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Et tu, Jordan?
Well, he's great, too. Former NBA Guard Jeff Mullins says, "The prevailing opinion always has been that Oscar Robertson and Jerry West are the two alltime best guards. But we may have to change that view because of Jordan."
Rarely has a player become so terrific so quickly. As a Laney sophomore, Jordan was a skinny 6'1" jayvee. Even after his junior year he did not rate a spot on a list of the top 500 high school players. But as a Carolina freshman he sank the 17-footer in New Orleans that beat Georgetown to win the NCAAs, and by now he's all-globe. If Perkins is Perry Como, who is Jordan? Sting?
The UNC recruiters got to Jordan early—they thought he looked like "an average ACC player"—so as to counter the attentions of, among others, South Carolina, which entertained Jordan at the governor's mansion in Columbia. As it turned out, the Carolina coaches had some convincing to do. "Growing up, I hated North Carolina," Jordan says. "I was a State fan; David Thompson was the man. My mom liked Phil Ford, but I couldn't stand him or any of them Carolina guys. I rooted for Marquette in the '77 championship game. My mom got mad." But after visiting Chapel Hill with Project Uplift, a minority student program, Jordan was hooked. "The coaches didn't know I was here. I saw this place as a student, not as a recruit," he says.
Smith felt Jordan's rookie season—13.5 points and 4.4 rebounds a game, a 53.4 field-goal percentage—was "inconsistent," especially defensively. Consequently, prominent on Jordan's "Christmas list" of items to work on in the off-season was defense. The result was that in his sophomore year Jordan won Carolina's defensive player of the game award in 13 games. He also accumulated a team-leading 110 personal fouls and fouled out of four games, all of which Carolina lost.
Scoring has never been a problem. After he made 23 of 37 shots and scored 64 points in two games against Duke last season, Blue Devil Guard Johnny Dawkins said: "Jordan goes all out. Not just physically, like he used to, but now he out-thinks you. Back door here. Lob to me here. Good defensive play there. Of all the players he's the most impressive." Then there was the time Jordan leaped completely over the head of N.C. State's Sidney Lowe. And the time Jordan made his famous "demoralizer dunk" against Georgia Tech, when he took off from the foul line, cupped the ball—"I thought I was watching Superman," said Tech Center Tim Harvey—roared by the rim after a fake front slam, then crushed home an afterthought sidewinder. And the time...
"This kid takes it to the hole as hard as anybody ever has," says Hartman. "Sometimes I felt cheated coaching him. Michael created so many incredible moves I wanted to see them all again on instant replay. But I couldn't because I was there, live."
Alas, though Jordan's shooting percentage remained static last season—53.5% along with 20 points and 5.5 rebounds per game—his outside shooting fell off. "I think the three-pointer altered my thinking," he says. "I was pressing, trying to hit too many long ones. [Jordan's three-point percentage was 44.7, fourth among the five Carolina guards.] Plus, my arc got higher and higher. I think the winning shot in '82 went to my head or something. I must have watched it on film 30 times. That thing was a rainbow. Wow."
Wow, yourself. All summer Jordan worked on his shooting and ball handling—Smith says, "It would be fun to see Michael be a point guard in the pros"—and on his jab-step fake, a move so quick it fools referees into whistling him for traveling. More late-breaking news: Gaps have been discovered in Jordan's knees, which means he hasn't stopped growing.
Before Perkins and Jordan graduate—and both are on schedule, credit-wise, Perkins in communications (he has publicly campaigned for Al McGuire's job), Jordan in geography—the two may concoct some more Tar Heel history. Perkins needs only to maintain his average annual numbers to finish as the school's best rebounder, surpassing the likes of Billy Cunningham and Mitch Kupchak, and second-best scorer, trailing Phil Ford. Of course, if Jordan keeps his scoring average, he would pass Perkins and Ford to be No. 1.