DAR Sports: The Legacy of Michael Jordan

By @TrueGodImmortal

You knew this was coming. I'm certain you knew this was going to happen. It is impossible to talk basketball and not talk the greatest of all time. Michael Jordan. With all the comparisons, all the talk, there is truly only one Michael Jordan. With such a storied career, it is quite interesting to look back on the humble beginnings, the accomplishments, the motivation and his will for success. Born in Brooklyn, New York, but raised in North Carolina, his rise to the top started in high school, when he attended Emsley A. Laney High School and started to show signs of true greatness.

His senior year in high school would be his year of dedication and showing what he could do, as he would average a triple-double on 29.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 10.1 assists. With his high school success being something we weren't used to always seeing, colleges began knocking on Jordan's door looking to bring him into the fold. Being selected to the McDonald's All American Team didn't hurt either, and soon Syracuse, North Carolina, Duke, Virginia and other colleges wanted Jordan on their side going forward. Jordan would decide to go with North Carolina and from there, things would never be the same.

Upon his first season at North Carolina, Jordan would have a standout year, averaging only 13.4 points a game, but he ended up hitting the game winning shot against Georgetown in the NCAA championship game and made national headlines. There was something engaging and quite interesting about Jordan overall as a player, as his explosive offense and ability were top notch and usually ahead of anybody else that was on the court. He was named the ACC Freshman of the Year in his rookie season and ended up winning player of the year awards in his junior year before declaring himself for the NBA Draft. He was expected to be picked pretty high in the draft, and he went 3rd in the draft, behind Sam Bowie and Hakeem Olajuwon, which the Blazers probably regret picking Bowie now, even though they had a true star in Clyde Drexler as well. Jordan was selected by the Bulls as the third overall pick and from there, things got kicked into another gear.

His rookie season with the Bulls was simply masterful, as Jordan came in and commanded the team instantly, showcasing early signs of his true leadership. Jordan also became popular in arenas across the world, averaging 28.2 points per game in his rookie season, and he was awarded the rookie of the year award and was named an All Star as well. Interestingly enough, the rise of Jordan as an All Star in his rookie season (as a star at that) didn't rub other players the right way for whatever reason and some attempted to not pass the ball to him during the All Star Game. This didn't affect Jordan or his progress however, as he led the Bulls to the playoffs, before they took an eventual first round loss to the Bucks.

Long before Jordan was the champion of basketball and known as the greatest, in his earlier years, he was a human highlight reel. His ability to soar during dunks, his scoring, his offense, he was just all around fun to watch. A one of a kind player. While many always discuss the titles and accolades, Jordan had his 2nd season cut short due to a broken foot injury. He would return however in the playoffs, as the Bulls barely made it, and although they were swept by the Celtics, Jordan put on one of his greatest performances in a playoff game, scoring 63 points in game 2. Jordan hadn't figured out how to win yet, but his dominance and will to amaze was still earning him highlights and attention in the media. It would be the following season, where he became the true dominant force in basketball.

The 1986-87 season was where Jordan officially became the most special player we had ever seen, I believe. He would finish that season with an astounding 37.1 PPG average and he recorded an amazing 200 steals and 100 blocks, which showcased his defensive prowess. Jordan was growing into the player he needed to be in order to dominate the league and after winning his first scoring title, he would never relinquish that until his first retirement, a feat that is beyond what most top tier players or legends can complete. Despite all of his great play that year, Magic Johnson got the MVP award and the Bulls were once again swept by the Celtics in the playoffs. Jordan knew he had to get beyond the Celtics and get over that playoff hump and his desire to be the best motivated him to finally garner a MVP award.

He would get that MVP the following season, with another remarkable year, putting up 35 points a game, 1.6 blocks per game, and 3.1 steals per game. He would of course win his second straight scoring title and also take the Defensive Player of the Year award, showing that he was not only a magical scorer, but also a well rounded player on defense. The Bulls finished with a better record and finally made it out of the first round of the playoffs, but they ran into a giant wall that would plague Jordan during these years: the Bad Boys of the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons beat Jordan and the Bulls in 5 games and would become the force to subdue Jordan from reaching his goal for a few years. Though the next season once again saw Jordan win a scoring title on 32.5 PPG along with 8 assists and 8 rebounds per game, he would get a small taste of what it was like to almost reach greatness as the Pistons beat the Bulls in the Conference Finals, keeping Jordan out of the Finals yet another year. Regardless of the loss to the Pistons, Jordan made history with his game winning shot in the first round of the playoffs against the Cavs. It was a great moment and likely a top 3 moment in Jordan's career. However, it all meant little to him because he couldn't figure out the Detroit problem. The Pistons knew however that one day Jordan would have their number. Jordan set out to make sure the next season was the one.

With Phil Jackson now as his coach, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant improving, and his leader role being increased some, Jordan would lead his team to a 55-27 record and into the playoffs on the strength of his 33.6 PPG, with 6.9 RPG and 6.3 ASG showing that year. The Pistons would have Jordan's number yet again this year, but the series was much closer than before. It went a full 7 games and Jordan took the Pistons to the limit. It looked as if Jordan may have finally figured out his Detroit problem, even in a losing effort. After two consecutive losses in the Conference Finals to the Pistons and being locked down by the team, Jordan had found a formula and allowed his dominance to grow yet again. For a man who was averaging 30 points a game for multiple seasons, had a MVP award, a multiple time All Star and All NBA First Team, a 2 time NBA Slam Dunk contest winner, a NBA steals champion, a NCAA champion, ACC player of the year, defensive player of the year in NBA, the one thing that had not come to Jordan was the elusive NBA title. With all his accolades through college and his first 6 seasons in the league, Jordan was a surefire hall of Famer and already seen as possibly one of the greatest. The only thing that could enhance his legacy was even more accolades and a title.

The next season, Jordan would deliver, gaining his 2nd MVP award and leading the Bulls to a 61-21 record to push forward into the playoffs. Another scoring title for Jordan as he averaged 31.5 PPG and was even named Athlete of the Year for his season. After defeating the Knicks and 76ers in the first two rounds, Jordan found himself in a familiar place: the Conference Finals against the Pistons. This time, he got rid of the demons from the past 3 seasons as he and the Bulls swept the Pistons to earn a trip to the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest is history. The Bulls dominated the Lakers in 5 games and Jordan won his first Finals MVP Award. He had a great season and finally got that elusive title. At this point, Jordan was a made man in basketball and the most popular athlete in the world. What followed the next season was yet another display of why he was the greatest.

Before we get to the 1991-1992 season, I think it's necessary to mention the 92 Dream Team. Jordan would win a gold medal with what is truly the greatest team ever assembled and it is an accolade that not only solidified his greatness even more to be a part of that team, but also would cement him as one of the best ever. Now, onto the next season.

The 1991-1992 season saw Jordan win his second consecutive MVP award and his 3rd overall, with yet another scoring title on 30.1 PPG and the Bulls racked up a remarkable 67-15 record to head into the playoffs with home court advantage. After tough series with the Knicks and the 76ers, the Bulls would face the challenge of the team that passed on drafting him, the Blazers and their star guard Drexler. In the first game, Jordan would put up 35 points in the first half and drain a ton of three pointers, leading his team to win in game 1. The Bulls would defeat the Blazers in 6 games giving them back to back championships, and Jordan collected his 2nd Finals MVP award in a row, with an amazing 35.8 PPG in the Finals. Jordan was in his zone and during this time, the Bulls seemed primed to eventually fizzle out after winning back to back titles. With his name etched in history already, Jordan decided to make it even greater, and led his team to a third straight title the following season. Despite not winning the MVP award that year (he was a strong contender with 32.6 PPG, but it went to Charles Barkley), he led his team back to the playoffs and to the Finals again, against the league MVP Barkley and his Phoenix Suns. The so called "team of destiny" couldn't handle Jordan and the Bulls defeated the Suns in 6 games to win title no. 3 and completing the grand 3-Peat as Jordan got his 3rd straight Finals MVP award. Unfortunately, tragedy would strike Jordan in the midst of celebration, as his father would be murdered and Jordan took time to reevaluate his life and career. After winning 3 straight titles, Jordan retired from basketball and many already felt he was the greatest player we had ever seen. He had nothing left to really accomplish and he walked away on top.

Jordan would go into baseball on a minor league level, but he could never really get it right. Though he had nothing left to prove in basketball, he would make a comeback to the NBA and would return in the end of the 1994-1995 season with the number 45. He helped the Bulls get on track and make the playoffs, but they would end up losing to the Orlando Magic and the buzz began to stir. There was doubt for the first time in many years. Was Jordan still the same player we loved? Could he will the Bulls back to a championship or were those days gone now? Jordan would go back to his famed 23 number and ditch the 45 and he set out to restore the glory of his team. The Bulls were still good without Michael, they just weren't the dominant force they had been in the previous years, but with Michael back from retirement and a solid depth on the team, the 1995-1996 season proved to be something special.

The 1995-1996 Bulls stand in history as the greatest team of all time. While they currently have the Warriors challenging their record this year, make no mistake about it, the Bulls still hold that spot. They went 72-10, Jordan won his 4th MVP award, another scoring title, lead them to the playoffs, won the All Star MVP award and ended up once again back in the winner's circle. The Bulls would win their 4th title over the Sonics and Jordan was back in championship form as he won his 4th Finals MVP award. After going 72-10, how do you follow that? By going 69-13, and winning another title. Jordan led the Bulls to another great season, though he didn't win MVP this year (Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz did), he won another scoring title, and reminiscent of the 93 Finals, he would defeat the MVP and his team in the 97 Finals. The Bulls beat the Jazz in 6 games in the NBA Finals and Jordan would win his 5th Finals MVP Award, making another highlight reel for the infamous "Flu Game" in game 5 of the series. Jordan had come back from retirement, won 2 straight scoring titles, a MVP award, 2 Finals MVP awards, and another 2 titles. Could he cement his legacy and win another 3-Peat?

We know the answer to this question. It's why Jordan is the greatest of all time. He did what no one thought possible. The 1998 season saw Jordan win his 5th MVP Award, another scoring title, another All Star Game MVP and another trip to the Finals in a rematch against the Jazz. The Bulls were down 86-85 and in a moment of poetic justice, Jordan hits the game winning shot as the Bulls end up winning game 6 and the NBA Finals for another 3-Peat. It was a perfect end and there was a lot of talk that Jordan was going to end up retiring after that season and he did. After another MVP Award, his 6th Finals MVP, his 6th title, and tons of accolades, Jordan retired yet again from basketball as the greatest player to ever do it. He moved into a role as part owner of the Wizards and eventually the itch to play called him back to the game once more. It would be the first time Jordan played for a different team besides the Bulls.

Now, I've talked Jordan on the Wizards. I don't want to go too into details on this again, but Jordan on the Wizards was still a very viable player. He didn't move the same, but his shot still worked and he was still productive. When a 39 or 40 year old man can put up 24 points a game in a season average, you've got to acknowledge that this is something we've never seen before. Jordan played two seasons with the Wizards and if it wasn't for injuries and limited playing time, I believe that team could have cracked the playoffs and who knows what could have happened from there. Regardless, Jordan has a legacy as the greatest NBA player ever. It is a legacy that is without a doubt deserved. While he doesn't make the best decisions in the front office as the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Jordan as a player is untouchable. We may never see another player like this again. Michael Jordan is the GOAT.



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