When Michael Jordan concluded his junior year in North Carolina, he had a choice on whether to take his talents to the NBA or spend his senior year with the Tar Heels.
Months before his decision, MJ was undecided, and it didn't help that his parents couldn't guide him because they had no idea what to expect if he chose to go to the NBA. At that time, Michael was already perceived to be a top pick in the NBA draft, but his collegiate coach Dean Smith was the one who pushed him to forego his senior year.
Dean Smith did what was best for Jordan.
The decision on whether to play one more year in college or go straight to the pros is harder to make than it seems. From the outside looking in, it's easy to say that spending one more year in college wouldn't hurt, but truth to be told, there are a lot of risks involved for players who opt not to go pro right away. That's why Smith pushed Jordan to go straight to the NBA, as he knew it was the ideal situation for the basketball legend in the making.
"It was Coach [Dean] Smith's call. I relied so much on his knowledge. The NBA was an area where I wasn't too knowledgeable. My parents weren't knowledgeable about it, either. And it was a great opportunity. Coach Smith felt that it would be the best opportunity for me to make it in professional basketball. Once he researched the situation to find out where I would go in the draft, then I started weighing the pros and cons," Jordan said in a one-on-one interview with Marvin R. Shanken in 2005.
Jordan eventually chose to skip his senior year in North Carolina and declare for the NBA Draft in 1984. He applauds his college coach for convincing him to do so even if it meant he would no longer have Jordan's services in North Carolina. The opportunity of spending more time and getting as many reps and experience in the pros as early as 21 years old was a chance Smith knew MJ shouldn't pass up on.
On NBA players taking a risk without college experience
When Jordan was asked about NBA players coming straight out of high school, he described it as potentially bad because college basketball experience is vital. The college experience helps a young player transition to the lifestyle, maturity needed, and physical and mental demands in the NBA. Jordan believes college experience plays a massive role in shaping a player's overall performance as soon as they head to the pros.
"If I had been a freshman or even a sophomore, no matter how good I was, I don't know if I would have been ready for what I had to deal with in the professional ranks. But you got more and more young guys doing it. I am a firm believer that something is affected by leaving college early, or not going to college at all," Jordan added.
Ultimately, MJ knows he wouldn't be the player he was if not for his time and experience in North Carolina. That's why he vouches for players to do the same before they risk declaring for the NBA Draft as early as 18 — which might be the case for young players in the next few years. After all, MJ wouldn't have Smith and his guidance if not for college.