It’s easy to think of Michael Jordan as an unstoppable force of nature. But, despite all of his basketball talent, His Airness was still a human. He famously failed to make his high school varsity time the first time he tried out; even after he found professional success, MJ still held onto one lucky charm.
But what did Jordan rely upon throughout his entire NBA career? Let’s just say it was a bit more cumbersome than a simple lucky penny.
Michael Jordan’s road to greatness
As a high schooler, Michael Jordan famously failed to make the varsity basketball team as a sophomore. He dominated the JV team, conveniently grew four inches before his junior year, and made the team the following fall. He was named a McDonalds’ All-American and had his pick of college offers, enrolling at the University of North Carolina.
Jordan’s ascendency continued as a Tar Heel, nailing the game-winning shot in the National Championship game as a freshman. He would spend three seasons in Chapel Hill before making the jump to the NBA; he would become the third overall pick in the 1984 draft, landing with the Chicago Bulls.
Despite some early issues getting past the Detroit Pistons, Jordan dominated the professional game. Despite some unfortunate episodes—MJ struggled with gambling and retired from the NBA for a brief stint as a baseball player—he did just about everything you could do on the basketball court. During his three stints in the NBA, Jordan piled up over 30,000 points, claimed six championships, six MVP awards, and literally changed the game of basketball.
Jordan’s good luck charm
Even after he found professional success, Michael Jordan never forgot his time at UNC. In fact, he held onto one particular lucky charm from his collegiate career.
Jordan reportedly held onto the shorts that he wore during the 1982 National Championship game, but he didn’t just keep them as a souvenir. His Airness played in two sets of shorts every time he took the floor in an NBA game. When suiting up, he would wear his old Tar Heels bottoms underneath his Bulls gear.
While that doesn’t seem like the most comfortable way to play basketball, it clearly worked for MJ. Whether it was luck, skill, or a combination of both, wearing two pairs of shorts paid off.
Changing NBA uniforms forever
In addition to changing the way basketball is played, Michael Jordan also gets a good deal of credit for changing NBA attire. In addition to kicking off a new era of sneaker culture, he also inspired a new style of shorts.
Traditionally, basketball shorts were small and tight, but that didn’t suit Jordan. In addition to needing baggier clothes to conceal his lucky charm, he also felt larger shorts could serve a purpose on the court.
During games, Jordan tended to grab his shorts while attempting to catch his breath. By adding some extra fabric, His Airness would have more to hold onto, helping him focus on the action rather than his pants. “It’s just something that seemed more natural, more comfortable to me,” Jordan explained. “They felt great.”