February 17, 1963: Arguably the greatest basketball player of all time is born. Michael Jordan ruled the hoops world after coming out of North Carolina to join the Chicago Bulls in 1984.With the Tar Heels, Jordan won a national championship under Dean Smith in 1982. He skipped his senior year for the NBA Draft and was taken third overall by the Bulls. The story there became who was taken ahead of Jordan. Houston picked Hakeem Olajuwon first overall, and that worked out fine for the Rockets. Portland selected Sam Bowie second, and that didn’t work out so well for the Trail Blazers. Both franchises wonder what could have been.
Jordan became an instant star. He turned dunking into an art form and was nicknamed “Air Jordan,” but he could score from anywhere on the floor. It took a while for Jordan to get a ring, though. He did have magnificent moments, though. In 1986, for example, when he returned to the Bulls for the postseason after missing 64 games with a broken foot. In a playoff game against the Boston Celtics, Jordan poured in 63 points, still a playoffs record. It was in his eighth season that the Bulls finally won an NBA championship. There would be five more after that, though—two sets of three-peats, with Jordan named the MVP of the NBA Finals each time.
After the third title, Jordan retired from the NBA to try pro baseball, having lost his desire for hoops after the murder of his father. Jordan’s dad had always dreamed of his talented son playing Major League baseball, and MJ signed with the Chicago White Sox. He spent most of his time with the Double-A Birmingham Barons, where he batted .202 in two seasons. That wasn’t enough to bump him to a higher level, and Jordan returned to the Bulls in March, 1995. He got his mojo back, but Chicago was ushered out in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Orlando Magic.
The 1995 playoff loss only fueled Jordan’s fire, and Chicago embarked on its second NBA title three-peat the following season. After that sixth overall crown, with coach Phil Jackson’s contract expiring and the possibility of the Bulls core being disassembled, Jordan retired for a second time in January, 1999, in the midst of an NBA owners’ lockout. He became part-owner and president of basketball operations of the Washington Wizards. And in 2001, he returned as a player with the Wizards for two finals seasons. Jordan is the NBA’s career leader in points per game at 30.1 per and was overall league MVP five times. MJ is currently the principal owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. Michael Jordan…60 years old today.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)