Michael Jordan




Michael Jordan is universally regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history. His brilliance at both ends of the floor sustained Jordan for an epic 19-year professional career. Jordan is also arguably the most famous cultural and marketing icon of the modern age, as his association with Nike shoes created a global identity for Jordan and Nike products that transcended his considerable athletic talents.

Michael Jordan's formative years and his early playing career suggested only potential athletic success, as opposed to certain greatness and international fame. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jordan moved with his family to North Carolina at age 7. North Carolina is a region of the United States where basket-ball—particularly at the collegiate level—is a most celebrated sport. An early irony of the many that are associated with Jordan's later brilliance on the basketball floor is the fact that he was cut from his varsity high school team when Jordan was in the tenth grade.

Jordan went on to enjoy a successful high school career, but he was not widely recruited by the national college basketball powers in the United States, attracting only a handful of serious scholarship offers. Jordan did demonstrate sufficient potential with his high school play to attract the attention of the University of North Carolina's legendary head coach, Dean Smith. Jordan ultimately accepted the North Carolina offer and he began his university playing career in 1981.

Smith, whose career at North Carolina is regarded as one of the most successful in the history of college basketball, was a coach who did not generally feature the talents of individual players as was often the case at other college programs. Smith was a proponent of a balanced, disciplined, and patterned type of offensive basketball in which all players were expected to contribute, without necessarily achieving noteworthy individual statistical totals.

Jordan's national recognition as a great college player began when he sank the winning basket against Georgetown in the 1982 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game. Jordan's career at North Carolina climbed an upward path, culminating in his selection as the NCAA Player of the Year in 1984. The second irony of Jordan's career is the fact that despite his renown in the world of college basketball, Jordan was not the first overall selection in the 1984 National Basketball Association (NBA) professional draft; he was selected third, by the Chicago Bulls.

In the summer prior to the beginning of his NBA career, Jordan was a member of the American basketball team that captured the 1984 Olympic gold medal at Los Angeles.

Jordan was an instant NBA success on an otherwise undistinguished Chicago team. The first of many honors accorded to Jordan in his NBA career was his recognition as the league's outstanding rookie player in the 1984–1985 season.

The commencement of Jordan's NBA career was also the beginning of his association with Nike, the shoe and sporting apparel company. Nike had a significant global profile prior to their establishment of Jordan as their prime marketing spokesperson. When Jordan signed on with the Chicago Bulls, he began a marketing relationship with Nike that was to last throughout his career and beyond. The first stage in the marketing campaign was the release by Nike of a basketball shoe called the Air Jordan, a label that integrated Jordan's renown as a leaper and as an emphatic dunker, with the performance characteristics and styling of the shoe itself. Nike devised a logo to coincide with the launch of the Air Jordan product, a silhouette of Jordan leaping towards to the basket to dunk the ball; this logo remains a part of Nike's basketball shoe marketing campaigns today.

Air Jordan shoes acquired a cachet among consumers that transcended basketball. The Air Jordan became to basketball footwear what Converse All-Stars had represented to an earlier generation of players. People who had never seen an NBA game were now aware of Michael Jordan. As Jordan's NBA career rocketed upwards, Nike released yearly versions of the Air Jordan, making it the most popular brand of modern basketball shoes, sparking a host of imitations from Nike's rivals.

Jordan's overall brilliance on the floor was rarely contained by his opponents, and it was illustrated in a variety of ways. In 1986, he scored 63 points in a playoff game against the Boston Celtics, a league record. In 1988, he was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year, leading the NBA in a number of statistical categories. With the arrival in Chicago of forward Scottie Pippin and coach Phil Jackson, the Bulls became the dominant NBA franchise in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s.

Jordan won a second gold medal at the Olympics in 1992, when he played with the United States Olympic team (known as the Dream Team in recognition of its assembly some of the greatest basketball players in the history of the NBA). By 1993, Jordan had led the NBA in scoring four times, and he been named the NBA's Most Valuable Player three times. Jordan was now earning upwards of $30 million a year, not including the millions of dollars more that he earned endorsing commercial products, including Nike.

The murder of Jordan's father, James Jordan, during an apparent robbery attempt in 1993, prompted Jordan's first retirement from the NBA. The period of his retirement was devoted to an attempt to secure a place as a major league baseball player; the attempt was ill-fated, as Jordan was unable to advance beyond the minor league baseball level. Jordan returned to the NBA with Chicago in 1995, a season in which he again was again named the league's Most Valuable Player. After further sustained brilliance, Jordan announced his second retirement in 1999.

Among other honors, Jordan was named one of the top 50 players in the history of the NBA in 1996. Jordan's career in Chicago had garnered Jordan fame as the greatest basketball player in the history of the sport.

Jordan assumed a position as part owner and President of the Washington Wizards NBA franchise in 2000. In 2001, unable to resist the desire to play again, at age 38 Jordan sold his interest in the Wizards to permit his return to the league as a player with Washington. This last segment of Jordan's career was his least memorable, and beset by injuries, Jordan retired for a final time in 2002. His personal achievements, including six NBA championships, ten scoring titles and a host of statistical records, are not matched by any other player.

Jordan's contemporaries attribute much of his playing success to his relentless competitive spirit and desire to win. A further irony of Jordan's career is that the only demonstrable black clouds to ever present themselves over his achievements were the lingering issues that appeared to related to Jordan's gambling habits. Numerous stories appeared in the international media concerning Jordan and his monies lost in wagers.

In some media quarters, Jordan's penchant for gambling was termed an addiction; the pressure on Jordan was sufficiently acute that he made an appearance on the nationally televised newsmagazine 60 Minutes to declare that while he had gambled in the past, he had never compromised his family's security, nor had he ever made illegal or inappropriate wagers involving sports. Jordan stated that his particular gambling weakness was wagering on golf games.

SEE ALSO Basketball; Basketball shoes; Basketball shot dynamics; Basketball: Slam dunk.