The First Shot.
(The latest in ‘The Jordan Series’ and part three of our trilogy that started with ‘Money’-Ball’ and ’45’, also a prequel to our first Michael Jordan piece ‘The (Real) Last Shot’)
“I knew the magnitude of the game, but I didn’t fully comprehend what it meant. It was 1982 and I was a Freshman at North Carolina”.-Michael Jordan From ‘For The Love Of The Game’.
Let’s take it back. Back before the championships and the MVP’s, the legend and the legacy. Let’s take it back before Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time in the NBA. Let’s take it back to the NCAA college days. Where a star was born when Kobe and LeBron where just pee-wee basketball tall kids. Before Michael donned a Chicago Bulls jersey (or even before he wore a Washington Wizards one or a baseball one) with the number 23 (or 45) he was gifted with a North Carolina baby blue and white one. Before Scottie Pippen and ‘The Worm’ Dennis Rodman where his teammates, Sam Perkins and ‘Big Game’ James Worthy where. Before Phil Jackson and Doug Collins (twice) where his coaches, Dean Smith was once. Before Patrick Ewing was a great rival in New York he was one in Georgetown. Before he made out of this air making deals with sneaker companies bearing his name this Converse baller had tar on his heels. Before Nike turned him into a symbol, this basketball king was a prince in his formerly known college years. It was all made with a made shot that sent North Carolina and it’s young star to the Cinderella stories of basketball history.
Number 23-15 Footer-Left Wing-Right Time-Spare Change Seconds-MONEY.
My sweet Carolina that was a sweet shot that carried them home. The kid out of Brooklyn moved to Wilmington, North Carolina with his family to look to cut down nets in college. Daydreaming of hitting the winning shot and the first of many clutch, greatest hit numbers of his life, his dad James knew he would do it like he dreamed of his son playing baseball. Some things where just meant to be. Like Mike-now owner of the Charlotte Bobcats-moving back to North Carolina this week in a mansion where his money and basketball making dreams began. The now 50 year old and leader of the NBA’s top 50 built a basketball house during his home dorm time in N.C.
From a toddler to taking giant sneaker steps this Brooklyn born boy was raised in Carolina and on the basketball playgrounds was where he spent most of his days. At Emsley A. Laney High, Mike played baseball, football and basketball at school. Still, by the time college called it was clear which of the Holy Trinity of American sports the God of hoop dreams would choose. Still, can you believe this 5 foot 11 kid was deemed to small to play with the big boys? Can you believe this greatest basketball player ever got cut? Then again this is a world where Sam Bowie is taken higher than you in the draft. It’s a crazy world. One that in the 1990’s Michael owned…but it all started it the late eighties.
A kid so competitive he would keep his dorm mate up all night until he won a game of Monopoly. If you thought he was a late night nightmare on the board game, wait until he got on the boards of the hardwood floor come prime-time, game-time. There was no playing around there, these are the beginning accounts of how Money would eventually become big business. It was more than dollars, it was a basketball sixth sense that invoked even higher spirits in those face-painted, brass band players. A chorus of North Carolina cheers, led by the pied piper of basketball and fellow later icon to Chicago like R. Kelly. Before ‘Space Jam’, Mike believed he could fly and take this game out of this world. You hadn’t seen nothing yet folks.
The All-American put up McDonalds numbers in High School, (29.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.1 assists) making everyone else look elementary like my dear Watson. Before over a billion where served in the big leagues, M.J. majored in cultural geography before redefining another one all around the world. From a junior, to a sophomore and then the freshest prince of freshman Michael Jordan’s three years in college made him a star in the making for a formidable future like the other M.J.’s, Magic Johnson or Michael Jackson and it was a trick shot out of the bag at the end of a fourth quarter thriller that made Air rise above them all.
More than the prestigious Naismith and Wooden awards. More than the prolific 17.7 points per on 54.0% shooting, and 5.0 rebounds per game came a night in history which the greatest describes as the major turning point of his basketball career. NOT his college career, BUT his basketball one. Before Chicago, before Nike, before Larry O’Brien and before the hall came the college corridors of young American dream making fame. Before all that came a pass he received on the right wing with 15 feet and even less seconds to go. A perfect fluid rise of a prototype shot for a perfect wet jumper from basketballs ultimate figure, kissing the trailing net as this young kid back pedaled-as Ewing’s Georgetown (like his Knicks) backed-down-with the same confidence that would define his shrugging, smiling and sometimes finger-wagging career.
Before Mike downed Byron Russell and the Utah Jazz for his last Chicago championship winning shot of NBA history, Jordan drained a defining final one of NCAA legacy in college. More than a game ending winning shot. More than a Georgetown goodbye. This was the start of something. Something that at the time only Michael and his proud father James Jordan watching could see before all eyes where on him. It all started here. The first shot.
“Your life will never be the same after that shot. Your life is going to change son”.-James Jordan.