Champs Sports is giving away $15k in college cash for college, a trip for two to the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando and $1,500 in Champs sports gift cards. In honor of those heading to college, Ballislife looks back at some of our favorite college players. Today’s favorite is probably the favorite of more basketball fans than any player in history.
The only man to ever stop Michael Jordan is Dean Smith
After averaging a triple double (29pts 12rebs 10ast) his senior year in high school, Michael “The Rabbit” Jordan accepted a scholarship to play for Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina – a school he hated as a kid since he grew up a Skywalker fan. Nowadays you would expect a top high school player with apples like that to dominate his 1st (and probably last) year in college, but back then freshman had to wait in line no matter what they accomplished in high school especially within a team oriented system with a stacked team featuring future hall of famer James Worthy and Sam Perkins – the man that would be drafted 1 spot after MJ in the 1984 draft.
The future great defensive player struggled his freshman year on D, with a team leading 110 fouls and fouling out of 4 games, and on offense he averaged a modest sounding 13 points a game but 13 was just 2 points less than team leading scorer and senior James Worthy. Those 13 points also were the most electrifying 13 points in UNC history that routinely involved layups and dunks that people have only seen watching Dr J or his idol David Thompson. By the end of the season, his game was more under control and he was named ACC Freshman of the year, an honor that teammate Sam Perkins received the year before and an honor that would become a secondary moment for the freshman.
That shining primary moment that we all remember was almost prevented by a couple of teams during tournament time. The Tarheels barely beat Virginia in the ACC tournament and it was free throws by unsung hero Matt Doherty with 30 seconds left that gave the UNC the two point win. Then in the first round of the NCAA tournament, James Madision held MJ to only only 6 points 1 rebound and 0 assists in 37 minutes but the Tarheels escaped again with a 2 point victory. They would then beat Alabama and Villanova to face off against Phi Slamma Jamma with Akeem (before the silent H was added for no reason) and Clyde Drexler in the first game of the final four but Akeem was a no show while Perkins and Worthy dominated and came out with a 5 point win.
Jordan and UNC were now on the big stage, facing Georgetown and the best player in college – Patrick Ewing. There was no chance Ewing was going to choke the way Akeem did and he came out swatting every shot heading towards the rim but lucky for UNC most of them were called goaltends. The game was everything college fans wanted and with the score at 59-58, Jordan would make a spectacular layup over Ewing to give them a 3 point lead. The Hoyas came back and took a 1 point lead with 32 seconds left. This was all a setup to begin the fantasy career of Michael Jordan. The freshman caught the ball and hit what would go on to be known as “The Shot” by fans and “destiny” by MJ with 16 seconds left. Georgetown would commit a silly turnover and UNC would win the Championship Game. James Worthy walked away with the most outstanding player in the NCAA Tournament award but it was Jordan that walked away with the confidence to become the man the following year.
For his encore, Jordan came back to Chapel Hill faster and bigger with over 10 pounds of muscle. His defense was as good as any player in the country and his offensive output could only be contained by Dean Smith. The only flaw in his offense was his interest in the new three point line which he tried more than his share of unwise shots from but still managed to shoot over 50% from the field overall. He racked up awards during his last two seasons including the Naismith and Wooden College player of the year awards and even had a sandwich named after him at the Chapel Hill Four Corners restaurant (crab salad on a pita with lettuce – really?).
Jordan decided to skip his senior year at UNC to enter the NBA draft along with teammate Sam Perkins. The 1984 draft would become infamous for a historic “blunder” but that “blunder” is arguably the biggest misconception in sports. The question is always how did 2 teams pass up on Jordan and why was Sam Bowie picked before him. Truth is, it made sense for Houston and Portland to pass on him and the Bulls only drafted him because they couldn’t get a big man.
The Rockets had the first pick and they were as sure on drafting Akeem as the Knicks were Ewing, Magic with Shaq and Spurs with Duncan. The Blazers had the second pick and unlike most bad teams that needed a big man to win games they were a winning team that needed a big man to win a championship. Sam Bowie was clearly the most talented big man available. He was the American version of Sabonis but the red flag on him was if his broken leg could hold up in the NBA. Also consider that the Blazers had Clyde Drexler who was clearly a star in the making so it made no sense to draft a player that was arguably no better than the existing player that played the same position on a team.
The 3rd pick belonged to the Bulls and this is where the biggest blunder in draft history was almost made. The Bulls only selected Jordan because the top two big men were gone and they were unable to trade the pick that would be Jordan for centers Jack Sikma or Tree Rollins. There was even a 3 way trade involving the pick going to the LA Clippers for Terry Cummings that fell through a week before the draft.
There was another trade that was rumored around that time which is my favorite all-time what if trade. According to Hakeem, the Blazers offered the Rockets the #2 pick and Drexler for Ralph Sampson. The Rockets declined and the birth of the “Twin Towers” happened but what if the Rockets would have accepted the trade and for some reason taken Jordan with that pick?
Phi Slamma Jamma: Air Version.
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