Close your eyes and imagine you are a basketball player racing down the court with your team. From the stands a huge crowd is watching and cheering and millions more are watching you on TV. You’ve played hard all night. You’re sweating and breathing heavy. Your legs ache and you want to take a break, but you know you’ve got to keep going. It’s the championship game for all colleges across the United States. The game is tied, there are only a few seconds left, and your team is losing by one point! The clock is running. You dodge your opponent to an open spot on the court. The point guard sees you open. The ball is flying across the court toward you. You grab it, jump, take aim for the basket, and shoot. The ball spins gracefully through the air and falls through hoop! You made the shot! The crowd goes wild! With seventeen second left your team wins the game. Your teammates pick you up and carry you off the court in celebration.
This was the winning moment that made North Carolina freshman Mike Jordan into Michael Jordan, who became the most famous basketball player of all time.
Michael Jordan was born on February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the fourth of five children in his family. When he was just a toddler, his family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. When Michael tried out for the school’s basketball team they said his was too short to play and he didn’t make the team.
Instead of feeling bad for himself, Michael worked harder. He practiced every day and made the team the next year. Eventually he became the star of his basketball team. He trained very hard and by the time he was in his final year of high school colleges were asking him to come play for them.
After receiving many offers, Michael accepted a basketball scholarship to North Carolina university. A scholarship is where a college pays for all of your schooling. In college Michael studied geography and played on the basketball team. He helped his team make it to the championship game. During the final seventeen seconds his team was losing but Michael took a jump shot and won the game! Scoring the winning shot made Michael famous, and after college he joined the Chicago Bulls, a professional basketball team.
From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, everyone loved to watch Michael Jordan play basketball. Because he could jump so high, he earned the nicknames “Air Jordan”, “His Airness” or just “MJ.” He had amazing leaping abilities and could do slam dunks from the free throw line in slam dunk contests. During games he was known for doing trick dunks and dunking over other players. He also used other trick moves like the reverse layup.
During the summer of 1984, Jordan played for the U.S. Olympic basketball team. The team won the gold medal at the games that year, which were held in Los Angeles. In the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona Spain Jordan and his team became known as the “Dream Team” and won their second gold medal there.
Over the years, Michael worked with a number of large brands in their advertisements, including Nike, Hanes, Upper Deck, Gatorade, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Chevrolet and Wheaties. He even acted in a few movies like Michael Jordan’s Playground and Space Jam. The movie mixed live action and animation and had Michael act with cartoon legends Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck on screen. Nike created a whole line of shoes and sports clothes named “Air Jordan” after him. Many kids at the time wanted to be like Michael Jordan and wear the shoes with his name.
In 1985, even though he was a very wealthy basketball player, Jordan knew school was important so made sure he finished the college degree in geography he had started.
During his second season he tore his ACL and was hurt badly, but after this went on to become the first player since Wilt Chamberlin to score more than 3,000 points in a single season.
In 1989, Michael Jordan was married and later had three children. He was close with his children and taught them to play basketball too. Many years later Michael’s oldest son, Jeffrey, made the basketball team at the University of Illinois. Michael always tried to help his children do their own thing and not feel they needed to be as successful as he was or successful in the same way. He said that the thing that he has tried to tell his children is that they should set their own expectations. Expectations are strong beliefs of something you want for yourself in the future.
By the late 1980s, the Chicago Bulls were becoming the team to beat and Jordan was a huge part of the team’s success. The Bulls made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1990 and won their first NBA championship the following year by beating the Los Angeles Lakers. A NBA superstar, Jordan became known for his power and agility on the court as well as for his leadership abilities.
During his time on the Chicago Bulls team, Michael Jordan led his team to six NBA championships and he won the Most Valuable Player Award in the tournament five times. He became the most famous basketball player in the world and kids everywhere were inspired to play basketball like Michael Jordan and dress like him and wear his number, 23.
At one game Michael Jordan wore a nameless no. 12 jersey because his no. 23 jersey had been stolen! One funny fact about Michael is he was known for sticking his tongue out when driving to the basket or dunking a ball.
In 1993 Michael’s father died and this was a very hard time for him and his family. After many years of success playing basketball, Michael retired and decided to play minor league baseball. He played for a team called the Birmingham Barons, as an outfielder.
In March 1995, after a short time playing baseball, Michael returned to the basketball court, and re-joined the Chicago Bulls. He eventually helped them win the championship against the Seattle Sonics in the 1995 to 96 season.
In 1997 during the NBA Finals, Michael became sick with the flu. Many didn’t know if he would play this very important game against the Utah Jazz. His trainers told him he should take a break and get feeling better. But Michael wanted to help his team and played anyway. There were many times where he could barely stand during the game, but he ended up scoring 38 baskets and helped his team win the game.
The next year was 1998 and Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were in the last game of the NBA Finals again. This would be Jordan’s last game playing for The Bulls. The Bulls were losing to the Utah Jazz by one point and there were only 5 seconds left before the game was over. Jordan maneuvered back and forth, then took a jump shot and made the basket! The Bulls won the game thanks to Michael!
After retiring from the Bulls, Jordan played a few years later for the Washington Wizards. He donated all of the money he made to families and those who suffered during the September 11th attacks.
In April 2009, Jordan received one of basketball’s greatest honors: He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Attending the induction ceremony was a happy but sad time for Jordan because being at the event meant “your basketball career is completely over,” he explained.
In 2003, Michael retired from basketball for a second time. He decided to focus on his businesses, including owning a basketball team.
Michael Jordan is still considered a basketball legend. He was known for his competitiveness and his very strong work-ethic. He spent hours watching videos of his opponents so that he could learn how to defend them. He also had a special “Love of the Game Clause” written into his basketball contracts that said he was allowed to play basketball against anyone at any time, anywhere. This was rare and unusual for a player to request, but Michael loved basketball so much that he didn’t want to be limited by his contract from what he could do.
Michael Jordan was successful because he had natural talent and a drive to succeed. He worked hard every day at his goal of becoming the best basketball player in the world. People respected his work ethic and his drive helped him become one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Remember, he didn’t make the basketball team the first time, but kept working at it until he became better despite being short at the time.
One of the Michael Jordan’s most famous quotes is: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Even if you fail at something, that is okay, because you tried. Everyone who is good at anything has failed many times, but they kept trying and trying and getting better. Not doing something right the first time is okay. You’ll never become better at anything if you aren’t afraid to mess up sometimes.
Is there something that you love to do that you would like to become even better at? Is there a sport or activity that you would like to turn into a career when you are older? Practice those things that are interesting to you and focus on becoming the best that you can. The important thing, as Michael Jordan said to his own kids, is to set your own goals and your own expectations for yourself.