Michael Jordan is widely considered to be the G.O.A.T. – the greatest of all time. But for those unfamiliar with his rise to summit of basketball immortality, GOAT status was hardly the world’s beginning expectation for Jordan, nor was it handed to him on a silver platter. Before he won six NBA championships, six Finals MVPs, and five regular season MVPs, MJ had plenty of naysayers who didn’t believe in what he was capable of accomplishing. Thankfully for basketball fans everywhere, Jordan was bold and unwavering in exemplifying our motto – don’t do they, DUYU!
Jordan overcame adversity very early on in his career. Before he took his talents to the University of North Carolina, he played varsity basketball at Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina… after his second attempt at trying out for the team. That’s right – THE Michael Jordan did not make the varsity basketball team until his junior year!
When Jordan was demoted to junior varsity he was devastated. THEY SAID he was too short and not skilled enough to play at the highest level. Yet, unlike many kids would have done in his position, MJ didn’t give up. He used his failure as motivation and led the JV team in scoring, earning a spot on the varsity team the following summer. Growing in confidence and still carrying a chip on his shoulder, Jordan went on to play in the coveted McDonald’s All-American Game, eventually being recruited to the premier basketball school of his home state, UNC.
“Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it.”
The legend of Jordan began budding in college where, as a freshman, he hit the game winning shot in the 1982 NCAA championship game. However, team success was hard to come by early in his NBA career with the Chicago Bulls. Although MJ was an All-Star and became the 1985 Rookie of the Year in his first season, winning was a different matter. Jordan’s Bulls were swept in the playoffs by the Boston Celtics two years in a row before being eliminated by the Detroit Pistons the following three consecutive years after that. Seven years into his NBA career, Michael Jordan had yet to play in the finals.
At that point, it was easy for detractors to brand him as “not a winner.” There was no doubting his greatness, having already won Defensive Player of the Year and his first MVP award in that span, but the pinnacle of success in the sport continued to evade him and the haters were quick to remind him of it. Nevertheless, just as he did in high school, Jordan used what other people told him he couldn’t do as inspiration to become even more relentless and determined in his pursuit of success. In 1991 MJ finally overcame the Pistons in route to defeating the Los Angeles Lakers for his first NBA championship – the first in Bulls’ franchise history. This would be the first of three consecutive championship victories that included two MVPs and three Finals MVPs along the way.
“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
In 1993, Jordan retired from basketball to pursue a career in professional baseball – an ode to the dreams of his late father. However, when Major League Baseball went on strike, Jordan announced his return to the NBA. After almost two years out of the league, many said that Jordan didn’t have it anymore. THEY SAID he’d been gone for too long and lacked his signature explosiveness. As he made a habit of doing throughout his career, MJ proved them wrong. In 1996, his first full season back in the NBA, Michael Jordan won MVP, Finals MVP, and his fourth NBA championship. This would be the first of another three-peat that included the same total of MVPs and Finals MVPs as the previous one (2 & 3, respectively).
Following his second run of championships, Jordan retired from playing to work as the president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards. Knowing he still had game, however, he returned to the court in 2001 to play two more seasons with the Wizards. Although they were unable to make the playoffs, MJ still put up gaudy numbers at 40 years old. Finally, in 2003, Michael Jordan retired from basketball for good.
“If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.”
Jordan’s relationship with professional basketball was always on his own terms. He possessed supreme confidence in his ability but was notorious for his unrivaled work ethic and ruthless dedication to perfecting his craft – the likes of which inspired future NBA legend, Kobe Bryant. Critically, he only listened to outside noise when it fueled his defiance of it. Jordan blazed his own trail and never limited himself to others’ expectations of him. Before having his own brand, starring in his own movie, and becoming the first former player and first African American to own his own NBA franchise, he was just a kid who got cut from the varsity basketball team. Imagine how different his life and the world would have turned out if Michael Jordan DID THEY? “Don’t do they, DUYU!”