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pushing off

Michael Jordan

[jawr-dn; for 3 also Fr. zhawr-dahn]

Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17, 1963) is a retired American professional basketball player and active businessman. 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 instrumental in popularizing the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s.

After a stand-out career at the University of North Carolina, Jordan joined the NBA's Chicago Bulls in 1984. He quickly emerged as one of the stars of the league, entertaining crowds with his prolific scoring. His leaping ability, illustrated by performing slam dunks from the free throw line at Slam Dunk Contests, earned him the nicknames "Air Jordan" and "His Airness." He also gained a reputation as 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." Though Jordan abruptly left the NBA 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 (1996, 1997, and 1998) as well as an NBA-record 72 regular-season wins in the 1995–96 season. Jordan retired for a second time in 1999, but he returned for two more NBA seasons in 2001 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 Game appearances and three All-Star MVP, 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 record for highest career regular season scoring average with 30.12 points per game, as well as averaging a record 33.4 points per game in the playoffs. 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 will be eligible for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Jordan is also noted 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. He is currently a part-owner and Managing Member of Basketball Operations of the Charlotte Bobcats in North Carolina.

Early years

Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Deloris (née Peoples), who worked in banking, James R. Jordan, Sr., an equipment supervisor. His family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, when he was a toddler. Jordan attended Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, where he anchored his athletic career by playing baseball, football, and basketball. He tried out for the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year, but at 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m), he was deemed too short to play at that level and was cut from the team. The following summer, however, he grew four inches (10 cm) and trained rigorously. Upon earning a spot on the varsity roster, Jordan averaged about 25 points per game over his final two seasons of high school play. As a senior, he was selected to the McDonald's All-American Team after averaging a triple-double: 29.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 10.1 assists.

In 1981, Jordan earned a basketball scholarship to the University of North Carolina, where he majored in cultural geography. As a freshman in coach Dean Smith's team-oriented system, he was named ACC Freshman of the Year after he averaged 13.4 points per game (ppg) on 53.4% shooting (field goal percentage). He made the game-winning jump shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship game against Georgetown, which was led by future NBA rival Patrick Ewing. Jordan later described this shot as the major turning point in his basketball career. During his three seasons at North Carolina, he averaged 17.7 ppg on 54.0% shooting, and added 5.0 rebounds per game (rpg). After winning the Naismith and the Wooden College Player of the Year awards in 1984, Jordan left North Carolina one year before his scheduled graduation to enter the 1984 NBA Draft. The Chicago Bulls selected Jordan with the third overall pick, after Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) and Sam Bowie (Portland Trail Blazers). Jordan returned to North Carolina to complete his degree in 1986.

Professional sports career

Early career

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 of Sports 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 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.

Mid-career: Pistons roadblock

Jordan led the league in scoring again in the 1987–88 season, averaging 35.0 ppg on 53.5% shooting and won his first league MVP award. He was also named the Defensive Player of the Year—a rarity for a guard—as he had averaged 1.6 blocks and a league high 3.16 steals per game. The Bulls finished 50–32, and made it out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in Jordan's career, as they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games. However, the Bulls then lost in five games to the more experienced Detroit Pistons, who were led by Isiah Thomas and a group of physical players known as the "Bad Boys".

In the 1988–89 season, Jordan again led the league in scoring, averaging 32.5 ppg on 53.8% shooting from the field, along with 8 rpg and 8 assists per game (apg). The Bulls finished with a 47–35 record, and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks along the way. The Cavaliers series included a career highlight for Jordan when he hit a series winning shot over Craig Ehlo in the closing moments of the deciding fifth game of the series. However, the Pistons again defeated the Bulls, this time in six games, by utilizing their "Jordan Rules" method of guarding Jordan, which consisted of double and triple teaming him every time he touched the ball.

The Bulls entered the 1989–90 season as a team on the rise. With their core group of Jordan and young improving players like Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, they were becoming a more cohesive team under the guidance of new coach Phil Jackson. Jordan averaged a league leading 33.6 ppg on 52.6% shooting, to go with 6.9 rpg and 6.3 apg in leading the Bulls to a 55–27 record. They again advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals beating the Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers en route. However, despite pushing the series to seven games, the Bulls lost to the Pistons for the third consecutive season.

First three-peat

In the 1990–91 season, Jordan won his second MVP award after averaging 31.5 ppg on 53.9% shooting, 6.0 rpg, and 5.5 apg for the regular season. The Bulls finished in first place in their division for the first time in 16 years and set a franchise record with 61 wins in the regular season. With Scottie Pippen developing into an All-Star, the Bulls elevated their play. The Bulls defeated the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening two rounds of the playoffs. They advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where their rival, the Detroit Pistons, awaited them. However, this time when the Pistons employed their "Jordan Rules" defense of doubling and triple teaming Jordan, he picked them apart with passing. Finally, the Bulls beat the Detroit Pistons in a surprising sweep. In an unusual ending to the fourth and final game, Isiah Thomas led his team off the court before the final minute had concluded. Most of the Pistons went directly to their locker room instead of shaking hands with the Bulls.

The Bulls compiled an outstanding 15-2 record during the playoffs, and advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, where they beat the Los Angeles Lakers four games to one. Perhaps the best known moment of the series came in Game 2 when, attempting a dunk, Jordan avoided a potential Sam Perkins block by switching the ball from his right hand to his left in mid-air to lay the shot in. The play was the last in a sequence of 13 consecutive field goals made by Jordan. In his first Finals appearance, Jordan posted per game averages of 31.2 points on 56% shooting from the field, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 1.4 blocks. Jordan won his first NBA Finals MVP award by a unanimous decision, and he cried while holding the NBA Finals trophy.

Jordan and the Bulls continued their dominance in the 1991–92 season, establishing a 67–15 record, topping their franchise record from 1990–91. Jordan won his second consecutive MVP award with a 30.1/6.4/6.1 season on 52% shooting. After winning a physical 7-game series over the burgeoning New York Knicks in the second round of the playoffs and finishing off the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Conference Finals in 6 games, the Bulls met Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers in the Finals. The media, hoping to recreate a Magic-Bird rivalry, highlighted the similarities between "Air" Jordan and Clyde "The Glide" during the pre-Finals hype. In the first game, Jordan scored a Finals-record 35 points in the first half, including a record-setting six three-point field goals. After the sixth three-pointer, he jogged down the court shrugging as he looked courtside. Marv Albert, who broadcast the game, later stated that it was as if Jordan was saying, "I can't believe I'm doing this. The Bulls went on to win Game 1, and defeat the Blazers in six games. Jordan was named Finals MVP for the second year in a row and finished the series averaging 35.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, and 6.5 apg, while shooting 53% from the floor.

In 1992–93, despite a 32.6/6.7/5.5 campaign, Jordan's streak of consecutive MVP seasons ended as he lost the award to his friend Charles Barkley. Fittingly, Jordan and the Bulls met Barkley and his Phoenix Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals. The Bulls captured their third consecutive NBA championship on a game-winning shot by John Paxson and a last-second block by Horace Grant, but Jordan was once again Chicago's catalyst. He averaged a Finals-record 41.0 ppg during the six-game series, and became the first player in NBA history to win three straight Finals MVP awards. He scored more than 30 points in every game of the series, including 40 or more points in 4 consecutive games, a record which has never been threatened. With his third Finals triumph, Jordan capped off a seven-year run where he attained seven scoring titles and three championships, but there were signs that Jordan was tiring of his massive celebrity and all of the non-basketball hassles in his life.

Gambling controversy

During the Bulls' playoff run in 1993, controversy arose when Jordan was seen gambling in Atlantic City the night before a game against the New York Knicks. In that same year, he admitted to having to cover $57,000 in gambling losses, and author Richard Esquinas wrote a book claiming he had won $1.25 million from Jordan on the golf course. In 2005, Jordan talked to Ed Bradley of the CBS evening show 60 Minutes about his gambling and admitted that he made some reckless decisions. Jordan stated, "Yeah, I’ve gotten myself into situations where I would not walk away and I’ve pushed the envelope. Is that compulsive? Yeah, it depends on how you look at it. If you’re willing to jeopardize your livelihood and your family, then yeah." When Bradley asked him if his gambling ever got to the level where it jeopardized his livelihood or family, Jordan replied, "No."

First retirement

On October 6, 1993, Jordan announced his retirement, citing a loss of desire to play the game. Jordan later stated that the murder of his father earlier in the year shaped his decision. James R. Jordan, Sr. was murdered on July 23, 1993, at a highway rest area in Lumberton, North Carolina, by two teenagers, Daniel Green and Larry Martin Demery. The assailants were traced from calls they made on James Jordan's cellular phone, caught, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. Jordan was close to his father; as a child he had imitated his father's proclivity to stick out his tongue while absorbed in work. He later adopted it as his own signature, displaying it each time he drove to the basket. In 1996 he founded a Chicago area Boys & Girls Club and dedicated it to his father.

Those close to Jordan claimed that he had been considering retirement as early as the summer of 1992, and that the added exhaustion due to the Dream Team run in the 1992 Olympics solidified Jordan's feelings about the game and his ever-growing celebrity status. Jordan's announcement sent shock waves throughout the NBA and appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

Jordan then further surprised the sports world by signing a minor league baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox. He reported to spring training and was assigned to the team's minor league system on March 31, 1994. Jordan has stated this decision was made to pursue the dream of his late father, who had always envisioned his son as a major league baseball player. The White Sox were another team owned by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who continued to honor Jordan's basketball contract during the years he played baseball. He had a brief professional baseball career for the Birmingham Barons, a Chicago White Sox farm team, batting .202 with 3 HR, 51 RBI, 30 SB, and 11 errors. He also appeared for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the 1994 Arizona Fall League.

"I'm back": return to the NBA

In the 1993–94 season, the Jordan-less Bulls notched a 55–27 record, and lost to the New York Knicks in the second round of the playoffs. But the 1994–95 version of the Bulls was a shell of the championship squad of just two years earlier. Struggling at mid-season to ensure a spot in the playoffs, Chicago needed a lift. The lift came in early 1995, when Jordan decided to return to the NBA for the Bulls.

On March 18, 1995, Jordan announced his return to the NBA through a two-word press release: "I'm back." The next day, Jordan donned jersey number 45 (his number with the Barons), as his familiar 23 had been retired in his honor following his first retirement. He took to the court with the Bulls to face the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, scoring 19 points. The game had the highest Nielsen rating of a regular season NBA game since 1975.

Although he had not played in an NBA game in a year and a half, Jordan played well upon his return, making a game-winning jump shot against Atlanta in his fourth game back and scoring 55 points in a game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 29, 1995. Boosted by Jordan's comeback, the Bulls made the playoffs and advanced to the Eastern Conference Semi-finals against the Orlando Magic. At the end of the first game of the series, though, Orlando's Nick Anderson would strip Jordan from behind, leading to the game-winning basket for the Magic; he would later comment that Jordan "didn't look like the old Michael Jordan", after which Jordan returned to wearing his old number (23). Jordan averaged 31 points per game in that series, but Orlando prevailed in six games.

Second three-peat

Freshly motivated by the playoff defeat, Jordan trained aggressively for the 1995–96 season. Strengthened by the addition of rebound specialist Dennis Rodman, the Bulls dominated the league, starting the season 41–3, and eventually finishing with the best regular season record in NBA history: 72–10. Jordan led the league in scoring with 30.4 ppg, and won the league's regular season and All-Star Game MVP awards. In the playoffs, the Bulls lost only three games in four series, defeating the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals to win the championship. Jordan was named Finals MVP for a record fourth time, surpassing Magic Johnson's three Finals MVP awards. He also became only the second player (after Willis Reed in the 1969–70 season) to sweep the MVP Awards in the All-Star Game, regular season and NBA Finals. Because this was Jordan's first championship since his father's death, and it was won on Father's Day, Jordan reacted very emotionally upon winning the title, including a memorable scene of him sobbing on the locker room floor with the game ball.

In the 1996–97 season the Bulls started out 69–11, but narrowly missed out on a second consecutive 70-win season by losing their final two games to finish 69–13. However, this year Jordan was beaten for the NBA MVP Award by Karl Malone. The team again advanced to the Finals, where they faced Malone and the Utah Jazz team. The series against the Jazz featured two of the more memorable clutch moments of Jordan's career. He won Game 1 for the Bulls with a buzzer-beating jump shot. In Game 5, with the series tied 2–2, Jordan played despite being feverish and dehydrated from a stomach virus. In what is known as the "flu game", Jordan scored 38 points including the game-deciding three-pointer with less than a minute remaining. The Bulls won 90-88 and went on to win the series in six games. For the fifth time in as many Finals appearances, Jordan received the Finals MVP award. During the 1997 NBA All-Star Game, Jordan posted the only triple double in All-Star Game history in a victorious effort, however he did not receive the MVP award.

Jordan and the Bulls compiled a 62–20 record in the 1997–98 season. Jordan led the league with 28.7 points per game, securing his fifth regular-season MVP award, plus honors for All-NBA First Team, First Defensive Team and the All-Star Game MVP. The Bulls captured the Eastern Conference Championship for a third straight season, including surviving a grueling seven-game series with Reggie Miller's Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals; it was the first time Jordan had played in a Game 7 since the 1992 series with the Knicks. After prevailing, they moved on for a rematch with the Jazz in the Finals.

The Bulls returned to Utah for Game 6 on June 14, 1998 leading the series 3–2. Jordan executed a series of plays, considered to be one of the greatest clutch performances in NBA Finals history. With the Bulls trailing 86–83 with 40 seconds remaining, coach Jackson called a timeout. When play resumed, Jordan received the inbound pass, drove to the basket, and hit a layup over several Jazz defenders. The Jazz brought the ball upcourt and passed the ball to forward Karl Malone, who was set up in the low post and was being guarded by Rodman. Malone jostled with Rodman and caught the pass, but Jordan cut behind him and swatted the ball out of his hands for a steal. Jordan then slowly dribbled upcourt and paused at the top of the key, eyeing his defender, Jazz guard Bryon Russell. With fewer than 10 seconds remaining, Jordan started to dribble right, then crossed over to his left, possibly pushing off Russell, although the officials did not call a foul. Jordan then released a shot that would be rebroadcast innumerable times in years to come. As the shot found the net, announcer Bob Costas shouted "Chicago with the lead! After a desperation three-point shot by John Stockton missed, Jordan and the Bulls claimed their sixth NBA championship, and secured a second three-peat. Once again, Jordan was voted the Finals MVP, having led all scorers by averaging 33.5 points per game, including 45 in the deciding Game 6. Jordan's six Finals MVPs is a record; Shaquille O'Neal, Magic Johnson, and Tim Duncan are tied for second place with three apiece. The 1998 Finals holds the highest television rating of any Finals series in history, and Game 6 holds the highest television rating of any game in NBA history.

Second retirement

Jordan's Game 6 performance seemed to be a perfect ending to his career. With Phil Jackson's contract expiring, the pending departures of Scottie Pippen (who stated his desire to be traded during the season) and Dennis Rodman (who would sign with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent) looming, and being in the latter stages of an owner-induced lockout of NBA players, Jordan retired for the second time on January 13, 1999.

On January 19, 2000, Jordan returned to the NBA not as a player, but as part owner and President of Basketball Operations for the Washington Wizards. His responsibilities with the club were to be comprehensive, as he was in charge of all aspects of the team, including personnel decisions. Opinions of Jordan as a basketball executive were mixed. He managed to purge the team of several highly-paid, unpopular players (such as forward Juwan Howard and point guard Rod Strickland), but used the first pick in the 2001 NBA Draft to select high schooler Kwame Brown, who did not live up to expectations and was traded away after four seasons.

Despite his January 1999 claim that he was "99.9% certain" that he would never play another NBA game, in the summer of 2001 Jordan expressed interest in making another comeback, this time with his new team. Inspired by the NHL comeback of his friend Mario Lemieux the previous winter, Jordan spent much of the spring and summer of 2001 in training, holding several invitation-only camps for NBA players in Chicago. In addition, Jordan hired his old Chicago Bulls head coach, Doug Collins, as Washington's coach for the upcoming season, a decision that many saw as foreshadowing another Jordan return.

Washington Wizards comeback

On September 25, 2001 Jordan announced his return to professional play with the Wizards, indicating his intention to donate his salary as a player to a relief effort for the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. In an injury-plagued 2001–02 season, he led the team in scoring (22.90 ppg), assists (5.2 apg), and steals (1.42 spg). However, torn cartilage in his right knee ended Jordan's season after only 60 games, the fewest he had played in a regular season since a broken foot cut short his season in 1985–86.

Playing in his 14th and final NBA All-Star Game in 2003, Jordan passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leading scorer in All-Star game history. That year, Jordan was the only Washington player to play in all 82 games, starting in 67 of them. He averaged 20.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He also shot 45% from the field, and 82% from the free throw line. Even though he turned 40 during the season, he scored 20 or more points 42 times, 30 or more points nine times, and 40 or more points three times. On February 21, 2003, Jordan became the first 40-year-old to tally 43 points in an NBA game. During his stint with the Wizards, all of Jordan's home games at the MCI Center (and nearly all of his road games as well) were sold out, and the Wizards were the most-watched team in the NBA, averaging 20,173 fans a game at home and 19,311 on the road. However, neither of Jordan's final two seasons resulted in a playoff appearance for the Wizards, and Jordan was often unsatisfied with the play of those around him. At several points he openly criticized his teammates to the media, citing their lack of focus and intensity, notably that of number one draft pick Kwame Brown.

With the recognition that 2002–03 would be Jordan's final season, tributes were paid to him in nearly every arena in the NBA. In his final game at his old home court, the United Center in Chicago, Jordan received a prolonged standing ovation. The Miami Heat retired the number 23 jersey on April 11, 2003, even though Jordan had never played for the team. At the 2003 All-Star Game, Vince Carter was originally selected to be the starter at shooting guard; however, he gave Jordan his spot out of respect, and the halftime ceremony was dedicated to Jordan's career.

Jordan's final NBA game was on April 16, 2003 in Philadelphia. Jordan scored only 13 points in the game and went to the bench with 4 minutes and 13 seconds remaining in the third quarter and with his team trailing the Philadelphia 76ers, 75-56. Just after the start of the fourth quarter, the First Union Center crowd began chanting "We want Mike!". After much encouragement from coach Doug Collins, Jordan finally rose from the bench and re-entered the game for Larry Hughes with 2:35 remaining. At 1:45, Jordan was intentionally fouled by the 76ers' Eric Snow, and stepped to the line to make both free throws. After the second foul shot, the 76ers in-bounded the ball to rookie John Salmons, who in turn was intentionally fouled by Bobby Simmons one second later, stopping time so that Jordan could return to the bench. Jordan received a three-minute standing ovation from his teammates, his opponents, and a crowd of 21,257 fans.

Olympic career

Jordan played on two Olympic gold medal-winning American basketball teams. As a college player he participated, and won the gold, in the 1984 Summer Olympics. Jordan led the team in scoring averaging 17.1 ppg for the tournament. In the 1992 Summer Olympics he was a member of the star-studded squad that included Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and David Robinson and was dubbed the "Dream Team". Playing limited minutes due to the frequent blowout, Jordan averaged 12.7 ppg, finishing fourth on the team in scoring. The team cruised to the gold medal, restoring the United States to the top of the basketball world. Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and fellow Dream Team member Chris Mullin are the only American men's basketball players to win Olympic gold as amateurs (all in 1984) and professionals.

Honors and awards

After retiring as a player

After his third retirement, Jordan assumed that he would be able to return to his front office position of Director of Basketball Operations with the Wizards. However, his previous tenure in the Wizards' front office had produced the aforementioned mixed results and may have also influenced the trade of Richard "Rip" Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse (although Jordan was not technically Director of Basketball Operations in 2002). On May 7, 2003, Wizards owner Abe Pollin fired Jordan as Washington's President of Basketball Operations. Jordan later stated that he felt betrayed, and that if he knew he would be fired upon retiring he never would have come back to play for the Wizards.

Jordan kept busy over the next few years by staying in shape, playing golf in celebrity charity tournaments, spending time with his family in Chicago, promoting his Jordan Brand clothing line, and riding motorcycles. Since 2004, Jordan has owned a professional closed-course motorcycle roadracing team that competes in the premier Superbike class sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). Jordan and his then-wife Juanita pledged $5 million to Chicago's Hales Franciscan High School in 2006, and the Jordan Brand has made donations to Habitat for Humanity and a Louisiana branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. On June 15, 2006, Jordan became a part-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and was named "Managing Member of Basketball Operations." He has the largest individual holding in the team after majority owner Robert L. Johnson. Despite Jordan's previous success as an endorser, he has made a conscious effort not to be included in Charlotte's marketing campaigns.

Player profile

Jordan was a shooting guard who was also capable of playing small forward (the position he would primarily play during his second comeback with the Washington Wizards). 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 and 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 jumpshot, 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).

On defense, Jordan's contributions were equally impressive. In 1988, he 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 records for blocked shots by a guard, and combined this with his ball-thieving ability to become a standout defensive player. His 2,514 steals are the second highest total of all-time behind John Stockton, while his steals per game average is third all-time. Jerry West often stated that he was more impressed with Jordan's defensive contributions than his offensive ones.

Legacy

Michael Jordan's basketball talent was clear from his rookie season. In his first game in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks, Jordan received a prolonged standing ovation, a rarity for an opposing player. After Jordan scored a playoff record 63 points against the Boston Celtics in 1986, Celtics star Larry Bird described him as "God disguised as Michael Jordan."

Jordan led the NBA in scoring in 10 seasons (NBA record) and tied Wilt Chamberlain's record of seven consecutive scoring titles. He was also a fixture on the NBA All-Defensive First Team, making the roster nine times (NBA record). Jordan also holds the top career and playoff scoring averages of 30.1 and 33.4 points per game, respectively. By 1998, the season of his Finals-winning shot against the Jazz, he was well known throughout the league as a clutch performer. In the regular season, Jordan was the Bulls' primary threat in the final seconds of a close game and in the playoffs, Jordan would always demand the ball at crunch time. Jordan's total of 5,987 points in the playoffs is the highest in NBA history. He retired with 32,292 points, placing him third on the NBA's all-time scoring list behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.

With five regular-season MVPs, six Finals MVPs (NBA record), and three All-Star MVPs, Jordan is the most decorated player ever to play in the NBA. Jordan finished among the top three in regular-season MVP voting a record 10 times, and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.

Many of Jordan's contemporaries label Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time. An ESPN survey of journalists, athletes and other sports figures ranked Jordan the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century, above icons such as Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali. Jordan placed second to Babe Ruth in the Associated Press's list of 20th century athletes. In addition, the Associated Press voted him as the basketball player of the 20th century. Jordan has also appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated a record 49 times. In the September 1996 issue of Sport, which was the publication's 50th anniversary issue, Jordan was named the greatest athlete of the past 50 years.

Jordan's athletic leaping ability, highlighted in his back-to-back slam dunk contest championships in 1987 and 1988, is credited by many with having influenced a generation of young players. Several current NBA All-Stars have stated that they considered Jordan their role model while growing up, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. In addition, commentators have dubbed a number of next-generation players "the next Michael Jordan" upon their entry to the NBA, including Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, Grant Hill, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Vince Carter, and Dwyane Wade. Although Jordan was a well-rounded player, his "Air Jordan" image is also often credited with inadvertently decreasing the jump shooting skills, defense, and fundamentals of young players, a fact which Jordan himself has lamented.

I think it was the exposure of Michael Jordan; the marketing of Michael Jordan. Everything was marketed towards the things that people wanted to see, which was scoring and dunking. That Michael Jordan still played defense and an all-around game, but it was never really publicized.
Although Jordan has done much to increase the status of the game, some of his impact on the game's popularity in America appears to be fleeting. Television ratings in particular increased only during his time in the league and have subsequently lowered each time he left the game.

Personal life

Jordan is the fourth of five children. He has two older brothers, Larry Jordan and James R. Jordan, Jr., one older sister, Deloris, and a younger sister, Roslyn. Jordan's brother James retired in 2006 as the Command Sergeant Major of the 35th Signal Brigade of the XVIII Airborne Corps in the U.S. Army.

He married Juanita Vanoy in September 1989, and they have two sons, Jeffrey Michael and Marcus James, and a daughter, Jasmine. Jordan and Juanita filed for divorce on January 4, 2002, citing irreconcilable differences, but reconciled shortly thereafter. They again filed for divorce and were granted a final decree of dissolution of marriage on December 29, 2006, commenting that the decision was made "mutually and amicably".

It is reported that Juanita received a $168 million settlement, making it the largest celebrity divorce settlement in history on public record.

On July 21, 2006, a Cook County, Illinois judge determined that Jordan did not owe a former lover, Karla Knafel, $5 million. Jordan had allegedly paid Knafel $250,000 to keep their relationship a secret. Knafel claimed Jordan promised her that amount for remaining silent and agreeing not to file a paternity suit after Knafel learned she was pregnant in 1991. A DNA test showed Jordan was not the father of the child.

As of 2007, Jordan lives in Highland Park, Illinois, and both of his sons attended Loyola Academy, a private Roman Catholic high school located in Wilmette, Illinois. Jeffrey graduated as a member of the 2007 Graduating Class, and played his first collegiate basketball game on November 11, 2007 for the University of Illinois. Marcus transferred to Whitney Young High School after his sophomore year and will graduate in 2009.

Media figure and business interests

Jordan is one of the most marketed sports figures in history. He has been a major spokesman for such brands as Nike, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Gatorade, McDonald's, Ball Park Franks, Rayovac, Wheaties, Hanes, and MCI. Jordan has had a long relationship with Gatorade, appearing in over 20 commercials for the company since 1991, including the "Like Mike" commercials in which a song was sung by children wishing to be like Jordan.

Nike created a signature shoe for him, called the Air Jordan. One of Jordan's more popular commercials for the shoe involved Spike Lee playing the part of Mars Blackmon. In the commercials Lee, as Blackmon, attempted to find the source of Jordan's abilities and became convinced that "it's gotta be the shoes". The hype and demand for the shoes even brought on a spate of "shoe-jackings" where people were robbed of their sneakers at gunpoint. Subsequently Nike spun off the Jordan line into its own division appropriately named the "Jordan Brand". The company features an impressive list of athletes and celebrities as endorsers. The brand has also sponsored college sports programs such as those of North Carolina, Cincinnati, Cal, St. John's, Georgetown, and North Carolina A&T.

Jordan also has been connected with the Looney Tunes cartoon characters. A Nike commercial shown during the 1993 Super Bowl XXVII featured Jordan and Bugs Bunny playing basketball against a group of Martian characters. The Super Bowl commercial inspired the 1996 live action/animated movie Space Jam, which starred Jordan and Bugs in a fictional story set during his first retirement. They have subsequently appeared together in several commercials for MCI.

Jordan's income from the endorsements is estimated to be several hundred million dollars. In addition, when Jordan's power at the ticket gates was at its highest point the Bulls regularly sold out every game they played in, whether home or away. Due to this, Jordan set records in player salary by signing annual contracts worth in excess of $30 million US dollars per season.

Most of Jordan's endorsement deals, including the first deal with Nike, were engineered by his agent, David Falk. Jordan has said of Falk that "he's the best at what he does", and that "marketing-wise, he's great. He's the one who came up with the concept of 'Air Jordan.'

An academic study found that Jordan’s first NBA comeback resulted in an increase in the market capitalization of his client firms of more than $1 billion.

See also

References

External links

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