Was Michael Jordan Really Cut From His High School Basketball Team?
There’s usually a nugget of truth to rumors. The story of Michael Jordan getting cut from his high school basketball team is the perfect example. Do you know the real story about the early years of His Airness?
The myth of Michael Jordan’s high school basketball team is based on reality
Fans hear a fair share of Jordan-related myths and sort-of stories. A popular one involves him being cut from his high school basketball team. Yes, Jordan was technically cut from the team at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina. But the truth is more complicated. Let’s rewind.
Jordan grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and tried out for the varsity team as a sophomore. The 15-year-old was a skinny 5-foot-10 and not as skilled as necessary for a spot on the varsity, reports Yahoo Sports.
His best friend Leroy Smith was a whopping 6-foot-7 and made the team. After all, at that height, it didn’t matter whether he could dribble or shoot. All Smith had to do was stand under the basket and hold up his arms.
So Jordan did what any bummed teenager would do. He went home, locked himself in his room, and cried. Unlike many teens, though, the demotion to the junior varsity squad made him more determined.
Jordan said, according to ESPN, “Whenever I was working out and got tired and ﬁgured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it.” Visualizing that roster did the trick. MJ made the junior varsity team and scored over 40 points in many games that season.
UNC-Chapel Hill coach Dean Smith was an early fan of Michael Jordan
The summer before his junior year, Jordan did what most teenagers do. He grew four inches. He also worked out constantly, bulked up, and became a star on the varsity squad, averaging over 20 points per game.
Jordan went to coach Dean Smith’s basketball camp at UNC-Chapel Hill after his junior year. Smith saw his potential and signed him to the Tar Heels as his senior season at Laney began. Jordan proved his worth by averaging a triple-double and becoming McDonald’s All-American.
So, no. Jordan wasn’t cut from the team his sophomore year because he never made it. But he did suffer through the indignity of the second-tier squad while his best friend played with the big boys. The Laney coach has been criticized for bumping His Airness down to the JV team. But how could anyone know in 1978 that Jordan would be the toast of the NCAA four years later?
At UNC, Jordan was just the freshman who hauled the film projection equipment and followed James Worthy and Sam Perkins onto the team bus. Jordan was just another gawky kid learning the fundamentals until he hit “The Shot,” earning the Tar Heels the 1982 NCAA Championship.
‘The Shot’ heard ’round the world
NBA fans think “The Shot” is the jumper MJ knocked in during the 1998 NBA Finals to give the Chicago Bulls the title over the Utah Jazz. Nope.
The Shot is the jumper he floated in from the corner with 15 seconds left to give the Heels the win over Georgetown and Patrick Ewing. Sure, Worthy went on to win the tourney MVP and leave school early to join the Lakers. But Jordan credits “The Shot” with catapulting his career.
Trying to list all of Jordan’s accomplishments would take a while. Let’s look at the highlights: Olympic gold, All-American, more NBA championship rings than he can put on one hand, Hanes underwear model, and Jordan sneakers. President Barack Obama even presented Jordan with the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom. Oh, and Jordan is the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets.