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Jordan, Michael - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Michael Jordan

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Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He has won an NCAA basketball championship, two Olympic gold medals, six NBA (National Basketball Association) championship titles, and is certainly the most well-known athlete of the late 1980s and 1990s. It has been claimed that he has single-handedly, fundamentally changed the sports business in the 1990s. “What was once a clubby parochial business with relatively narrow appeal is today a thriving, global, high-tech industry that attracts fans of all ages, ethnic groups, and cultures,” reports Fortune magazine. “Stadiums are multimedia marketing platforms. Games are valuable programming, fought over by broadcasters around the world as networks and cable channels proliferate. And Jordan is at the center of it all.” Desire, drive, and determination has made Michael Jordan one of the most successful, most popular, and wealthiest celebrities of his generation.

Personal Life

Jordan was born on February 17, 1963, in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised in Wilmington, North Carolina. Growing up, he always excelled at sports. Jordan has many fond memories of youth baseball, especially when he hit the game-winning home run in a Babe Ruth tournament. Reportedly, Jordan’s father, James, always dreamed that his son would become a professional baseball player.

In what has become a part of classic contemporary sports legends, it is common knowledge that in high school, the varsity basketball team cut Jordan during his sophomore year. Jordan himself cites that incident as one of the most important in his life. Not making the team tested Jordan’s willingness to work for his goals. He made the team his junior and senior years, and after high school accepted a scholarship to the University of North Carolina.

He played for three seasons at North Carolina and then made himself available for the NBA draft in 1984. He was chosen third by the Chicago Bulls. In 1989 Jordan married Juanita Vanoy, and they have three children: Jeffrey Michael, Marcus James, and Jasmine Mickael. Jordan’s family, particularly his father, always played an important part in his personal and professional life. In July of 1993 his father was murdered in North Carolina. Three months later, Jordan announced his retirement from the NBA, citing the desire to spend more time with his family and friends and the desire for some sort of life outside of the spotlight.

Some aspects of Jordan’s private life were initially kept from the public, though they later became common knowledge. In 1988 he had a son with Juanita Vanoy, but he did not marry her until the boy was almost a year old. Jordan also became known as a heavy gambler. And for years Jordan was criticized for his involvement with Nike because of allegations of its mistreatment of employees, especially women and children, in its Asian plants. Nevertheless Jordan is an idolized figure and a role model for a generation.

Career Details

Like most professionals in the NBA, Michael Jordan prepared himself for his career by playing college basketball. In his first season at North Carolina he became only the second Tarheel player to start every game as a freshman and was named the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Rookie of the Year in 1982. Jordan led the ACC in scoring during his sophomore and junior years, and was also named the College Player of the Year by Sporting News after both seasons. Although he had three outstanding college seasons, the success Jordan was to have in the NBA was not entirely apparent, for he was only the third player chosen in the 1984 draft—Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie were chosen before him.

Jordan, however, experienced immediate success in the NBA. He was named to the All-Star Team in his first season and also became Rookie of the Year. A broken foot, the only serious injury of his career, sidelined Jordan during most of his second season. He returned in time for the playoffs, and set an NBA playoff scoring record with 63 points in his second playoff game. He averaged 37.1 points per game during his third season, winning the first of seven consecutive scoring titles. Jordan’s run was only interrupted by his retirement.

Winning awards and honors—earning MVP of the All-Star Game, winning the slam dunk contest, being named league MVP—began to become commonplace for Jordan starting in 1988. During that year the player who was originally only viewed as an offensive weapon was named Defensive Player of the Year as well as the MVP of the league. That season he was the first player to ever lead the league in both scoring and steals. Through 1998, Jordan was named to the All NBA first team ten times, and named to the All NBA Defensive First Team eight times.

In 1989 Jordan led the Bulls to the Conference Finals. Although it would be two more seasons before the Bulls would win the championship, the team had arrived. The Bulls won the NBA championship three successive years, from 1991-93, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers, the Portland Trailblazers, and the Phoenix Suns. Jordan was voted MVP of the finals all three times.

After winning the 1992 finals, Jordan led a group of NBA players who played for the U.S. Olympic basketball team. This team which paired Jordan with other superstars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, and Karl Malone—became known as the “Dream Team.” The team easily won the gold medal, winning by an average margin of victory of 43.7 points.

One month after watching his son lead Chicago to its third straight NBA title in 1993, James Jordan, Michael’s father, was murdered. Michael Jordan was grief stricken. This tragedy, combined with increasing media scrutiny over his gambling, left him feeling depleted and disenchanted with his life as a basketball superstar. Stating that he had nothing left to accomplish, he announced his retirement from the NBA in October of 1993. Jordan retired as the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Chicago Bulls.

The next year he changed sports, joining the Chicago White Sox minor league baseball team. He spent 17 months in the minors and followed and scrutinized his every move. All in all, his career as a baseball player was short-lived and unspectacular. His 17 months in the minors did provide a much-needed break from basketball and gave Jordan an opportunity to regain his passion for the game. His return to the NBA was chronicled in two bestsellers: Bob Greene’s Rebound: The Odyssey of Michael Jordan, and Sam Smith’s Second Coming: The Strange Odyssey of Michael Jordan—from Courtside to Home Plate and Back Again.

When Jordan first returned to the Bulls in the 1994-1995 season, both he and his team played inconsistently at first. The Bulls reached the playoffs and advanced to the conference semi-finals to face the new talk of the league, Shaquille O’Neal, star of the Orlando Magic. Jordan prevented the Bulls from winning the first game by making two errors in the final 18 seconds. At this point the great Michael Jordan was viewed as only human. The Orlando Magic defeated the Bulls four games to two.

The 1995-1996 season was built on the type of playing on which records are made—the Bulls finished the regular season 71-10, an NBA record, and Jordan earned an eighth scoring title. The Bulls won their fourth NBA title that season, defeating the Seattle Supersonics. The following season Jordan led the Bulls to another title, this time defeating the Utah Jazz. In the 1997-98 season, it looked like the Bulls might not even make the finals, for Indiana pushed the Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. But Jordan and the Bulls endured and met the Jazz again, emerging as champions.

Social and Economic Impact

When Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, they were a lackluster team, seldom drawing more than 6,000 fans to a home game. Jordan quickly turned that around. His style of play, incredible leaping ability, and his hang time thrilled fans in basketball arenas across the country.

Michael Jordan’s success initially meant more money for the Chicago Bulls, who began selling out their games at home and on the road. Hard core and casual fans were interested in an opportunity to marvel at history in the making. Early on, Jordan was signed to a long-term contract, though while still under contract, new, unproven players were making millions more. Finally Jordan received the contract he deserved, a one-year $30 million contract for the 1997-98 season, the highest single-season contract in the history of professional sports.

Chronology: Michael Jordan

1963: Born.

1978: Cut from high school varsity basketball team.

1982: While playing for North Carolina, hit “The Shot,” the game winning jumper that defeated Georgetown in the NCAA finals.

1984: Picked third in the NBA draft and led U.S. Olympic Team to gold medal.

1985: Named NBA Rookie of the Year.

1986: Returned from an injury to score an NBA record 63 points in a single playoff game.

1987: Won first of seven straight NBA scoring titles.

1991: Led the Chicago Bulls to the first of six NBA Championship Titles.

1993: Retired from the NBA to pursue career in professional baseball.

1995: Returned to NBA.

Jordan’s success not only meant more money for the Bulls, it meant more money for the NBA, especially in marketing Jordan’s jersey, with his old number 23 and the new number 45 after he returned from baseball. Jordan reportedly did more for the financial success of the NBA than Larry Bird and Magic Johnson did in the late 1970s.

Personally, Jordan earned more money from endorsements than he did from playing basketball. Companies like Nike, Wilson, Gatorade, Coke, McDonald’s, Hanes, and General Mills all wanted him to be associated with their products. Between Air Jordans and other shoes and apparel, it is estimated that Jordan products have brought in $2.6 billion for Nike. Michael Jordan’s endorsement of Hanes underwear was expected to exceed $10 million annually. Developed by Bijan, Michael Jordan cologne has generated worldwide sales of $155 million as of mid-1998. A popular catch phrase that began in the mid-1980s was “I wanna be like Mike.” No mention of a last name was needed. In addition to his endorsements, Jordan has opened three restaurants named after himself; the huge basketball on the roof clearly identifies the place. Jordan also starred with Bugs Bunny in the half-animated feature film Space Jam which brought in an estimated $440 million in box office tickets and video sales.

Michael Jordan’s money is also put to humanitarian uses. He personally established several charities—the Jordan Institute for Families and Night Ministry. After his father was murdered, Jordan and the Chicago Bulls established the James Jordan Boys and Girls Club and Family Life Center, which aids Chicago-area youth. The Michael Jordan Flight School was established to serve as a summer basketball camp for boys and girls between the ages of eight and 18.

In 1997 Michael Jordan, in conjunction with Nike, introduced his own brand of athletic shoes and apparel. The Air Jordan series had been Nike’s most profitable shoes since they were introduced in the mid-1980s. Jordan told Newsweek that this new business would “keep me in touch with the game” after he retires. Reportedly Jordan has repeatedly stated that he is not interested in either coaching, managing, or owning his own NBA team. He has not expressed interest in broadcasting either.

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