Michael J. Jordan (1963- )

Michael Jordan dunking, 1987-88
Photo by Steve Lipofsky, www.Basketballphoto.com

Michael Jordan, National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar, was born February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of James R. and Deloris Jordan. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. Jordan became a standout athlete at Laney High School despite being rejected for the school’s varsity basketball team the first season he tried out. He grew four inches taller over the following year, made the team and became an All-American during his senior year at Laney.

Jordan played college basketball at the University of North Carolina where under coach Dean Smith’s tutelage he established a reputation as a clutch player when he made a game winning shot against Georgetown in the 1982 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game. This reputation would follow him into the NBA when he left school before his senior year to play professionally for the Chicago Bulls.

Jordan, who was Rookie of the Year in the 1984-1985 season, led the Bulls to the playoffs where they lost in the first round to the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite sitting out 64 games in the second season due to a foot injury, Jordan returned late in this year and scored a record 63 points in a single game in 1986 against the Boston Celtics, who nonetheless eliminated the Bulls in the playoffs.

During the 1986-1987 season Jordan joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to score three thousand points in a season. He also became the first player to attain two hundred steals and 100 blocks in the same season. In the 1987-1988 season Jordan won his first Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and was named Defensive Player of the Year. The Detroit Pistons eliminated the Bulls in the playoffs that year, setting up a rivalry as the Pistons eliminated Chicago three consecutive years: 1987-1988, 1988-1989 and 1989-1990. The Pistons’ success was based on their “Jordan Rules” strategy where they assigned three players to guard him.

Jordan became a pop culture icon in 1991 when Nike hired Spike Lee to direct and appear with Jordan in a number of commercials promoting the highly lucrative “Air Jordan” basketball shoes. Although NBA athletes had endorsed products before, the Jordan “brand,” which eventually promoted Gatorade sports drink, Coca-Cola soft drink, Wheaties cereal and Hanes underwear among other products, generated an average $50 million a year between 1995 and 2010. That income far exceeded Jordan’s overall earnings from professional basketball and made him one of the wealthiest professional athletes in the history of the United States. In 1991 the Jordan-led Bulls won the first of three consecutive championships. Jordan also led the US Olympic basketball “Dream Team” to a gold medal in the games in Barcelona in 1992.

Controversy soon arose after the 1993 Bulls championship when it was revealed that Jordan had accrued close to sixty thousand dollars in gambling debt. Soon afterwards Jordan’s father, James R. Jordan, was murdered in North Carolina. These events pushed Jordan to retire from basketball and to pursue a short-lived professional baseball career in 1994.

Jordan returned to basketball on March 18, 1995 and the following year, with the addition of Dennis Rodman and the elevated play of Scottie Pippen, the Jordan-led Bulls were NBA champions in 1996, 1997 and 1998. During this run, Jordan won two additional league MVP awards and three more championship final MVPs. The Bulls’ 1995 -1996 year set a still unmatched 72-win season.

Jordan retired from basketball for the second time in 1998 but returned in January 2000 as part owner and president of the Washington Wizards. On September 24, 2001 however he announced his return to basketball as a player for the Wizards. Jordan played two seasons, making the All-Star team both years before retiring as a player for the third time in 2003. In 2005 Jordan became part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats basketball team and five years later he became majority owner.  Michael Jordan is the first former player to own an NBA franchise.  Jordan, who is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, was married to Juanita Vanoy Jordan from 1989 to 2006. They have two sons and a daughter.