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MICHAEL JORDAN - Before They Were Famous
Michael Jeffrey Jordan Born: Chicago Bulls, Transactions: Laney Wilmington, NC College: Although, a summary of his basketball career and influence on the game inevitably fails to do it justice, as a phenomenal athlete with a unique combination of fundamental soundness, grace, speed, power, artistry, improvisational ability and an unquenchable competitive desire, Jordan single-handedly redefined the NBA superstar. Even contemporaneous superstars recognized the unparalleled position of Jordan. Magic Johnson said, "There's Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us. A brief listing of his top accomplishments would include the following: He burst into the league as a rookie sensation scoring in droves with an unmatchable first step and acrobatic drives and dunks and concluded his career as a cultural icon. Along the way, he became a true champion who spearheaded the globalization of the NBA with his dynamic on court abilities and personal sense of style that was marketed to the masses. He was an accessible star who managed to maintain an air of mystique. He was visible as "Air Jordan," as part of a sneaker advertising campaign and endorsing other products as well as the star of the movie, Space Jam. However, he would vanish into retirement twice only to return until hanging up the sneakers for the last time after the season. Although Brooklyn born, Jordan was bred in the more tranquil North Carolina. The son of Delores and James Jordan, he shared a special bond with his father, which included baseball being both of their first love. However, following his older brother, Larry, whom he idolized and was a spectacular athlete in his own right, Jordan began to play basketball. He attended Laney High school in Wilmington, North Carolina, but as a skinny sophomore, he was cut from the varsity basketball team. The summer before his junior year, he grew to and began his path to super-stardom. As a freshman, he played somewhat in the shadows of upperclassmen James Worthy and Sam Perkins. Jordan scored 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds and made the winning basket on a foot jumper with 18 seconds in the game for the victory. As a junior, he received that award again as well as the Naismith and Wooden Awards. The Portland Trail Blazers, however, with the No. Bowie had suffered several injuries while in college but the Blazers bypassed Jordan because just the year before the team selected another exciting shooting guard in Clyde Drexler. Although Drexler went onto to be a star, Bowie was an injury prone player with a journeyman pro career However, Jordan, coming off a gold medal performance at the Olympics prospered in the pro game with a fabulous first season, earning the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. Perhaps more important, the Bulls improved to win 11 more games than in the season prior to his arrival and made it to the playoffs. In his first season, he did not have outstanding shooting range and was thought to roam to often on defense resulting from playing trapping defenses in college according to his first NBA coach, Kevin Loughery. Yet, his medium game -- eight to feet from the basket was impressive as evidenced by his. Improvement in both areas would come and he would ultimately be regarded as threat from anywhere on the floor and one of the best ever one-on-one defenders. King, the eventual leading scorer for that upcoming season, seemed sure as well when he spoke to Hoop magazine after a preseason game. Jordan's greatness and likeabilty was apparent in just his first season. Home attendance at the venerable Chicago Stadium and on the road rose dramatically. Fans of opposing teams were seemingly content to see their team lose if in return Jordan put on show. Jordan's personal style was equally authentic and unique as his basketball skills. Nike signed him to a major shoe deal because of his anticipated appeal, but he surpassed even the loftiest of expectations. One version of the sneakers he wore in his first preseason was an unseen before blend of his team's red and black colors that the NBA initially considered in violation of the "uniformity of uniform rule. He also had a clause in his contract that allowed him, unlike most other NBA players, to play basketball anytime in the off-season -- known as the "love-of-the-game clause. He continued to wear the shorts of his beloved North Carolina basketball uniform under his Bulls uniform. This may have led him to wear longer game shorts although he has said that the extra length allowed him to bend at the waist and tug at the hem for a good resting position. Either way, the trend toward the baggy shorts was started and the entire league and sport would follow. The rookie's mesmerizing effect was even suggested to have extended to referees as it was said that he was getting veteran preferential treatment allowing him to take that additional step on route to the basket rather than being whistle for a travelling violation. Many assessed that he eluded defenders so easily that he had to be travelling. However, video break down established that his first step was just so quick and that he was not in violation of the rulebook. Despite all the attention, Jordan retained a sense of humility. He did not ridicule the Blazers for not taking him. They have an overabundance of big guards and small forwards. There, he probably faced one of his first professional obstacles. The media ran with the idea that Eastern All-Star teammate Detroit Pistons' Isiah Thomas , had led a "freeze-out" of the golden rookie limiting his opportunities to score by not passing him the ball. Jordan scored seven points in 22 minutes and was left to face questions concerning the alleged conspiracy. The affair grew a life of its own over the years, but Thomas refuted such accusations. The whole ordeal would come full circle when Thomas, as the coach of the East All-Star squad, persuaded Toronto Raptors' Vince Carter to relinquish his starting role to Jordan in his last midseason classic. Three games into his second season, he broke a bone in his left foot. He was voted to the All-Star team but could not play as he was sidelined for 64 games. However, he came back late in the year to score a NBA playoff-record 63 points in a first-round game against the Celtics. The Bulls lost that game in double-overtime and the series in a sweep, but Jordan averaged If there were any doubters to that point about Jordan's ability, surely there were no more. Starting with the season he began a career-long onslaught on the NBA record book. That year saw him average Jordan scored 40 or more points in nine consecutive games and 23 straight in one game to set an NBA record. However, again, the Celtics swept the Bulls in the first-round of the playoffs That off-season, the Bulls began assembling a championship caliber team by drafting power forward Horace Grant and acquiring the versatile small forward Scottie Pippen from tiny Central Arkansas in a draft day trade with the Seattle SuperSonics for former University of Virgina center Olden Polyinice. With the help of his teammates, Jordan led the Bulls to a first-round playoff win over the Cleveland Cavaliers before falling to the Pistons in five games in the conference semifinals. The Pistons known as the "Bad Boys" for its aggressive style of play would defeat Jordan and the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals in the next two seasons as well. Utilizing a defensive scheme developed by Head Coach Chuck Daly and his staff, known as the "Jordan Rules", the Pistons dared Jordan to single-handily win games with constant double and triple teaming. The Bulls, however, were nudging to a championship as each successive season the team would get closer. In the season, perhaps Jordan's best statistical campaign, he led the league with He also ranked third in steals with 2. Jordan propelled the Bulls past the Cavs in the first round of the playoffs as in the decisive Game 5; he scored the memorable buzzer beater-floating jumper over Craig Ehlo for a victory. Prior to the beginning of the season, Sports Illustrated published an article on Jordan's emerging golf game and his thoughts about joining the PGA tour after his NBA career was over. Chicago management, however, was making other moves. Under Jackson's leadership, the Bulls instituted the triangle offense --a fluid passing and cutting system that created opportunities for all five players on the floor to score, but when the play broke down and the shot clock waned, Jordan had free reign to create his own shot. The Bulls went that season, the franchise's best record since Jordan set his career game-high in points with 69 against the Cavs in a overtime win. He also emerged as a three-point threat, posting a. However, the Pistons defeated the Bulls in a tough seven game series in the Eastern Conference Finals. That third consecutive playoff defeat to the Pistons prompted many to think out-loud that a scoring champion like Jordan could not lead his team to a title. Were they ever wrong. The next year, Jordan led the Bulls as the team waltzed through the postseason losing only twice en route to the franchise's first NBA title. The redemptive blow was the sweep of the Pistons in the conference finals. And after losing the first game at home to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, the Bulls stormed back to win four straight to end the last remnants of the "Showtime" Lakers as Magic Johnson would retire before the beginning of the next season. Jordan, who by now shaved his head completely bald triggering another trend and making him recognizable by just the dark rounded silhouette of his head, was now known as a champion. He was also known to be ultra-demanding of his teammates, ruffling more than a few feathers with his critiques. But winning was the soothing elixir. The Bulls would go on to successfully defend its title for two consecutive seasons, defeating both Drexler and the Blazers and the Charles Barkley -led Phoenix Suns in six games. By the end of that three-year run, Jordan had eclipsed stardom and approached folk hero status. Early into his career, he drew Peter Pan like admiration for his gravity defying leaps and belief that he would remain youthful forever. However, during the three-peat, players and teams seemed to concede that the title was Jordan. He garnered a legion of fans young and old alike but in particular to kids he was a Pied Piper figure who were asked to follow him with his sports drink "Be Like Mike" advertising campaign. In the Finals, Jordan opened up Game 1 with a record setting point first-half performance to lead the Bulls to a rout. Jordan seemed unstoppable as he drained several three-pointers over Blazer defenders and after one made three he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, I don't even know what's going on here. The Blazers bounced back and seemed poised to force a Game 7 as it took a lead into the fourth quarter of Game 6. However, the Bulls roared back for a series clinching win. In , Jordan led the Bulls past the Patrick Ewing-led Knicks for the fourth time in five postseasons -- this time in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games with out the home court advantage. Jordan scored 54 points in a Game 4 win. And in the series' turning point that was Game 5, Jordan recorded a triple double 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists. But the crucial play was Pippen's successive blocks of putback attempts by the Knicks' Charles Smith in the final seconds that allowed the Bulls to escape the Garden with a win. The Bulls sealed the series with a victory in Game 6. In the Finals, Jordan set a Finals record as he posted a In the decisive Game Six, the Bulls again stormed back to overcome a fourth quarter deficit. This time, Jordan scored nine straight points down the stretch leading to John Paxson's game winning three-pointer with 3. That summer, Jordan was the key figure in forming the Dream Team that competed in the Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The member roster, full of the era's best players were respected as basketball royalty by its opponents whom they outclassed on the way to the gold medal and idolized like pop icons by the world's fans.
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