Michael Jordan needs no introduction to basketball fans but for the uninitiated, Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. His legendary career includes six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls but his national championship-winning ways started as a freshman at North Carolina, when he hit the most important shot in the 1982 NCAA title game.
Here's everything you need to know about Michael Jordan's college career at North Carolina.
The vitals on Michael Jordan
School: North Carolina
Weight: 195 pounds
Years active: 1981-84
NCAA tournament record: 8-2
Career averages: 17.7 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, 54.0% shooting
How many years did Michael Jordan play in college?
Michael Jordan played at North Carolina for three years, from the 1981-82 season to the 1983-84 season. Jordan was just the fourth player in North Carolina history to start his first game as a freshman.
What was Michael Jordan's record in college?
North Carolina went 88-13 in three seasons with Michael Jordan.
What kind of prospect was Michael Jordan coming out of high school?
Michael Jordan ranked fourth on Knoxville newspaper reporter Ken Mink's top-100 rankings of the best high school players in the country — behind Adrian Branch (Maryland), Stuart Gray (UCLA) and Bobby Lee Hurt (Alabama), and one spot ahead of Patrick Ewing (Georgetown). The Tar Heels had landed just six McDonald's All-Americans ever before Jordan enrolled at North Carolina.
How many national championships did Michael Jordan win in college?
Michael Jordan won one national championship in three seasons with North Carolina. The Tar Heels won the 1982 national championship when Jordan was a freshman, thanks to his game-winning jumper against Georgetown.
What was Michael Jordan's game like?
Michael Jordan did it all on the basketball court. That's not to say he was yet the best player in the world when he was a freshman at North Carolina but he was a starter from day one, which was reserved for the very best players, and he averaged 13.5 points per game in his first season with the Tar Heels.
After a 22-point performance against Tulsa, the reigning NIT champion, in early December of his freshman season, The Charlotte Observer's Kevin Quirk wrote, "It was Michael Jordan's kind of game — lots of opportunities in the open court to flash his offensive prowess ... Good things — and some great — were interspersed with those errors. Things such as a potent fast break, superb inside passing, intimidating defense and spectacular individual efforts. Most of those belonged to Jordan, who scored on jump shots, drives, offensive rebounds and a couple of dunks."
Jordan became the team's leading scorer as a sophomore. He averaged 20 points per game, which was roughly a 50 percent increase from his freshman season. He was second in rebounding and averaged more than two steals per game.
He shot 55 percent inside the arc that season and almost 45 percent behind it.
"He truly has no flaws, or so few they aren't worth mentioning, " the Los Angeles Times reported. "He has great jumping ability and a classic jump shot. He can handle the ball on the break. He can do it all."
The Charlotte Observer's Kevin Quirk wrote this in a "Who's up, who's down for ACC tournament" story from March 1984, Jordan's junior season,
"Up: "Michael Jordan's shooting, Michael Jordan's defense, Michael Jordan's moves, Michael Jordan's dunks.
"Down: Anyone who has to guard Michael Jordan."
What were some of Michael Jordan's best games?
Michael Jordan sank the game-winning basket in the 1982 national championship game against Georgetown to give legendary coach Dean Smith his first national championship. It added to the growing legend that was Jordan himself. Jordan scored 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting with a team-high nine rebounds, two assists and two steals in the win. James Worthy led the Tar Heels in that game with a career-high 28.
You can watch the full replay of the game below. Jordan's shot comes at around the 1:19 mark.
Jordan told reporters after the game he had a pregame vision of making the game-winning shot. Jordan said he didn't see the actual shot go in.
"To tell the truth," Jordan said, "I didn't see it go in. I didn't want to look." That shot closed Jordan's freshman season in a full circle, with him scoring the first and the last baskets for the Tar Heels in the 1981-82 campaign.
Jordan scored in double figures in four of North Carolina's five NCAA tournament games that season, including 18 points against Houston in the Final Four. His two greatest scoring outbursts in the NCAA tournament came in the 1983 regional finals, when he scored 26 points to go along with six rebounds before fouling out.
In the Tar Heels' first game of the 1984 NCAA tournament, Jordan's last, he had 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting and six rebounds in a win against Temple. You can watch a compilation of MJ's best NCAA tournament moments below.
Michael Jordan wasn't Michael Jordan from the moment he set foot on campus in Chapel Hill but he was very good. In the fall semester of his freshman year of college, No. 1 North Carolina defeated No. 2 Kentucky by 13 in a game in which Jordan scored 19 points, including him making eight of his last 10 shots.
There's no bigger moment than making a national championship-winning jump shot but in case it wasn't clear, Jordan had a knack for coming up in the clutch in crucial moments. When the defending national champion Tar Heels were in danger of falling to 0-3 to start the 1982-83 season, Jordan stole the ball against Tulane and made a spinning 24-footer to force overtime and North Carolina eventually won in triple-OT.
Two and a half months later, No. 1 North Carolina overcame a 16-point, second-half deficit against No. 3 Virginia (the Tar Heels trailed by 10 with 4:12 left) thanks to Jordan's offensive rebound and putback to bring North Carolina within one, then he forced a steal and dunked home the winning basket. In Jordan's final regular-season ACC game, he scored 25 points to help the Tar Heels complete an undefeated regular season record in conference play as North Carolina held off rival Duke 96-83 in double overtime.
What awards did Michael Jordan win in college?
Here are some of the awards and honors that Michael Jordan received at North Carolina.
- 1982 ACC Rookie of the Year
- 1982 national champion
- 1982 All-Tournament Team
- 1982 Freshman All-American
- 1983 First Team All-ACC
- 1983 East Regional Team
- 1983 consensus All-American
- 1983 National Player of the Year (The Sporting News)
- 1984 First Team All-ACC
- 1984 ACC Player of the Year
- 1984 ACC Athlete of the Year
- 1984 consensus All-American
- 1984 consensus National Player of the Year
- 1980s NCAA Tournament All-Decade Team
- NCAA Tournament All-Time Team
- Named the No. 1 male athlete in ACC history
- Named a top-15 player in the 75 Years of March Madness Celebration
What records did Michael Jordan set in college and where does he rank among historical greats?
Here are some of the records and all-time rankings for Michael Jordan in college.
- Most points by a sophomore in North Carolina history (721 points)
- North Carolina's leader in points, steals in 1982-83 and 1983-84
- Tied for fourth in North Carolina history in steals in a season (78 steals)
- Sixth in North Carolina history in field goals made in a season (282 field goals made)
- Seventh, 34th in North Carolina history in points in a season (721 points)
- 11th-most points scored by a North Carolina freshman in a season (460 points)
- 12th in North Carolina history in career scoring average (17.7 points per game)
- 14th on North Carolina's all-time scoring list (1,788 points)
- Tied for 18th in North Carolina history for most points scored in a game (39 points)
- Tied for 25th in North Carolina history for highest scoring average in a season (20.0 points per game)
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What did people say about Michael Jordan?
North Carolina coach Dean Smith: "Michael Jordan has adapted very well to our type of basketball. He's different than Walter Davis or Al Wood or David Thompson so I think those are unfair comparisons. He's got a lot to learn, but he can be an outstanding player." (Dec. 3, 1981)
Smith: "He has talent. He's a very quick learner. He's a bright student, which passes on to the court and a remarkable young man who has fit in extremely well." (Dec. 26, 1981)
Smith: "Michael is a late bloomer. He improves every month. Look at his defense. When he was a freshman, he had a lot of work to do. Last year, he won the defensive award 12 times. He's going to be one of our great defensive players, although I don't think I'll tell him that until he graduates. But you can just watch him get better and better. When he was a freshman, he ran the 40 in 4.8 (seconds). This year, he ran it in 4.3." (Nov. 22, 1983)
North Carolina teammate Matt Doherty: "He's a perfect player. When I grew up, I wanted to be 6-7 and I wanted to be able to do anything on the court. I wanted to grow up to be what Michael Jordan grew up to be."
North Carolina teammate Buzz Peterson: "I remember telling people that he'd be the Dr. J of our time."
Buzz Peterson: "It's not just basketball. He hates to lose at anything. If we're playing cards of backgammon, we'll have to play all night until he wins."
Former North Carolina teammate James Worthy: "He'll be a star the instant he steps into the NBA. There's no question that he'll be great. We always knew that.'
Jordan's father, James Jordan: "I think Michael got so good because (his brother) Larry used to beat him all the time. He took it hard. Michael didn't start beating him till he started to really grow."
James Jordan: "When he comes home to Wilmington, people treat him like he's a god."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Gil Lebreton: "On this night, there was a Michael Jordan, too. With teammate Sam Perkins having a relatively sub-par night, it took Jordan, another freshman, to shoulder the load. It was Jordan who made the interception that led to (James) Worthy's final stuff, and it was Jordan who scored Carolina's memorable final two baskets, a rainmaker, arching jumper over (Patrick) Ewing with 3:26 to play, and a dead-solid perfect 16-footer from the corner with just :15 left. He finished with 16 points, a team-high nine rebounds, and a two-fisted hug from coach Dean Smith. For Carolina, Jordan is a good peek into the future as it could possibly find." (March 30, 1982)
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What are some quotes from Michael Jordan?
Michael Jordan on height: "I always wanted to be tall. I thought 6-8 would be nice."
Jordan on his meteoric rise from high school to college: "I wonder sometimes myself if it isn't all a dream. I expect to wake up sometime."
Jordan on his college recruitment: "I never thought I'd be able to play at a Division I school. Nobody from my high school ever had before. It really shocked me when North Carolina started recruiting me. I never thought that could happen."
Jordan on competing at his first basketball camp: "I was so nervous my hands were sweating. I saw all these All-Americans and I thought I was just the lowest thing on the totem pole. Here I was, a country boy from Wilmington. But the more I played, the more confident I became. I thought to myself, 'Maybe I can play with these guys.'"
Jordan on what people back home were saying when he got to North Carolina: "The people back home, stardom was the last thing they saw for me. People said I'd go there and sit the bench and never get to play. I kind of believed 'em myself, but it was a challenge for me."
Jordan, after coach Dean Smith tried to get Jordan to keep his tongue in his mouth when he played: "I haven't bitten it off yet."
In November of his last season in college, Jordan on winning: "After my freshman year, when we won it, I figured that was the way it was supposed to be. Everyone else was going crazy and I was just acting normal. I didn't know any better. I didn't know the impact of it, what we'd done, or how special it was. I was a little boy in a man's body. But when we lost last year, I realized how much winning meant. I realized how hard I had had to work and how hard the team had had to work. I think it makes this season more special."
Jordan on winning: "I hate to lose. I guess that's it as much as anything."
Jordan on his legacy: "I couldn't be Michael Jordan any more. I was always Michael Jordan who made the winning shot against Georgetown. I didn't want to be remembered only for that. I wanted to be recognized as a complete player. I don't want people to think of me as a guy who comes through in the last minute. I want them to know that I'm there the entire game."