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Leroy Smith — the high school standout who made Michael Jordan cry

Clifton Herring, Michael Jordan's high school basketball coach, spilled the details behind the myth that the Bulls legend was cut from the team.

While Michael Jordan seems like the toughest guy who has ever graced the basketball court, it does not mean he is incapable of showing emotion. In fact, it's only basketball (apart from golf and gambling) that makes him overly joyous or cry in pain. 

Perhaps the first known incident when Jordan cried because of basketball featured a man named Leroy Smith — a North Carolina high school standout and one of his closest friends.

Leroy Smith vs. Michael Jordan

One of Michael Jordan's greatest stories is when he was cut from his high school basketball team. This then motivated him to strive harder and work on his craft. While this is true, Clifton Herring, Jordan's high school basketball coach, spilled the truth behind this narrative. Yes, Jordan did not make the team, but he wasn't necessarily booted out for good. In addition, it was Leroy Smith who triggered Jordan to be the best basketball player he could ever be.

"The Laney Bucs did have one major weakness, and that was size. They didn't have a returning player taller than 6'3″…In those days it was rare for sophomores to make varsity. Herring made one exception in 1978, one designed to remedy his team's height disadvantage. This is part of the reason Mike Jordan went home and cried in his room after reading the two lists. It wasn't just that his name was missing from the varsity roster. It was also that as he scanned the list he saw the name of another sophomore, one of his close friends, the 6'7″ Leroy Smith." 

Clifton Herring, per Sports Illustrated via Bleacher Report.

Way before Jordan took things personally against the Indiana Pacers, Dan Majerle, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, and a slew of others; it was Leroy Smith. Legend has it that Jordan checked into hotels under his rival's name.

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If you didn't know the story behind it, you would assume that Jordan — who was catapulted to fame upon his entry into the NBA — was using an unassuming name to conceal his identity. The truth is, Jordan was reminding himself of the incident that made him a competitive beast.

Hall of Fame

The thing about the great ones is that they can control their memory. Stephen Curry once said that misses don't bother him — it never bothers his confidence. When he lines up for his next shot, he's always confident that it'll go in. LeBron James, meanwhile, has shown off his photographic memory numerous times.

With regard to Michael Jordan, the man remembers the people who pushed him to the extra mile. In his Hall of Fame Speech, Leroy Smith was again mentioned. Jordan gave Smith a shoutout, noting that he was the person who sparked the first fire.

"And then there's Leroy Smith. Now you guys think that's a myth. Leroy Smith was a guy when I got cut he made the team - on the Varsity team - and he's here tonight. He's still the same 6'7" guy - he's not any bigger - probably his game is about the same. But he started the whole process with me, because when he made the team, and I didn't, I wanted to prove not just to Leroy Smith, not just to myself, but to the coach that picked Leroy over me, I wanted to make sure you understood - you made a mistake dude," Jordan said.

This is proof that Jordan has been taking things personally since day one. Leroy Smith was his first unknowing victim. It is rather interesting that Jordan gave Smith due credit in his Hall of Fame speech. In a way, Jordan was saying that if Smith didn't exist, then Mike wouldn't have been an iconic sports figure who's made an industry by himself. 

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