.

In the late ’60s, James and Deloris moved their immediate family to Wilmington, where they had strict rules and required good grades. James introduced Michael to baseball and built a basketball court in their backyard. Deloris instilled a strong will and a desire for success in her son, who was a combative but affectionate child.

The Jordan brothers

Larry Jordan is 11 months older than Michael, and the two athletic brothers grew up playing basketball in their backyard every evening. They were both strong players, and it wasn’t until Michael grew a lot taller than Larry that he started to beat his brother regularly.

As Larry said, “I won most of them [the one-on-one games] until he started to outgrow me. And then that was the end of that.” They were also competitive at baseball. Larry told ESPN.com,

“We had this barbecue pit that we’d use as the backstop and we’d play baseball with a tennis ball, and we had numerous battles. If I lost, I had to keep playing until I won. That’s why, more often than not, it would end in a fight.”

Their mother sometimes had to intervene to calm them down. These one-on-one games in baseball and basketball likely set the stage for Michael’s fiercely competitive nature later on.

Their high school basketball coach, Pop Herring, said,

“Larry was so driven and so competitive an athlete that if he had been 6’2″ instead of 5’7″, I’m sure Michael would have been known as Larry’s brother instead of Larry always being known as Michael’s brother.”

Larry even influenced Michael’s number selection. Michael is known for being number 23 on the Chicago Bulls, but he picked the same number in high school to show that he wanted to be half as good as Larry, who had jersey number 45.

Obviously, he had rounded up from 22.5. Michael wore 45 when he played minor league baseball and briefly after his return to the Bulls in 1995.

Coach Herring’s influence

Michael’s brother wasn’t the only one who motivated him to be a great basketball player. As a sophomore at Laney High School, Coach Herring assigned Michael to the JV team, which Michael has since described as being “cut from the team.” The then 5’9″ Michael was inspired to work even harder, and the JV team soon had great games. Larry was the one who played on the varsity team that year.

As a junior, Coach Herring personally had Michael run through drills. After a growth spurt of five inches, Michael was soon the star of the varsity team, playing alongside his brother, Larry. By the time he was a senior, he scored a record 30 points playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game. Michael soon went on to North Carolina, the Olympics, and eventually the Chicago Bulls.

Michael Jordan’s competitiveness

Michael’s competitive spirit and burning need to win helped to make him into the dominant player he became. He famously played an NBA Finals game with the flu in 1997, and he was known for his trash-talking from the basketball court to the golf course.

Larry went on to play one season for the Chicago team in the International Basketball Association. He’s held various jobs over the years. He owned a sportswear company with his father, was a regional sales manager for Upper Deck, and later held several positions with the Charlotte Bobcats, owned by Michael.