The legend, the myth, the greatest player of all time; nowadays, Michael Jordan walks into a room, and it's a story to tell. However, like any other NBA legend, MJ, too, was once just a basketball prospect.
The man who introduced Mike to North Carolina
There’s a great chance that whenever we watch Jordan documentaries, especially the older ones, the people who played a role in MJ’s formative years in the sport go through our minds only in passing. We can’t be blamed for that. However, knowing little things about our idol’s humble beginnings is always interesting—things such as who paved the way for him in North Carolina.
All Jordan fans know he played for UNC, and most of them credit Dean Smith as the man who first mentored MJ. But apparently, the “first person” who introduced him to the renowned university was actually Smith’s then-assistant coach Roy Williams.
According to Williams, you don’t really need to have an eye for a new prospect to notice a young Jordan, who was simply known as “Mike” at the time. And when he invited him to the North Carolina camp, everyone in his staff knew right there and then that Jordan was the real deal.
“I was the first person to really get excited about him,” Williams told Graham Bensinger in 2021. “When I got really excited about him, everybody else on our staff got to see him play during our basketball camp, and then it was… Everybody was all in, to say the least.”
From Mike to Michael
Just like a fairytale, the trajectory of Jordan’s career took a giant leap when he drained the winning shot in the 1982 NCAA Finals game against Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas in New Orleans.
According to the man himself, it was the turning point of his soaring career as people began acknowledging him as “Michael Jordan” from that point on.
“Up until that point, nobody knew who I was,” Jordan said of his game-winning shot in 1982. “I was a college kid other than the university, and I was just known as Mike Jordan. When I hit that shot, my whole name became Michael Jordan. I think it resonated with a lot of people outside of UNC.”
In 1984, the man known as Michael Jordan finally entered the league. The Chicago Bulls drafted him at No. 3 and the rest, as they say, is history.