He is perhaps one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world. By lending his name and image, he has personally been responsible for the success of some of the biggest brands out there (Nike, anyone?). He has won championships and a multitude of awards, played in the Olympics, and even starred as himself in a feature length film alongside Bugs Bunny. With a biography abounding in facts as impressive (and random!) as these, only one person could possibly come to mind: Michael Jordan.
Though Jordan has certainly left an indelible mark on Chicago, he is not originally from the Windy City. Michael Jeffrey Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 17, 1963, but his family relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina not long afterward, where he spent his childhood. He attended high school at Emsley A. Laney High School where he played baseball, football, and, of course, basketball. He famously failed to make the varsity basketball team his sophomore year because, at 5’11”, he was considered too short. Motivated by this setback, he had a standout season on the junior varsity team and, after training diligently and growing a few inches, he made the varsity team the following season.
Upon graduation from high school, Jordan attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he majored in cultural geography and… played basketball. Though he dropped out after his junior year to enter the NBA draft in 1984, Jordan returned to UNC and received his degree in 1986. The Chicago Bulls selected the now 6 foot 6 Jordan third overall in the 1984 draft. From the very beginning of his career, Jordan demonstrated honed skills and focused determination on the court and gracious poise off of it, earning him fan favorite status from the get go. The positive press and exorbitant amount of attention the newcomer received made some of his fellow players jealous, however Jordan refused to let this affect his game.
Jordan helped lead the bulls to “three-peat” championships in 1991, 1992, and 1993. Despite his success and intense popularity amongst fans, on October 6, 1993, Jordan shocked the world by declaring his retirement from basketball, citing that his decision was partially based on the murder of his father, James R. Jordan, Sr., several months earlier. Wanting to honor his late father’s dream of seeing his son as an MLB player, Jordan decided to take up baseball and played for the Chicago White Sox farm team, the Birmingham Barrons, as well as the Scottsdale Scorpions.
On March 18, 1995, Jordan announced that he would be returning to play for the Chicago Bulls. Under Phil Jackson’s coaching and Jordan’s leadership, the Bulls went on to win a second “three-peat” in 1996, 1997, and 1998. On January 13, 1999, Jordan announced his second retirement and his final departure from the Chicago Bulls, thus ending an era for the team and the city. Unwilling to slide into an easy retirement sans basketball, Jordan became a part owner of the Washington Wizards.
However, he was not completely satisfied with life off the court, and returned to play basketball for the Wizards from 2001 to 2003. April 13, 2003 marked Michael Jordan’s final NBA performance when the Wizards faced off against the 76ers in Philadelphia. At the end of the game, everyone in the stadium — fans, teammates, even opponents — gave Jordan an overwhelming standing ovation. This dramatic adieu to one of the greatest basketball players of all time was both fitting and poignant and proved that Jordan will go down in history as one of the most talented and beloved sports players in history.