Michael Jordan First Hit The Court With The Chicago Bulls 30 Years Ago Today
Tomorrow night the NBA will tip-off, marking it’s 69th season. However, it was almost thirty years ago to the day on October 26, when a Brooklyn-born, North Carolina-raised 21-year old exchanged his powder blue Tar Heels uniform for the red and white jersey of the Chicago Bulls to play in his first NBA game against the Washington Bullets. It was on that night that many, including Sports Illustrated, would go on to say, “A Star Is Born,” and the career of Michael Jordan and his infamous number 23 began.
“MJ,” as he was known for a majority of his career and beyond, was a spectacle on the court. In his first season, Michael averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists, made the All-Star team, and won Rookie of the Year honors. Jordan and the Bulls would lose in the playoffs to the Milwaukee Bucks in 4 games, but that’s just year one.
It took a few seasons, some roster changes, and an upgrade with “The Zen Master” Head Coach Phil Jackson, but Michael Jordan would eventually lead the Chicago Bulls and a menagerie of players to 6 NBA Championships throughout the 1990’s and emblazon himself as one of, if not the, greatest basketball player of all time. His career arc was not only pivotal in changing the course of NBA history in terms of wins, championships, and larger than life statistics, but in transforming the NBA into the multi-billion dollar powerhouse that it is today.
From sneaker deals to jersey sales, commercials to full fledged movie deals, Michael Jordan also helped pave the way for professional athletes (and later artists) to combine their names with powerful companies and even transform their name into a brand all on it’s own. Reinventing the success of the iconic Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers, Michael Jordan’s self promotional strategies started quickly in his first NBA season with Nike and his Air Jordan 1 series. With the birth of the Jordan brand and his jumping silhouette, MJ’s tactics were quickly adopted by the Hip-Hop culture in later years, a la Run DMC’s “My Adidas,” and eventually blossomed into the name brand acquisitions and the multi-million dollar contracts we witness artists and athletes alike signing in today’s world. Do you think it would be possible for Kanye West’s Air Yeezy’s to be successful without the dawn of the Air Jordan? Most likely not.
Michael Jordan’s legacy in basketball has been adopted by and compared within the Hip-Hop culture in ways that far exceed the reach of a pair of sneakers. In a genre full of the same tenacity and braggadocio that MJ brought to the court, MC’s across the generations have used the G.O.A.T.’s name in their lyrics to intimidate opponents and to describe their own status in the rap game. Even Jordan’s own vices as a high rolling gambler can be compared to some of the same rappers who lived and rapped about their own, similarly lavish lifestyles and used the All-Star’s name to bolster their own.
Despite the plethora of talent that the NBA has gifted viewers throughout its nearly 70 years in existence, it’s easily arguable that no other name in the NBA (or sports period) has had the same stranglehold of power and worldwide reach to leak outside the realm of sports and permeate the genre of Hip-Hop the way Michael Jordan has. His legacy as a basketball player may even be second to his status as a cultural icon and today, Hip-Hop continues to blend his story of success and prosperity into the eyes and ears of millions.
Will there ever be another MJ? The answer still remains to be seen…
Be sure to catch MJ’s interview with Darren Rovell tonight after Monday Night Football on ESPN.