Michael Jordan’s name is synonymous with basketball. Perhaps the most famous player ever, from the bottom of his Air Jordan’s to the height of his gravity-defying slam-dunk, he is one of America’s favourite stars, and his many records and awards are a true testament to his status as arguably the great of the game.
Michael Jeffrey Jordan was the fourth of five children born on February 17th 1963 in Brooklyn, New York. As a student at the University of Carolina, his basketball career began in a semi-professional capacity, with Jordan marked out by peers and audiences as the star of the team. In 1984, he signed with the Chicago Bulls (remarkably only being the 3rd draft pick that year) and his professional career began.
During his first season, Jordan appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and won ‘Rookie of the Year’ award. He was voted an All-Star, reset the team’s rookie record, and held the team’s scoring record. Unsurprisingly, the new boy’s success did not earn him many friends on the court, but crowds loved him from the very start.
His second season was marred by a broken foot which forced him to miss 64 games. He spoke of how he hated to stand on the sideline, and when the Bulls made it to the playoffs, he insisted on playing. In the second match against the Boston Celtics, Jordan still managed to set a record for the greatest number of points scored in a playoff game (63). However, the Bulls ultimately conceded the series to Celtic.
In the 1987-88 season, Jordan finally won the MVP of the season award. Jordan and the Bulls’ play was finally starting to make its mark, and the team made it past the playoffs for the first time, only to be defeated by the powerful Detroit Pistons team.
The next season, Jordan’s reputation as highest-scorer did not flatter him, as he was double or triple-marked by the Pistons every time he got the ball – they called this the ‘Jordan rules’, and again the Bulls failed to take the titles that they seemed always to be approaching. However, domination of the league was just around the corner. The Bulls had promising young players who would soon become All-Stars, a new coach in Phil Jackson, and of course Jordan. The 1898-1990 season proved to be their training as a cohesive new group that would bring the Bulls to a new phase in their history.
Taking Jordan’s lead, the Bulls finally took the NBA Finals for the first time in sixteen years in the 1990-1 season, with Jordan named MVP. In the semi-finals they out-played the Detroit Pistons’ close marking of Jordan by deft, well-orchestrated passing, and in the finals they beat Magic Johnson and the Lakers four games to one. The Bulls set a record of 61 wins that season, and Jordan finally held the NBA trophy.
The next year, they continued to bulldozer opponents. The media whipped up a rivalry between Jordan and the Portland Trail Blazers’ Clyde Drexler, but the Bulls swept once more to victory in the finals. Jordan was, of course, MVP of the match and of the season. In 1992-3, this run of consecutive MVPs ended though, when he lost the award to friend Charles Barkley. However, the Bulls took on Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in the final and managed to defeat them, capping the last year of their astonishing run of championships.
Unfortunately, for Jordan personally, 1993 was a bad year. His father was murdered and later in the year he surprised everyone by announcing his retirement form basketball, declaring he had lost the desire to play.
Jordan shocked the sporting world again when he signed with a baseball team, in an effort to fulfill his father’s lifelong wish that Jordan become a baseball player. His career was not remarkable, and in 1995 Jordan returned to help the ailing Bulls, who had been floundering without their star. In the 1993-4 season they had struggled to make it to the playoffs, needing a boost to get them back on track. And then, as if by divine intervention, Jordan declared: ‘I’m back’.
Despite the fact that he hadn’t played a professional game for over a year and a half, Jordan played exceptionally during his first season back, taking the Bulls to the playoffs and the semi-finals of the Eastern Conference against Orlando Magic, although falling short.
The 1995-6 season was even better, as the Bulls stormed back to their former glory. They rose once more to dominate the league, taking the title, with Jordan reclaiming his MVP award. The next year they failed to sweep the board so comprehensively, just missing out on a second consecutive 70-win season with 69 wins. Despite having flu, Jordan joined the team to win the finals.
In the 1998 finals, Jordan dodged and feinted his way to one of the greatest performances of his career. Victory brought the Bulls their second ‘three-peat’, or three consecutive wins, and Jordan a tally of six victories in the finals.
This would have been a victorious end to his career, and in January 1999, for the second but not the last time, Jordan announced his retirement. This would indeed be the end of his famous partnership with the Bulls. He took up a position as Director of Basketball Operations on the Washington Wizards, but he continued to train and rumours abounded about the possibility of Jordan playing again.
His final stint as a professional came in 2001, when Jordan returned to the Washington Wizards, this time as a player, with the pledge to donate his income to the victims of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. He proved to be good value for money, despite the fact that the Wizards failed to make the playoffs and Jordan was heard sniping about his team-mates. Jordan stayed on to make the 2002-3 season his last, and in his final NBA All-Star game in 2003, he became the highest ever scorer in All-Star game history at the age of 40.
Jordan’s place on the ‘dream team’ national squad was guaranteed, and in 1982 and 1994 – with Jordan playing first as an amateur and later as a professional – he and the rest of the USA basketball squad brought home the Olympic Gold medal.
Jordan played shooting guard. He was a competitive and hard-working player who performed well under pressure. His free throws were legendary, but he was equally competent in defense, and indeed he holds the number two position for greatest number of defensive steals (after John Stockton). In 1998, Jordan held the Defensive Player of the Year award