Jay C. Brandriet
When you see potential gaps of time missing from Jordan’s career, it’s in three places. He broke his foot in his second season. He retired twice. A few of his legendary peers went right from high school to the NBA. Michael spent three years at the University of North Carolina. It was a different world in 1983. The VHS tape was just catching fire, and we had to watch commercials. To be a student at Chapel Hill was the best choice for his path at that time.
Jordan’s college and Olympic success reached the highest levels. Dean Smith helped mold him. In 1983-84 Michael peaked as the best player in the country. He was an NCAA champion in 1982.
Most of you know the story. MJ was a freshman and his UNC Tarheels were playing Georgetown for the NCAA championship. UNC was down one point with fifteen seconds left. Michael’s iconic jump shot was the go ahead basket. North Carolina is a champion forever. That play was Jordan’s clutch side introducing itself.
Right before he became an NBA rookie, Mike was busy taking other countries to summer school. The 1984 United State’s Olympic team was the last amateur U.S squad to win a gold medal in men’s basketball. They were 8-0 and won by an average of 32 points.
Wikipedia describes the tournament in the “Legacy” category this way. “The 1984 Olympics were a coming-out party for Michael Jordan, who led the U.S. team in scoring and dazzled the worldwide viewing audience with his athleticism and speed.”
He won with terrific players in both situations. Fact remains, Jordan was a winner before his NBA days. It should matter just a little more than it does. This is the age of debate and details.
Team USA was coached by Bobby Knight. He is one of the biggest names and controversial figures known to the sport. Shortly after Jordan’s first retirement in 1993, Knight sat down with David Letterman and said the following:
“Michael Jordan is the best that’s ever played anything. To draw a comparison maybe you could pick Jim Brown or Babe Ruth. I think Michael took it to a different level.”
“We were going for the gold medal in Los Angeles in 1984. We are playing Spain and we led by 28 points at the half. Jordan has played 11 minutes. He has 19 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists. We played the game as well as basketball can be played. I’m a great believer of lets play better in the second half. I’m walking across the floor and thinking, what am I going to say to get us to play any better? I open the locker room door and the first person I see is Michael. I figure I should jump all over him, to make a point to the other guys.”
“I walk over and I say Mike, when you gonna set a screen? We got four guys out their screening, when the hell you gonna screen somebody? All you’re doing is rebounding, passing and scoring. Screen somebody out here! Mike looked up at me and said…”coach didn’t I read last week you said I’m the quickest player you’ve ever been around?” I said, ya, what does that have to do with you screening? MJ answered “coach, I think I set them quicker than you can see them.”
Jay C. Brandriet