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Michael Jordan: 30 years on

Thirty years on since Michael Jordan’s professional debut, TB’s John Hobbs remembers MJ like we do: as arguably the greatest player to ever step out on to a basketball court.

October 26, 1984. The day that not just the NBA, but the entire basketball world changed forever.

When you ask people who contributed the most to basketball in the sport’s history? People that even have little to zero interest in the game will give you pretty much the same response every time.

Unanimously, they would utter the name: Michael Jordan.

Fresh off three seasons with the North Carolina Tarheels, Jordan made his debut for the Chicago Bulls in 1984 and instantly became a star. It took Jordan a month to grace Sports Illustrated’s front page with the headline “A Star is Born”.

The other NBA players, namely Detroit’s Isaiah Thomas did not take too kindly to the amount of attention drawn to the rookie, but Jordan wasn’t affected. He led the Bulls to the Playoffs, but were beaten in the first round by Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bulls, with Jordan as its new leader would go on to lose in the post-season’s early rounds until 1991 when Chicago won the NBA championship, leading to the first of two three-peats. His rivalry with the Detroit guard Thomas was well documented by this point and after three straight seasons of being on the losing end, Jordan and the Bulls swept the Pistons to advance to the NBA Finals. Chicago’s game four win will forever be remembered for Thomas leading the Detroit team to the locker room with 7 seconds remaining and the game already lost. Many basketball purists called it “the worst sportsmanship seen in basketball” and it is still talked about to this day.

Jordan and the Bulls won the NBA championship by beating the Los Angeles Lakers by 4 games to 1. MJ was named the Finals MVP by averaging 31.2 points and 11.4 assists. He also produced one of basketball’s most replayed baskets ever.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrLFwrW8skU

MJ then travelled with a group of fellow NBA All-Stars to Barcelona to compete for the United States of America at the 1992 Olympic Games. They went 8-0 in the tournament, winning all games by an average of 44 points, en route to the Gold.

Two more NBA titles and two NBA Finals MVP’s, as well as a regular season MVP awards after his golden Olympic success, Jordan, who had been called into question when it was reported that he had a secret gambling problem decided to retire from the NBA and take up baseball.

That experience lasted nearly two years, before he returned to the NBA and to the Chicago Bulls, who while reaching the Playoffs without MJ, were not as explosive or dominant as they were with Jordan.

Wearing number 45, Jordan returned against the Indiana Pacers, where he posted 19 points. Jordan would hit a game-winner against Atlanta in his fourth game and torch the New York Knicks for 55 points in his fifth game – but the 1994-95 season ended on a sour note for the Bulls – as Jordan was unable to lead Chicago to the Finals, losing to the up-and-coming Orlando Magic in six games.

Questions regarding Jordan’s ability came to question, which led to an incredible theory of the number that Jordan was wearing. With his favoured 23 jersey retired, Michael was wearing 45. It didn’t last long for the 23 jersey to come down from the rafters at the United Center and around MJ’s body.

In 1995, the Bulls led by Jordan won their first NBA championship since 1993, and it led to a second three-peat. The string of titles included going an NBA-best 72-10, with Jordan averaging 30.4 points a game. Chicago defeated the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals, but this three-peat will always be remembered for Jordan’s legendary battle with Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz.

In the 1996-97 season, Jordan was pipped to the regular season MVP by Malone, but it was the Bulls man that got the last laugh. He won the Finals MVP, leading the Bulls to the NBA crown. One of Jordan’s best performances was in Game 5, where a noticeably unwell Jordan, playing with a stomach virus scorched the Jazz at a raucous Delta Center in a game known as: The Flu Game.

The Bulls would go on to make the NBA Finals again in 1997 to face the Jazz, after a 62-20 regular-season record. Chicago would win the series and the NBA title in what would be Jordan’s last appearance in the Windy City. His last shot in a Bulls uniform was typical of his coolness under pressure and pure magic.

 

After retiring for a second time in 1998, Jordan decided to return again in 2001, but instead of donning the red and white of the Bulls, he opted to grace the blue and white of the Washington Wizards. He also donated his Wizards salary to the victims of the 9/11 disaster.

Despite glimpses of magic, Jordan, was clearly unable to pull off the amazing raw talent in his younger days and even though he enjoyed two seasons with the Wizards, he announced his retirement in 2003. His final game was against the Philadelphia 76ers; a game based on raw emotion more than anything else.

The accolades are endless: 6x NBA champion; 6x NBA Finals MVP; 5x NBA MVP; NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1988); Rookie of the Year (1985); 14x NBA All-Star; 3x NBA All-Star Game MVP; #23 vest retired by the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat (the latter being out of respect for Jordan. MJ never played for the Heat).

Jordan has also won four gold medals. Two Olympic golds in 1984 and 1992. A FIBA Americas gold in 1992 and a Pan-American Games gold from 1983 in Caracas, Venezuela.

What’s Jordan up to now? He is the chairman of the Charlotte Hornets. From his school days in North Carolina, he has always considered it home. Chicago though, gave Jordan his best moments.

Superstars such as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Ray Allen, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony wear Air Jordans; Michael’s own footwear range. In fact, 21 NBA players wear Air Jordans.

Even today, when people walk the streets, basketball players, fans and young coaches around the world are asked, who is your favourite player of all time?

Michael Jordan will be the answer.

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