14 Things You Didn’t Know About Michael Jordan

  • 1. MJ wasn't cut in high school

    One of the favorite fables of Michael Jordan’s beginnings is the tale of him being cut from the high school team when he was a sophomore at Laney High School. He wasn’t exactly cut, but his coach Clifton “Pop” Herring chose another sophomore who happened to be 6-7 at the time. Mike, who was a 5-10 guard at the time, went on to star on the junior varsity and average nearly 27 points per game. He had a pretty decent career in basketball after that, too.

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    2. MJ quit his high school job

    When Michael was 15, his mom got him a summer job as a hotel maintenance man. He had to do things like cleaning the pool and such. That didn’t last long. His Airness soon quit (against his mom’s wishes). He also got suspended from school three times when he was in ninth grade: once for leaving school grounds, another time for cursing at a teacher, and the last time for knocking a guy out. Mike was about that action — word to Marshawn Lynch.

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  • 3. Someone lied to get MJ into Five-Star

    His HS coach, Pop Herring, indeed knew what he had in Michael. At least in terms of raw talent. He’d work with MJ in early 6 a.m. shooting and drill sessions before school and Mike had a terrific junior year. Herring figured he had to get Jordan’s name out there, so he lied to get him into the famed Five-Star Basketball camp before the summer of his senior year. Herring told his camp connect that Jordan put up 35 points, 20 rebounds and eight assists per night. No max preps back then means inflated numbers.

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  • 4. MJ's coming-out party

    The stats that got Jordan into Five-Star might have been “slightly” off, but he still managed to be a standout once at the camp. While there, he won five trophies the first week and earned an invite to the last session. During that second week he competed against the likes of Chris Mullin and Pat Ewing and held his own.

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  • 5. James Jordan's career advice

    Before Jordan had a big breakout rising senior summer, his parents wanted him to study to be a mechanic. His dad’s advice: If you can work with your hands, you’ll always have a good job. Obviously Michael had other ideas.

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  • 6. MJ choose UNC because he wanted a challenge

    Jordan chose UNC because he wanted the challenge. Under the tutelage of the legendary Dean Smith, he went on to average 17 points and five rebounds per game in three years at Chapel Hill. Even though he says Smith’s system kept him on a leash, MJ still managed to put a career-high of 39 points against Georgia Tech in his junior year.

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  • 7. MJ became a star in his third NBA game

    Jordan always had confidence in his game and competed like no other. However, even he had a turning point. In the third game of his rookie season against the Milwaukee Bucks, with Chicago down nine headed into the fourth quarter, MJ brought the Bulls back, scoring 37 points, dishing five assists, and grabbing four boards. Jordan points to this game as when he felt he became the leader of the Bulls and “no game was over as long as (he) was on the court.”

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    8. Nike and MJ were nervous about his first sneaker

    Both Nike and MJ were nervous about his first deal. As the story goes, Jordan was more interested in adidas or Converse at the time. Nike believed in Mike but was a little scared about making an “individual” out of a player from a team sport. That balance had yet to be mastered. Jordan’s first deal with Nike was a five-year contract that had several clauses for both sides. For instance, Nike had the right to stop making new Jordans if he didn’t meet a few performance categories (average 20 points a game, make an All-Star team in his first three years, things like that). They would have still paid him for the duration of the contract, but discontinued new kicks. On the flip, if Jordan sold $3 million or more by the end of the third year, then even if he didn’t hit those requirements, Nike had to keep making new shoes. Things turned out pretty well for both parties in the end, right?

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  • 9. MJ thought his first Jordans were a competitive advantage

    Michael really didn’t like his first shoe — the Air Jordan 1 — at first. However, it was his competitiveness that changed his mind on them. He noticed players kept paying attention to his shoes when he was on the court and he figured that he was distracting them. So for Jordan, who was always looking for a one-up on a competitor, if his kicks made players lose focus, even if just for that split second, they were worth it. It was the same advice he’d later share with the Jordan Brand’s Chris Paul about choosing color schemes on his kicks.

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    10. MJ helped design the Air Jordan 3

    Tinker Hatfield and Michael Jordan had only met twice before Tinker started his design work on the AJ III (a project that was thrown at him because Peter Moore, designer of the AJ 1 and AJ II, left Nike). Tinker says it was Mike’s idea to give the III a mid-design so that the shoes would play lighter, but still be more stable than a low-top. Hatfield was impressed and inspired by Mike’s input and knew he had to come with the goods. Now here we are in 2014 and the IIIs are so popular that Jordan Brand has had to discontinue new production of them to give other shoes — even retros — some more shine.

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    11. MJ got advice from Warren Buffett

    Who do you turn to for advice when you’re Michael Jordan? How about guys like Warren Buffett? Early in Mike’s career, he met with Buffett on one of his boats while on a business trip in Nebraska. During the encounter, Jordan asked him for advice on making big business decisions. So what did the richest man in the world (at the time) tell a young MJ? “Whatever my gut tells me, that’s what I do.”

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  • 12. Jordan had 49 points wearing No. 12

    Everyone knows the story about Jordan and the Bulls being on the road against the Orlando Magic on Valentine’s Day in 1990, and someone stealing his number 23. Jordan had to wear No. 12 that day. But do you know how much he scored? He had 49 points in a loss. He battled it out with two-time All-Star Reggie Theus, who had 28 points and eight assists that night.

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  • 13. MJ was always underpaid

    Even though Jordan is currently a billionaire, his NBA earnings were never that high before the 1997 season. He famously took those $30 million and $33 million deals respectively in ’97 and 1998, but he never made more than $4 million in one season before that. MJ’s total NBA earnings amount to $93 million.

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  • 14. How MJ and Steve Kerr became close friends

    There are tons of stories of Michael losing it in practice, mainly because he was just so intense and wanted to compete to the max. One time during training camp, he and then teammate Steve Kerr got into an argument and Jordan gave Kerr a five-finger sandwich to the grill. Kerr admits he has no idea what the dispute was over — it was nearly 20 years ago now — but he knew he had to stand up to Mike. After he did that, they became better friends because MJ respected him more. Earned not given, indeed.

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The Air Jordan 14 “Ferrari” is aptly named considering the shoe’s design is modeled after Michael Jordan’s favorite whip at the time. But you already knew that, right? Wait, you didn’t? That’s pretty funny, considering his sneaker line birthed much of the modern day sneaker culture.

Everything MJ, from his favorite past times to why he stuck his tongue out to how his sneakers changed the game, has been discussed since he last wore that Chi-town two-three. His impact is understood. His fans’ loyalty is unwavering. Even in his true blue Washington Wizards days, the public couldn’t get enough info about the man who walked on (Nike) air. From books to shoes, to television specials to clothes, to even underwear, the man is an icon even at 51 years old. He hasn’t won a title since 1998 — his final year in Chicago — and yet his shadow dwarfs all else in professional sports. Everyone in basketball, from LeBron to Kobe to Kevin Durant, has to stand up to his shadow. That’s unfortunate, too, because they’ll probably never be able to match it.

This weekend, the thirst will be real. Sneakerheads and culture junkies will line up hours in advance for a shot at the latest retro release, one that’s been in the making for over a decade. With the “Ferrari” Air Jordan 14 set to drop this Saturday at Champs Sports, we decided to test your Jordan knowledge well beyond that of a hypebeast. Was MJ really “overlooked” as a sophomore in high school? What profession did his dad encourage him to go into? How did he get invited to Five-Star Basketball camp?

Read along to find out. Here are 14 Things You Didn’t Know About Michael Jordan.

Follow Terrence on Twitter at @LowerEastScribe