Editor’s note: In honor of the University’s 225th anniversary, we will be sharing profiles throughout the academic year of some of the many Tar Heels who have left their heelprint on the campus, their communities, the state, the nation and the world.
Before he became a household name, Michael Jordan was a standout freshman from Wilmington. Then, on March 29, 1982, Jordan found some open space in the corner of the Louisiana Superdome with about 20 seconds left in the NCAA Tournament championship game.
He made the shot to give the Tar Heels a one-point victory, Carolina’s second NCAA Tournament title and the first for legendary basketball coach Dean Smith. And that first-year player went on to become the best to ever play the game.
Arguably the most recognizable athlete in the world, Jordan inspired not only a generation of athletes to “be like Mike,” but people everywhere to strive to do their best.
The Hall of Famer’s basketball accolades — two-time consensus First Team All-American (1983, 1984), two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (1984, 1992), six-time NBA champion and NBA Finals MVP (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998) and many more — are known all over the world.
In 2016, Jordan was a recipient of the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award is given to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the United States. Former President Barack Obama said at the White House ceremony that Jordan helped “push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”
In March 2017, at the announcement in Chapel Hill of the expansion of the partnership between his Jordan Brand and North Carolina Tar Heels athletics, Jordan told the crowd in the Dean E. Smith Center, “It’s always great to come home.”
After Hurricane Florence devastated the Carolina coast, Jordan did just that. He returned to Wilmington to hand out meals and supplies, which boosted his $2 million contribution to relief efforts.
“I wanted to be an igniter to the process,” Jordan told the Associated Press. “It’s going to take a long time before things get back to normal. Whatever way I can contribute, I will.”
Jordan, the principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets, is the first former player to become a majority owner of an NBA team.