Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17, 1963), also known by his initials, MJ, is an American former professional basketball player, entrepreneur, and majority owner and chairman of the Charlotte Bobcats. His biography on the National Basketball Association (NBA) website states, “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.” Jordan was one of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation and was considered instrumental in popularizing the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s.
After a three-season career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a member of the Tar Heels’ national championship team in 1982, Jordan joined the Chicago Bulls of the NBA in 1984. He quickly emerged as a league star, entertaining crowds with his prolific scoring. His leaping ability, illustrated by performing slam dunks from the free throw line in slam dunk contests, earned him the nicknames “Air Jordan” and “His Airness“. He also gained a reputation for being one of the best defensive players in basketball. In 1991, he won his first NBA championship with the Bulls, and followed that achievement with titles in 1992 and 1993, securing a “three-peat”. Although Jordan abruptly retired from basketball at the beginning of the 1993–94 NBA season to pursue a career in baseball, he rejoined the Bulls in 1995 and led them to three additional championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998, as well as an NBA-record 72 regular-season wins in the 1995–96 NBA season. Jordan retired for a second time in 1999, but returned for two more NBA seasons from 2001 to 2003 as a member of the Washington Wizards.
Jordan’s individual accolades and accomplishments include five MVP awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Gameappearances, three All-Star Game MVP awards, ten scoring titles, three steals titles, six NBA Finals MVP awards, and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. He holds the NBA records for highest career regular season scoring average (30.12 points per game) and highest career playoff scoring average (33.45 points per game). In 1999, he was named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, and was second to Babe Ruth on the Associated Press’s list of athletes of the century. He was inducted into theBasketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Jordan is also known for his product endorsements. He fueled the success of Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers, which were introduced in 1985 and remain popular today. Jordan also starred in the 1996 feature film Space Jam as himself. He is the majority owner and head of basketball operations for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, having won a bidding war to buy controlling interest in the team from founding owner Robert L. Johnson.
During his first season in the NBA, Jordan averaged 28.2 ppg on 51.5% shooting. He quickly became a fan favorite even in opposing arenas,and appeared on the cover ofSports Illustrated with the heading “A Star Is Born” just over a month into his professional career. Jordan was also voted in as an All-Star starter by the fans in his rookie season. Controversy arose before the All-Star game when word surfaced that several veteran players, led by Isiah Thomas, were upset by the amount of attention Jordan was receiving. This led to a so-called “freeze-out” on Jordan, where players refused to pass him the ball throughout the game. The controversy left Jordan relatively unaffected when he returned to regular season play, and he would go on to be voted Rookie of the Year. The Bulls finished the season 38–44, and lost in the first round of the playoffs in four games to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Jordan’s second season was cut short by a broken foot in the third game of the season, which caused him to miss 64 games. Despite Jordan’s injury and a 30–52 record, the Bulls made the playoffs. Jordan recovered in time to participate in the playoffs and performed well upon his return. Against a 1985–86 Boston Celtics team that is often considered one of the greatest in NBA history, Jordan set the still-unbroken record for points in a playoff game with 63 in Game 2. The Celtics, however, managed to sweep the series.
Jordan had recovered completely by the 1986–87 season, and had one of the most prolific scoring seasons in NBA history. He became the only player other than Wilt Chamberlain to score 3,000 points in a season, averaging a league high 37.1 points on 48.2% shooting. In addition, Jordan demonstrated his defensive prowess, as he became the first player in NBA history to record 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season. Despite Jordan’s success, Magic Johnson won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. The Bulls reached 40 wins, and advanced to the playoffs for the third consecutive year. However, they were again swept by the Celtics.
Jordan was a shooting guard who was also capable of playing as a small forward (the position he would primarily play during his second return to professional basketball with the Washington Wizards), and as a point guard. Jordan was known throughout his career for being a strong clutch performer. He decided numerous games with last-second plays (e.g., The Shot) and performed at a high level even under adverse circumstances (e.g., Flu Game). His competitiveness was visible in his prolific trash-talk and well-known work ethic.
Jordan had a versatile offensive game. He was capable of aggressively driving to the basket, as well as drawing fouls from his opponents at a high rate; his 8,772 free throw attempts are the ninth highest total of all time.As his career progressed, Jordan also developed the ability to post up his opponents and score with his trademark fadeaway jump shot, using his leaping ability to “fade away” from block attempts. According to Hubie Brown, this move alone made him nearly unstoppable. Despite media criticism as a “selfish” player early in his career, Jordan’s 5.3 assists per game also indicate his willingness to defer to his teammates. In later years, the NBA shortened its three-point line to 22 feet (from 23 feet, 9 inches), which coupled with Jordan’s extended shooting range to make him a long-range threat as well—his 3-point stroke developed from a low 9/52 rate (.173) in his rookie year into a stellar 111/260 (.427) shooter in the 1995–96 season. For a guard, Jordan was also a good rebounder (6.2 per game).
In 1988, Jordan was honored with the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award and became the first NBA player to win both the Defensive Player of the Year and MVP awards in a career (since equaled by Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Kevin Garnett; Olajuwon is the only player other than Jordan to win both during the same season). In addition he set both seasonal and career records for blocked shots by a guard, and combined this with his ball-thieving ability to become a standout defensive player. He ranks third in NBA history in total steals with 2,514, trailing John Stockton and Jason Kidd. Jerry West often stated that he was more impressed with Jordan’s defensive contributions than his offensive ones.