Michael Jordan Got More Pleasure Playing for North Carolina Than He Ever Did in the NBA

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Tar Heels alumni Michael Jordan kisses former Tar Heels coach Dean Smith in 1993

Would you have more fun doing something for free or getting paid for it? For many of us, receiving a paycheck makes nearly any job worthwhile. However, for Michael Jordan it was the exact opposite.

During his stellar playing career between college and the NBA, Jordan became the face of basketball, winning a national championship with the North Carolina Tar Heels and Chicago Bulls. Let’s look at how he feels about both teams.

Michael Jordan at the University of North Carolina

When Jordan arrived at North Carolina, he was one of the top basketball prospects in the country. He hit the game-clinching shot in the 1982 National Championship.

MJ went on to win multiple awards, including Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year and John R. Wooden Award, which both go to the most outstanding player in college basketball. Jordan also won the 1984 Associated Press Player of the Year award after averaging 19 points and five rebounds per game. 

Did Jordan prefer playing in college or the NBA?

When speaking to Cigar Aficionado in a 2005 interview, Jordan explained whether he preferred college ball at UNC or basketball in the NBA:

“I would say it was for the Tar Heels. No one knew me until then. That’s when the notoriety and everything began with Michael Jordan. By the time I got to Chicago, I was drafted three, so everybody knew I was at least decent.”

Jordan was definitely on the NBA’s radar once the draft rolled around.

Becoming an icon and the first three-peat

Big men Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie headlined the infamous 1984 NBA Draft. But it’s clear Jordan was the most impactful player in that draft for the growth of the game. Other notable players in the draft were future Hall-of-Famers Charles Barkley and the league’s all-time assist leader in John Stockton.

With his ability to score at will, Jordan took the NBA by storm. He won the 1985 NBA Rookie of the Year award after averaging 28 points, six rebounds, and six assists, according to Basketball Reference

As the Bulls built the team around Jordan, they went back and forth with various Eastern Conference rivals (most notably the Detroit Pistons). After consecutive losses in the playoffs to Detroit, the Bulls were able to overcome them in 1991.

This would be the start of the Bulls dynasty, as the team won three consecutive championships from 1991–93 over the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers.

Chicago’s fans hoped for a fourth championship, but Jordan abruptly retired and missed the 1993–94 season. Here are six facts about the Bulls dynasty, according to NBC Sports.

Achieving the second three-peat

After his infamous return during the middle of the 1994–95 season, the Bulls needed to add a few pieces to return to title contention. The biggest edition was power forward Dennis Rodman, a former Piston who is arguably the league’s most tenacious rebounder.

With Rodman and Scottie Pippen at his side, the Bulls were able to gain steam and beat the Seattle Supersonics in the 1996 NBA Finals. The team then had back-to-back NBA Finals appearances against the Utah Jazz, with the 1998 season documented in ESPN‘s critically acclaimed The Last Dance

Jordan would retire again after the Finals but would come out of retirement for a brief stint with the Washington Wizards from 2001–03.