Michael Jordan is widely considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time. His illustrious career and unparalleled accomplishments have cemented his status as the legendary GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) of basketball. This comprehensive review takes an in-depth look at Michael Jordan’s journey to becoming a basketball legend.
Michael Jordan’s entry into the NBA in 1984 ushered in a new era of basketball excellence. Over the next 15 seasons, Jordan would captivate audiences with his dazzling skills, fierce competitiveness, and unmatched dominance on the court. His career statistics and trophy case stand head and shoulders above any other player in NBA history. But beyond the numbers, Jordan transcended the game and became a global pop culture icon who helped skyrocket the NBA’s popularity worldwide. This article explores Jordan’s background, career highlights, impact, legacy, and GOAT status.
Background and Early Career
Michael Jeffrey Jordan was born on February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina and started playing basketball from a young age. Jordan honed his skills at Emsley A. Laney High School, where he was cut from the varsity team as a sophomore. This became a defining moment, motivating him to work tirelessly to improve his game. The following summer, he grew 4 inches and trained rigorously. By his junior and senior year, he became Laney’s star player.
Jordan received a basketball scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a freshman in 1981-82, he made the game-winning jump shot in the NCAA Championship game, cementing his reputation as a clutch player. Over the next two seasons, he was named NCAA Player of the Year and left UNC to enter the 1984 NBA draft.
NBA Career Highlights and Achievements
Early NBA Success
Jordan was drafted 3rd overall in 1984 by the Chicago Bulls. He made an immediate impact, winning Rookie of the Year after averaging 28.2 points per game. In only his second season, he emerged as the league’s premier player, becoming the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to score 3,000 points in a season. Jordan’s aerial acrobatics and competitive fire made him a fan favorite. In 1987, he became the first player to record 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season. He also won the first of his 10 scoring titles.
First Three-Peat (1991-1993)
In 1991, Jordan led the Bulls to their first ever NBA championship, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1. Jordan won his second title in 1992, cementing his status as basketball’s top player. The following year, he led the Bulls to a third straight championship, sealing the first three-peat in 25 years. During this period, Jordan won three straight Finals MVP awards, three regular season MVPs, and three straight scoring titles.
First Retirement and Baseball (1993-1995)
After the three-peat, Jordan shocked the world by announcing his retirement to pursue a career in professional baseball. After his father’s tragic murder in 1993, Jordan needed to step away from the spotlight. He played minor league baseball for 18 months but returned to the Bulls in March 1995.
Second Three-Peat (1996-1998)
Jordan recaptured his MVP form, leading the Bulls to 72 wins in the 1995-96 season – an NBA record. He won his 8th scoring title and 4th regular season MVP award. In the Finals, the Bulls defeated the Seattle Supersonics 4-2, avenging their loss two years earlier. This began Jordan’s second three-peat from 1996-98, where he solidified himself as basketball royalty.
Second Retirement (1999-2001)
After the death of his father, Jordan retired for a second time in January 1999. He became part owner of the Washington Wizards, taking on a front office role. This retirement period allowed new stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant to shine.
Washington Wizards Comeback (2001-2003)
Unable to stay away from the game, Jordan announced his second comeback in September 2001 at age 38. He played his final two NBA seasons with the Wizards, donating his salary to 9/11 relief efforts. Though past his prime, Jordan provided moments of magic as he surpassed 30,000 career points.
Career Accolades and Achievements
- 6 NBA championships with the Bulls (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998)
- 6 NBA Finals MVP awards
- 5 NBA Most Valuable Player awards
- 10 NBA scoring titles
- 3 NBA steals leader
- NBA Rookie of the Year (1985)
- 14 NBA All-Star selections
- 11 All-NBA First Team selections
- 9 NBA All-Defensive First Team selections
- 2 NBA Slam Dunk Contest wins (1987, 1988)
- NCAA champion with UNC (1982)
- Naismith College Player of the Year (1984)
- Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year (1991)
- NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (1996)
- 10 scoring titles is the most all-time
Jordan retired with career averages of 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. He is the only player to win the MVP, championship, and scoring title in the same season – which he did twice. Jordan never lost an NBA Finals, going a perfect 6-0. He is regarded as the most clutch player ever, hitting countless game-winners in the playoffs and finals.
Impact and Legacy
Michael Jordan’s greatness went beyond just stats and trophies. He fundamentally changed the game of basketball and the course of pop culture through his impact and legacy:
Globalized the NBA
Jordan’s popularity and exciting play style sparked immense growth in the NBA’s fanbase and revenues. He turned basketball into a global sport and helped the NBA expand its worldwide reach through international games. The 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” fuelled global interest, with Jordan as the star attraction. The NBA added expansion teams to capitalize on this demand.
Inspired Current Stars
Future hall of famers like Kobe Bryant modeled their games after Jordan. A whole generation of stars grew up idolizing Jordan, from LeBron James to Allen Iverson. His flashy dunks and competitive fire set the standard that today’s players aspire towards.
Revolutionized Sneaker Culture
Jordan’s partnership with Nike created his iconic Air Jordan shoe brand. This forever linked sneaker culture and basketball. The Air Jordan line generates over $3 billion annually for Nike, with Jordan’s shoes remaining bestsellers decades after his retirement.
Became a Pop Culture Icon
Jordan’s charisma, good looks and excellence allowed him to crossover into mainstream pop culture. He starred in the movie Space Jam, appeared on TV shows, and was featured in iconic ads like the “Be Like Mike” Gatorade commercial. His fame went far beyond just basketball circles.
Advanced Player Empowerment
Jordan showed the world what athletes could accomplish with determination and brand power. He paved the way for player empowerment, with stars gaining more leverage financially and creatively. Jordan’s battles with the NBA front office advanced rights for players.
In essence, Michael Jordan took basketball from a struggling league to a global sporting empire and multibillion dollar industry. No other athlete has matched his level of sustained greatness along with transformative cultural impact.
Is Michael Jordan the GOAT?
Given his unprecedented resume and legacy, most basketball experts and fans consider Michael Jordan to be the undisputed greatest player ever – the GOAT. However, some dissenting voices argue otherwise, while younger fans debate the merits of current superstars against Jordan’s supreme reign. Here we analyze the key evidence in the GOAT debate:
The Case For Jordan as the GOAT
- Unrivaled trophy case (6 rings, 6 Finals MVPs, 5 MVPs)
- Perfect 6-0 Finals record; never allowed a series to reach Game 7
- League-record 10 scoring titles proves scoring dominance
- Only player with MVP, Finals MVP, and scoring title in one season (did it twice)
- Clutch performer with countless iconic playoff moments
- Revolutionized the game with his style of play
- Maintained greatness over 15 seasons
- Became the global face of the sport and a pop culture phenomenon
The Case Against Jordan as the GOAT
- Played in weaker 1990s NBA without today’s talent depth
- Was surrounded by strong supporting cast like Pippen and Rodman
- Benefited from expansion teams diluting league
- Dominated smaller guards unlike today’s versatile defenders
- Never had to adapt game to compete in three-point shooting era
- 6-0 Finals record less impressive due to shorter playoff series
- Retired twice, missing nearly four full prime seasons
While no player is perfect, the sheer weight of accomplishments and overall dominance tips the scales heavily in Jordan’s favor as the clear GOAT. The stats and eye test back it up. Jordan performed night-in and night-out, delivering in the clutch and lifting his teammates. He owned the game from all areas of the court with his versatility. Jordan also raised the bar for athleticism and competitive spirit. The fact that current superstars are still chasing his ghost 25 years later solidifies Jordan’s GOAT status for the foreseeable future.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions related to Michael Jordan’s greatness and GOAT status:
Who are some players often compared to Michael Jordan?
The two players most often compared to Jordan are Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Bryant modeled his game and competitive mentality after Jordan. James has been debated as the possible heir to Jordan’s throne given his all-around brilliance. Other contemporaries like Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler were touted as Jordan-stoppers earlier in his career. But none could consistently match Jordan’s output.
How did Jordan fare against other NBA legends?
Jordan dominated many fellow legends like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. He developed intense on-court rivalries, especially against the Bad Boy Pistons, Bird’s Celtics and Ewing’s Knicks. Jordan generally got the better of other legends thanks to his athleticism and clutch plays. But he credits them for elevating his game.
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What was Jordan’s greatest individual season?
Jordan’s best statistical season was probably 1987-88 when he averaged 35 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 3.2 steals while shooting 54% from the field. He also scored 40+ points 21 times. Jordan was at the peak of his athletic powers and offensive prowess during this MVP year. But from a team perspective, 1995-96 (72 wins) and 1991-92 (second championship) stand out for balancing stats and winning.
How did Jordan change the way coaches gameplanned against opponents?
Coaches began gameplanning defensive schemes focused primarily on stopping Jordan. Examples include doubling him, playing physical defense, and running box-and-one looks. But Jordan’s all-around brilliance made him nearly impossible to contain. Teams also had to change offensive plans to account for Jordan’s ability to impact the game defensively through steals and blocks. His presence influenced coaching strategies more than any other player.
What were some of Jordan’s biggest playoff moments?
Jordan’s clutch plays defined his playoff legend. The Shot over Craig Ehlo, his 63 point game against Boston, the Shrug Game, the Flu Game, and the Last Shot as a Bull were some iconic moments. His performances often came with the game on the line, especially in the NBA Finals. Jordan lived for the pressure, whereas others shrunk from it. This ability to thrive under pressure cemented his GOAT status.
How has Jordan’s style influenced today’s players?
From their shoes, short shorts and sleeveless jerseys, to their competitive fire and high-flying moves, today’s players borrow heavily from Jordan’s style. Stars like Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and Zion Williamson incorporate elements of Jordan’s game into their own. Younger players study his moves and swagger, hoping to capture some of his magic. Jordan set the template for what superstardom looks like in the NBA.
Michael Jordan’s once-in-a-lifetime career established him firmly as basketball’s GOAT. The stats and accolades speak for themselves. But Jordan’s impact went far beyond the court, as he changed the way basketball was played, marketed, and perceived worldwide. His competitive drive and will to win at all costs set the standard for excellence. Jordan redefined athletic greatness and global celebrity through his dominance and flair. For these reasons, Jordan’s status as the greatest basketball player ever is virtually set in stone, both now and for generations to come. Other contenders may emerge, but none have matched Jordan’s magical blend of unwavering confidence, sheer skill and killer instinct that defined his iconic career.