College basketball: Michael Jordan's greatest moments as a North Carolina Tar Heel
The Flu Game. The Shot. The Dream Team.
When it comes to Michael Jordan's illustrious professional basketball career, those phrases need no further explanation. But the aura around "His Airness" began earlier, in Chapel Hill, N.C., where Jordan spent three seasons at North Carolina.
In honor of his 54th birthday Friday, here's a look at Jordan's top moments as a Tar Heel.
The cradle dunk vs. Maryland | Jan. 12, 1984
The "rock the cradle dunk" became a fixture in Jordan's deep rolodex of high-flying slams — just ask the New York Knicks or Milwaukee Bucks. The first example was unveiled during his junior season at UNC against Maryland. With time winding down in a 74-62 Tar Heels victory, Jordan took off after UNC blocked a shot, broke free and put down the exclamation point dunk with a second remaining.
Jordan finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds against Len Bias and Co.
The tip-in and steal against Virginia | Feb. 10, 1983
The No. 1 Tar Heels were in trouble, down 16 points with 8:43 remaining against Ralph Sampson and the Cavaliers in this regular-season game. That was before a furious UNC run cut the deficit to 63-60 entering the final minute.
Jordan rose above the 7-foot-4 Sampson to grab an offensive rebound and promptly scored to make it a one-point game. On the next Virginia possession, Jordan pick-pocketed Hoos guard Rick Carlisle and put UNC ahead for good with a breakaway slam with 48 seconds left.
Jordan's career was defined not only by his array of clutch shots and soaring dunks but by his defensive play. This comeback victory provided an example of that tenacity.
The career-high 39 points against Georgia Tech | Jan. 29, 1983
Jordan did not shy away from taking big shots during his freshman season (more on that later), but in his sophomore season he really exploded for some high-scoring, dominant games. His collegiate career-high in points came against the Yellow Jackets in a 72-65 victory. In typical Jordan fashion, he unleased an unrelenting stream of acrobatic layups and deadly outside shots to rack up his personal best.
Of course, 39 is a long way from 63. That's what Jordan scored against the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA playoffs, still an NBA postseason game record.
The Duke performance | Jan. 22, 1983
For every compilation of great Tar Heel moments, at least one has to be against Duke.
One week before his dominant performance against the Yellow Jackets, Jordan dropped 32 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had five assists against the Blue Devils in a 103-82 victory. Whether it was in the post or behind the 3-point line, Duke was tormented all game by Jordan.
"He said, 'I want it, give it to me, I'm going to work.' He was just excellent," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said following the game. "We wanted to play defense on him. We diagrammed and said this is what he's going to do. He still did it. I admire that. Even when he missed shots, he was working so hard to get them. He never gave us a chance to get back into it."
In three seasons with Jordan, UNC was 5-1 against Duke. That one loss came in the 1984 ACC tournament in Jordan's last game against the Blue Devils.
The championship winning shot vs. Georgetown | March 29, 1982
There's no doubt about the top moment in Jordan's UNC career. This gem came in the waning seconds of the 1982 national championship game against Georgetown.
Then a freshman, Jordan took a pass on the left side of the court and connected on a 16-foot jumper with about 15 seconds left to give UNC a 63-62 lead over the Patrick Ewing-led Hoyas. Seconds later, UNC's James Worthy came up with the game-clinching steal to seal the Tar Heels' first national title since 1957.
Jordan finished with 16 points and nine rebounds in giving basketball fans a look at what to expect over the next two decades.