Before Michael Jordan cemented himself as the greatest basketball player of all time, he was a mediocre basketball player before his collegiate years. There's that famous story about him not making the cut to his high school varsity team to prove this. At that time, many people, specifically from his hometown in Wilmington, North Carolina, were already calling him a bust — to the point that they didn't believe he had the potential to make it to the NBA.
Michael Jordan's first doubters
In an interview with GQ magazine in 1989, MJ opened up about that time when the residents of Wilmington thought that he wasn't destined for greatness. According to the 6-time champion, many locals believed he belonged at the gas station instead of the basketball court.
"Everybody in Wilmington expected me to go to North Carolina, sit on the bench for four years, then go back to Wilmington and work at the local gas station," Jordan told GQ's David Breskin.
Why would some North Carolinians feel this way? Well, in his first year of college, Jordan wasn't as great yet as he only averaged just 13.5 points per game in the 1981-82 season.
It was only in the latter part of his first year when he put the world on notice after he concluded his rookie season in front of 61,612 people in New Orleans — when he knocked down the championship-clinching jumper to bring home the title for North Carolina. This moment truly endeared him to the city of North Carolina.
After his first season with the North Carolina Tar Heels under head coach Dean Smith, Jordan only improved physically and skill-wise as his collegiate career progressed. He often credits his development to hard work, and thanks to that, he was a man among boys in the last two years of his NCAA career, which earned him a ticket to take his talents to the NBA.
Despite the fame, MJ never forgot North Carolina.
As it has been well-documented throughout his career, Jordan has always used his doubters as motivation and often holds grudges against them. But in this case, the people of Wilmington were an exception. MJ never really took it personally with his fellow citizens because he knew he had much to prove during his time in Chapel Hill.
In fact, after retiring as a player, Jordan bought his hometown's NBA team, AKA the Charlotte Hornets — which he continues to own and manage until today. Despite doubting his Airness at first, safe to say that Jordan will always be considered Wilmington's pride and joy.