Professional basketball player, Olympic athlete, businessperson, actor. Born on February 17, 1963, in Brooklyn, New York. Considered one of the best basketball players ever, Michael Jordan dominated the sport from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. He led the Chicago Bulls to six national championships as well as earned the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Most Valuable Player Award five times.
Growing up in Wilmington, North Carolina, Jordan developed a competitive edge at an early age. He wanted to win every game he played. As his father James later noted, “What he does have is a competition problem. He was born with that…The person he tries to outdo most of the time is himself.”
Jordan enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1981 and soon became an important member of the school’s basketball team. His team won the NCAA Division I championships in 1982 with Jordan scoring the final basket needed to defeat Georgetown University. He was also singled out as the NCAA College Player of the Year in 1983 and in 1984. During the summer of 1984, Jordan made his first appearance in the Olympics as a member of the U.S. basketball team, which won the gold at the games held in Los Angeles. Later Jordan helped the United States bring home the gold at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.
Jordan left college after his junior year to join the NBA. Drafted by the Chicago Bulls, he soon proved himself on the court. He helped the team make it to the playoffs and scored an average of 28.2 points per game that season. For his efforts, Jordan received the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and was selected for the All-Star Game.
In 1985, he finished his bachelor’s degree in geography and continued to play basketball professionally. While his second season was marred by injury, Jordan was breaking new ground on the court during the 1986-1987 season. He became the first player since Wilt Chamberlin to score more than 3,000 points in a single season. The following season, Jordan received his first Most Valuable Player Award from NBA—an honor he would earn four more times in 1991, 1992, 1996, and 1998.
By the late 1980s, the Chicago Bulls was quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with, and Jordan was an instrumental part of the team’s success. The Bulls made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1990 and won their first NBA championship the following year by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers. A rising NBA superstar, Jordan became known for his power and agility on the court as well as for his leadership abilities. He eventually landed several endorsement deals with such companies as Nike, which further pushed him into the spotlight.
In 1992, the Chicago Bulls beat the Portland Trail Blazers to win their second NBA championship title. The team took their third championship the following year, dominating in the basketball world. Jordan, however, had other things on his mind. He lost his father, James, to an act of violence after the end of the 1992-1993 season. Two teenagers shot James Jordan during an apparent robbery and were later convicted of the crime. In a move that shocked many, Michael Jordan decided to retire from basketball to pursue baseball. He played for a minor league team, the Birmingham Barons, as an outfielder for a year.
In March 1995, however, Jordan returned to the basketball court. He rejoined the Chicago Bulls and helped them win the championship against the Seattle Sonics. That same year, Jordan made a big splash in another arena—film—as the star of Space Jam (1996). The film mixed live action and animation and paired Jordan with cartoon legends Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck on screen.
The next season Jordan came back even stronger, averaging 30.4 points per game. Starting all 82 games that season, he helped the team finish the regular season with 72 wins and clinch a win in the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. The two teams faced each other again for the championships in 1998, and Jordan helped the Bulls beat them for the second year in a row.
Retiring after the 1997-1998 season, Jordan did not stray from the sport for too long. He joined the Washington Wizards as a part owner and as president of basketball operations. In the fall of 2001, Jordan relinquished these roles to return the court once more. He played for the Wizards for two seasons before hanging up his jersey for good in 2003.
In 2006, Jordan bought a share of the Charlotte Bobcats and joined the team’s executive ranks as its managing member of basketball operations. He experienced some personal changes that same year, ending his 17-year marriage to his wife Juanita. The couple divorced in December 2006. They had three children together during the course of their marriage—Jeffrey, Marcus, and Jasmine.
The following year, Michael Jordan made news—this time as the father of an up-and-coming college basketball player. His eldest son, Jeffrey Jordan, made the team at the University of Illinois. Both Michael Jordan and his ex-wife Juanita have supported their son and tried to help him deal with playing in the shadow of a NBA legend. “He wants to be a basketball player, but he wants to do it on his own terms…The thing that we have tried to tell Jeff is that you set your own expectations. By no means in this world can you ever live up someone else’s expectations of who you are,” Michael Jordan said during an appearance on the Today show.
In April 2009, Jordan received one of basketball’s greatest honors: He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Attending the induction ceremony was a bittersweet affair for Jordan because being at the event meant “your basketball career is completely over,” he explained.
Outside of his work with the Charlotte Bobcats, Jordan is also involved in a number of business ventures, including several restaurants. He currently resides in Highland Park, Illinois.