How Good Was Michael Jordan In College and Why Was He Only The Third Pick of The Draft?

Published 02/14/2021, 11:46 PM EST
Chicago Bulls All-Star forward # 23 Michael Jordan file photos. (Photo by Tom Berg/WireImage)


Michael Jordan was arguably one of the best players the game of basketball had ever seen. Never had the game been dominated by such a guard like Jordan did. At 6’6 he could block shots, score at will, and was a defensive nightmare for opponents.

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MJ single-handedly transformed the fortunes of the Chicago Bulls’ franchise, making them one of the best teams NBA has ever seen. But was the G.O.A.T this good in his college?

Michael Jordan’s College Career at the North Carolina Tar Heels

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Jordan was a good player in college basketball, but not anywhere near his G.O.A.T status. He started his NCAA career with North Carolina in 1982 and played 34 games in the first season.

The then 19-year-old had a decent performance in his first season and showed glimpses of his all-round talent. As a freshman, MJ scored 13.5 points and had 4.4 rebounds. But his highlight game was in the NCAA finals when North Carolina faced off against Patrick Ewing led Georgetown.

With Georgetown leading the game 62-61, the Tar Heels had the possession with 32 seconds remaining. With 15 seconds remaining NC’s guard Jimmy Black passed the ball to the freshman Jordan, who burried a jumper to give the lead to North Carolina. Georgetown couldn’t score again, and the Tar Heels were crowned as the NCAA champions.

In the next two seasons, however, Jordan was showing promise of being a generational scorer. As a sophomore, he led the Tar Heels in points as he averaged 20 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

His last two seasons truly made him an elite prospect for the 1984 draft.

Why was Michael Jordan only the third pick in the 1984 NBA draft?

Despite having a great career with the Tar Heels, Michael Jordan was not touted as a favorite for being the number one pick of the draft. Much of it was due to the era in which basketball was in.

Multiple centers like Moses Malone or Kareem Abdul Jabbar dominated NBA in the early 80s. The Houston Rockets who had the number one pick were clearly looking for a dominant center, and Hakeem Olajuwon was the answer. The Nigerian dominated with the Houston Cougars and averaged 16.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 5.6 blocks per game in his junior year.

Olajuwon ended up being one of the best centers the league had ever seen as he won two NBA championships and had 12-All Star appearances. The second pick by Portland, however, was a head scratcher for everyone.

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Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls during the 1997 McDonald’s Championship. (Photo by Dimitri Iundt/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

The Trail Blazers were also interested in the following the same path as the Rockets. With the second overall pick, the Blazers picked Sam Bowie from Kentucky. Bowie had averaged 13.4 points and 3.8 rebounds a game in his three-year career at Kentucky.

Bowie turned out to be one of the biggest busts. Much of it was due to the multiple recurring injuries he suffered in his career. Bowie later even agreed that he had lied to the Blazers about his injury record.

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6 NBA titles and 5 MVP trophies later, there is no doubt who the consensus number one pick should have been in the 1984 draft.

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Aditya Mohapatra

733 articles

Aditya Mohapatra is a sports enthusiast who primarily covers the NBA for EssentiallySports. Having graduated in Mass Communication, he has prior experience in writing for ABP News, and has been writing for EssentiallySports since November 2020. This die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan feels that LeBron James is the best thing to have ever happened to the NBA, and will hold a healthy debate with anyone suggesting otherwise.

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