Michael Jordan played fifteen seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and as a professional athlete has been one of the most effectively marketed ones of all time. Jordan’s talent, drive and competitive spirit were instrumental in popularizing the NBA internationally during his years on the court. Discover many interesting facts about Michael Jordan that cover his childhood, early life, family, basketball career, brand endorsements, and more.
Facts about Michael Jordan’s childhood
Fact 1. Michael Jeffrey Jordan was born February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York and his family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina when he was just a toddler, where he grew up and went to school.
Fact 2. Michael was the fourth of five children of Deloris and James Raymond Jordan, three brothers and two sisters.
Fact 3. Michael Jordan’s idol as a child was Magic Johnson and his own nickname was “Magic Jordan” as a result. He even had a license plate with this nickname on it on his first car — a 1976 Grand Prix.
Fact 4. His father and his father’s grandfather both stuck their tongues out when concentrating and working and Michael learned to do the same thing. In fact, his dad was his first basketball trainer.
Fact 5. A tragic incident in his childhood led to a lifetime phobia of water. He witnessed a good friend get sucked into the ocean’s undertow and drown. Then when he was eleven, he himself almost drowned while at baseball camp. To this day he is not comfortable on boats and around large bodies of water.
Michael Jordan in high school and college
Fact 6. At Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, NC he played three sports: baseball, football and basketball.
Fact 7. Contrary to legend, Jordan wasn’t cut from his high school team. He actually tried out for the varsity basketball team as a 5’11” sophomore and wound up passed over in favor of his friend Leroy Smith who was 6’7″. (Laney was in dire need of tall players.) He was placed on the junior varsity team instead.
Fact 8. The true part of the slighting legend is that Jordan used this perceived “slight” as motivation to work hard to improve and he also grew four inches before starting his junior year. His father was known to say that Michael was born competitive and the person he tried to best the most was himself.
Fact 9. Before he began his senior year of high school, his father advised him to be a mechanic because those who worked with their hands always had a good job. Then Jordan had a breakout senior year in basketball and his future changed course. As a senior averaging a triple-double (29.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.1 assists) he was selected to the McDonald’s All-American Team.
Fact 10. In 1981 Jordan enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a basketball scholarship, majoring in cultural geography. He helped his team win the NCAA Division I championship in 1982 and scored the final basket needed to win against Georgetown University. Before Jordan’s enrollment, the North Carolina Tarheels’ last national championship had been in 1957.
Fact 11. Jordan was named the NCAA College Player of the Year in both 1983 and in 1984.
Fact 12. Jordan was selected as a member of the U.S. Olympic basketball team for the first time in the summer of 1984. The team won the gold at the Los Angeles games that year.
Fact 13. One year short of graduation, Michael Jordan was chosen third overall in the NBA 1984 Draft. He joined the Chicago Bulls in 1984.
Facts about Michael Jordan’s basketball career
Fact 14. The 1984 contract (over seven years) of the rookie third overall draft pick with superhuman leaping ability was worth $6.15 million. Jordan scored an average of 28.2 points per games and helped the Bulls make it to the playoffs. He received the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in 1985 and was also selected for the NBA All-Star Game. He was off to a great start.
Fact 15. Jordan is credited with starting the baggy basketball shorts fad. He required bigger shorts because he wanted to continue wearing his University of North Carolina Tarheel shorts beneath his Chicago Bulls uniform during each game.
Fact 16. Soon Jordan emerged as a basketball league star and he entertained the fans with his prolific scoring ability. His high leaps, demonstrated by performing slam dunks from the free throw line during slam dunk contests, earned this talented player the nicknames “His Airness” and “Air Jordan”.
Fact 17. Jordan won six NBA Championships, made fourteen NBA All-Star appearances, and won five NBA most valuable player awards. He was Defensive Player of the Year in 1988.
Fact 18. Jordan is the most decorated player in the NBA, past or present. He won all of his games in the NBA Finals in which he participated except one.
Fact 19. Jordan went to the Olympics a second time as part of the “Dream Team” that included Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippin, and Larry Bird. They won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
Fact 20. Sports Illustrated Magazine presented Michael Jordan as the greatest athlete of the past 50 years in their 1996 edition.
Fact 21. From the results of a survey of athletes, journalists and other sports figures, ESPN ranked Jordan the 20th century’s greatest North American athlete, even over sports icons Muhammad Ali and Babe Ruth. He is indisputably one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players.
Fact 22. Jordan’s number 23 is so iconic other athletes in different sports sometimes choose that number simply because it’s the same as Jordan’s. He was number 23 in high school and college as well as for his career with the Chicago Bulls. Only once did he wear another number when playing for them. On Valentine’s Day in 1990 a thief stole his jersey from the locker room before the game. Jordan tried on a fan’s replica jersey but it was too small. The equipment manager found an extra jersey that only had a number and no name on it. He was number 12 for the night and still scored 49 points.
Fact 23. Beginning in November 1990, the Chicago Bulls and Jordan went eight years and never lost three games in a row. Ben Blatt of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective re-figured his original estimate of the odds of this reoccurring to be one out of 140. It was an amazing accomplishment for Jordan and the team that included 500 regular season games and 126 games in the playoffs.
Fact 24. Jordan decided to pursue a career in baseball, which was his father’s favorite sport, after the older Jordan’s murder in an armed robbery. Jordan became a rookie with the Birmingham Barons at the age of 31 in the 1994-95 seasons even though he had not played baseball since high school. The Barons were the minor league club for the Chicago White Sox, for whom Jordan played several games. Then he rejoined the Bulls from 1995-1998.
Fact 25. Jordan retired the first time from basketball after his 1997-98 season then joined the Washington Wizards as president of basketball operations and a part owner. When he was relieved of his operations duties, he returned to the court in the fall of 2001 and played basketball two more seasons before finally retiring for good in 2003.
Fact 26. He began his first season on the court with the Washington Wizards in September 2001. After 9/11 he donated his salary from his comeback to basketball to victims’ charities of 9/11. His career there was short-lived, as he injured his cartilage in his right knee.
Fact 27. In April 2009, Michael Jordan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was inducted again in 2010 as a member of the 1992 United States Men’s Olympic Basketball Team (“Dream Team”) that won the gold medal. In 2015 Jordan became a member of the FIBA Hall of Fame. His first induction was bittersweet for Jordan, as it meant that his basketball career was completely over. He played pro basketball for a total for fifteen years.
Fact 28. Jordan is the only basketball player aged 40 or older to average over 20 PPG and to score over 40 in a game. His name was placed with those of the top 50 NBA players of all time in 1996.