When “The Last Dance”, the 10-part ESPN documentary highlighting the career of Michael Jordan and the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls, was announced more than a year ago, fans simply couldn’t wait to watch. That became even more evident when the first two parts of the series premiered to record ratings on April 19. Even with 10 parts, however, director Jason Hehir still couldn’t fit everything in to tell the story he wanted to tell. That includes an insane story involving Jordan in high school and it’s not the story that you most likely already know. In fact, it’s much better.
Michael Jordan famously didn’t make the varsity basketball team as a sophomore in high school
As a sophomore at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, Michael Jordan was 5’10” and couldn’t dunk a basketball, which is simply hilarious to think about now, seeing as how he became one of the best dunkers of all time. But back then, it was heartbreaking for young MJ. The team needed height and length and Jordan simply didn’t have it. He didn’t earn one of the 15 spots on Laney’s varsity squad, which obviously disappointed Jordan, who went home and locked himself in his room so nobody would see him cry.
What people often don’t mention is that he still played on the junior varsity squad that year and was an absolute star, putting up 40 or more points on multiple occasions and attracting bigger crowds than what a JV game would normally see on any given night. Jordan used being cut from the varsity team as fuel and did make the team his junior year. He continued to hone his craft and his coach knew he had something special, which led to a story that isn’t as well-known as most Michael Jordan tales.
MJ’s coach embellished his stats to get him into a camp and Jordan had to work the kitchen to stay
As Michael Jordan’s skills developed, he wanted to attend a very prestigious and exclusive basketball camp that featured some of the country’s top high-school stars. However, it was very expensive and despite his talents, nobody really knew about Jordan at one point in time, which, again, is just hilarious knowing what he would eventually become.
While putting together all of the footage for “The Last Dance” documentary, director Jason Hehir obviously got premium access to Michael Jordan and was able to hear so many legendary stories, some of which are well-known and some that aren’t. In a recent appearance for ESPN on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz”, Hehir told one of the lesser-known tales, a story which involves Jordan’s high school coach embellishing his stats to get him into a five-star camp and MJ having to work in the kitchen to stay for the second week because his parents couldn’t afford it.
“Everyone knows the story of him being cut. We had to cover that, but that’s kind of common knowledge. But his rise between sophomore year and senior year, his high school coach finagling him into five-star basketball camps by lying about his stats. He was embellishing his stats just to get him in there because he was not on the map at all. No one was coming down to look at high school kids in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was there for a week and that’s what his parents could afford, and he did so well that first week that he got MVP of the entire camp.
“You had Patrick Ewing, Len Bias, and some other guys were at the camp as well, but Michael, or Mike, at that point, blew everybody away. They begged him to stay for a second week because more college coaches wanted to see him play, and the parents said ‘we can’t afford it.’ So they said ‘OK, we’ll pay for him if he works in the kitchen as a waiter for all the other kids.’ Michael got MVP that second week and he was a waiter serving kids fruit punch and grilled cheeses and then going out and wasting these kids later on on the court.”“The Last Dance” director Jason Hehir on Michael Jordan
That is absolute gold. However, you won’t be seeing this Michael Jordan story in “The Last Dance” as Hehir actually had to cut this story from the documentary as there wasn’t room for it. But just imagine being a kid at that camp back then and being able to tell someone years later that Michael Jordan once served you a grilled cheese and fruit punch. Unbelievable stuff. Just when you think you know all the MJ stories, there’s always another one.
Michael Jordan went on to become the biggest basketball star the world has ever seen
You know the rest of the story. Michael Jordan became an All-American at Laney High. He then won a national championship at the University of North Carolina, hitting the game-winning shot as a freshman for Dean Smith’s Tar Heels. He became an All-American at the collegiate level and won his first gold medal in 1984. He was drafted by the Chicago Bulls and led the team to six NBA titles in the 1990s, also winning a second gold medal as part of the Dream Team in 1992. He became the biggest basketball star the world has ever seen and now owns his own franchise and is worth more than two billion dollars.