When thinking of Michael Jordan’s time at UNC, one thought jumps to mind first: a skinny first-year guard donning the now-famed No. 23, catching a pass at his hips on the left wing from point guard Jimmy Black and knocking down a go-ahead jump shot in the waning seconds of the 1982 National Championship game.
It isn’t just that shot that defines Jordan today, though. After all, ESPN wouldn’t air a 10-part documentary focusing on an athlete whose career highlight came at 19 years old.
When Jordan entered the NBA, his six titles and seemingly superhuman basketball skills grew his legend to levels of international fame previously unreached by any American athlete, save for perhaps Muhammad Ali. His shoes sold in unthinkable numbers and still do, years after his retirement from the NBA — Jordan’s signature line racked in nearly $2.9 billion in 2018 alone.
Comparing players is a useless pursuit. We’ll never know what Jordan would have looked like in a modern game that relies on pacing, efficiency and the three ball more than any previous era. What is clear though, is that Michael Jordan's lasting impact on the culture surrounding UNC athletics is nothing short of remarkable.
The nature of sports, and collegiate sports in particular, leads fans to focus more on the institution rather than the individual player. Due to the limitations of four-year eligibility and the prehistoric rules against self-marketing for college athletes, players generally sink into a school's history books after they leave campus. For Jordan, this was not the case.