Before NBA matchups and the NCAA spotlight, most basketball stars make their names in high school. While success in high school can be a mixed bag, several of the greatest players earned the coveted Mr. Basketball award. One peculiar omission, however, is Michael Jordan.
Jordan’s mostly-fabricated tales of high school rejection have been repeated time and time. Still, the fact remains that he was snubbed for Mr. Basketball back in the early ’80s.
Michael Jordan’s high school story sans Mr. Basketball
Anybody who has heard Jordan tell his story has likely heard the part about him being cut from the varsity team during his sophomore year in high school Depending on the version he describes, this was the motivator that elevated him to be the best player in history.
Jordan’s coach is presented as a sort of a villain who could not see Jordan’s greatness at an early age. Most of this story, however, is more fiction than fact. While it is true that Jordan was not on the varsity basketball team, the reasoning behind it was not a slight. At the time, Laney High School rarely allowed sophomores on the varsity team regardless of his talent.
Jordan wasn’t snubbed because he wasn’t good enough. According to coach Pop Herring, Jordan was cut because he wasn’t tall enough, and the team needed size. A 6-foot-7 sophomore did make the team, but only because they needed him.
Still, this work of fiction has helped define who Jordan is for decades since he took the league by storm. When he finally made it to the varsity basketball court, however, he showed the promise that eventually made him the best.
Jordan’s real snub?
Showing that petty sense of betrayal that he took with him to the NBA, Jordan went from undersized sophomore to oversized junior and led the Laney Varsity team two years later. During his junior year, Jordan averaged nearly 25 points per game, although his other stats have proven hard to come by. He was invited to Howard Garfinkel’s Five-Star Basketball Camp due to his basketball domination.
Jordan was even better as a senior. During the 1980-81 season, Jordan averaged a triple-double with nearly 27 points, 11 rebounds, and ten assists. That year, he was selected to the McDonald’s All-American team. He did not, however, become Mr. Basketball that year. Another future NBA legend took his spot.
Did Patrick Ewing earn his Mr. Basketball title?
Ewing, who went to Rindge & Latin High School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, had an equally, if not more impressive season as a senior. Not only did he average nearly 23 points per game and 15 rebounds, but he also did so while shooting a mind-blowing 72% from the field. During Ewing’s three years as a player, the team was 77-1 overall. Ewing was such a phenom that he got an Olympic tryout as a high school junior.
Ewing’s wins, combined with his stats, made him a likely winner. Despite Jordan’s domination of the game, one could argue that Ewing was better. Jordan being who he was. However, he took every opportunity to get his revenge on the Hall of Fame big man in the future. From their days at UNC and Georgetown to their NBA careers in New York and Chicago, the pair faced off many times, and Jordan typically had the last laugh.
Jordan’s snub is ultimately a side note of his career, but he may not have been the player he is without it. He notoriously rises to the occasion when given any doubt, and by choosing Ewing as Mr. Basketball, the high school world may have unleashed a beast onto the world.