Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Dominic. Dominic Wonders, “who is Michael Jordan?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Dominic!

If you had to name the world’s greatest athlete, who would you choose? Would you think of Usain Bolt? Serena Williams? Muhammad Ali? For many, one famous basketball player would top the list. Who? Michael Jordan!

Maybe you know him better as Air Jordan. But before he earned that nickname, Michael Jordan was just a kid. He was born in New York but grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was always competitive and learned to play baseball before starting to play the sport he would become famous for—basketball.

However, Jordan wasn’t always the basketball star he became. In fact, in his sophomore year of high school, he didn’t make the varsity basketball team. The coach put Jordan on junior varsity (JV), which greatly disappointed the young athlete. Still, Jordan had a great year as a player on the JV team. He proved his competitive spirit and work ethic. Jordan had an unmatched drive to improve and win, which helped him make the varsity team his junior year.

As a student athlete at the University of North Carolina, Jordan was named the NCAA College Player of the Year twice, in 1983 and 1984. His team also won the NCAA Division I championship while he was there. Jordan also helped the U.S. Olympic basketball team bring home the gold in 1984. He would do so again in 1992.

After his junior year in college, Jordan entered the National Basketball Association (NBA). He joined the Chicago Bulls in 1984. Still, he valued education. He also completed his bachelor’s degree in geography in 1985.

In his first year in the NBA, Jordan donned the red #23 jersey and scored an average of 28.2 points per game. He was named Rookie of the Year and played in the League’s All-Star Game. Of course, Jordan didn’t stop there. The Bulls won NBA championships in 1991, 1992, and 1993 (a threepeat!) with him on the team. To this day, the Bulls are one of only three teams in the NBA to win the championship three years in a row.

In 1993, Jordan announced his retirement from basketball—the first one, at least. His father was tragically killed, and Jordan wanted to go back to the first sport the two of them had first bonded over. He swapped his Bulls jersey for a minor league baseball uniform. Michael Jordan spent one year as an outfielder for the Birmingham Barons. 

Jordan’s baseball career was short and not very impressive. It was a humbling experience for the star. Jordan took this as an opportunity for growth and returned to the NBA in 1995. There, he led the Bulls to championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998—another threepeat! Then, he retired from the sport again.

Still, Jordan stayed involved in basketball. He became part owner of the Washington Wizards in 2000. He even came back out of retirement in 2001 to play two seasons for the Wizards. Finally, he retired from basketball a final time in 2003.

Was that it for Air Jordan? Not at all! He’s still involved with the NBA as an owner of the Charlotte Hornets. He also continues to partner with Nike and hosted a charity golf tournament from 2001 until 2014. And, of course, he starred in the 1996 film “Space Jam.” 

Michael Jordan is best known as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. But, as you can see, his career has taken many twists and turns! Countless people have been inspired by his constant drive to grow and desire to win. Jordan’s experiences go to show that you can be successful in more than one way if you work hard enough.

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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