How many times have we all heard the story of how Michael Jeffrey Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team? The story goes on to tell us how he used this piece of juvenile adversity as motivation and turned himself into "His Airness" The Great MJ! It is a great story and is worthy of a true sports legend and American Icon. You can be sure it has been used in basketball camps all over the world to convince young players that with hard work and dedication, they too, can reach the stars.
A great story? Yes! The whole truth? Not so much!
Here is the "rest" of the story from down here in Wilmington, NC.
In the late 1970s and early 80s, there were 3 High Schools in town, each was comprised of sophomores, juniors and seniors. Freshmen, as odd as it sounds were sent to a school all by themselves in what was referred to as "9th Grade Centers." High School athletics is a BIG deal here in NC and Wilmington is no exception. Our teams regularly compete for State Championships and competition for roster spots has always been fierce. You must consider that sophomores were in their first year at the High School. Junior Varsity squads were generally comprised of sophomores and a few juniors. On RARE occasions were sophomores selected for Varsity squads even when highly talented. Most players of this age are not physically developed enough to safely compete in Varsity athletics for large southern high schools.
In 1978, Michael Jordan was a sophomore at E.A. Laney High School and tried out for "basketball." Basketball tryouts were held for all classes simultaneously. There were cuts however, Michael was never cut. The coach at the time was area coaching legend, Coach Pop Harrington. Once Coach Harrington had put together his returning players and qualified juniors there was one Varsity roster spot available. Two sophomores were in the running for that final spot. Of course there is the "NOW" legendary MJ who stood at 5'10". There was also a 6'6" sophomore by the name of Leroy Smith. Keep in mind that Michael was talented but not yet the basketball God he was destined to become. Coach Harrington realized that neither player was likely to see much Varsity playing time and a 6'6" player would be more likely to contribute that an under-sized guard. Michael Jordan was thus relegated to the Junior Varsity squad where 99.9% of all sophomores play. He was the star of that team and no doubt benefitted from the increased playing time he wouldn't have received had he been selected for Varsity. The next year Michael grew four inches and attended high level basketball camps over the summer. When he returned for his junior season, he was physically bigger and stronger and had improved his over-all game considerably. Apparently Coach Harrington knew what he was doing!
So you see, the story the media likes to tell you is based roughly on truth but isn't quite.......the "whole" truth!
Another little piece of the legend that the city of New York likes to tell is that Michael is actually FROM New York City. Again, the media has chosen to take an artistic license. Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1963. This is the ONLY piece of truth to that claim. Michaels father James Senior, was employed by General Electric Corporation here in Wilmington, NC He was sent to Brooklyn to receive training and while in NY, Michael was born. Upon completion of that training, the Jordan family returned home to Wilmington where they lived until Michael became a professional and the family moved to Charlotte.
Sorry New York, you can lay claim to many things of note but, "His Airness" is a Tarheel! Thousands of US military children are born abroad every year, does that make them any less citizens of the United States?
I thought that many would enjoy this little bit of trivia and even if that doesn't prove to be the case, we here in Wilmington have been listening to this nonsense for years. Maybe this blog might in some small way lend truth to a legend that doesn't require fiction to be great!