When UNC Tar Heels’ Michael Jordan Announced His Arrival During NCAA Tournament Finals 39 Years Ago Today

Published 03/29/2021, 10:31 PM EDT


Long before Michael Jordan became a legend with the Chicago Bulls, he had similar exploits in college. He played three seasons for the North Carolina Tar Heels, where he established himself as an upcoming star. But what was his defining moment as a Tar Heel?

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On this day, March 29, 39 years ago, in 1982, Jordan sealed his status as an NCAA legend. It was his freshman season, and the Tar Heels reached the final of the NCAA tournament. They were facing the Georgetown Hoyas, who had a formidable team consisting of Patrick Ewing and Sleepy Floyd with the legendary coach John Thompson.

The Tar Heels had a superb team as well, spearheaded by James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and Jordan. So naturally, it was a highly contested game. With less than a minute left, the Hoyas scored to give them a one-point lead.

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The Tar Heels dribbled out a few seconds and were cautious. Senior guard Jimmy Black found an open Jordan with a smart pass who immediately went for the shot. The freshman knew the season was on the line and buried the midrange shot. Although he had impressive performances all season, that was Jordan’s first tryst with the limelight.

Michael Jordan clutch shot followed by chaos ensures the win for the UNC Tar Heels

After Jordan sank his shot, the Tar Heels were up by one with less than 15 seconds left to go. They just had to defend one possession to go on to win the championship.

Hoyas’ Fred Brown brought the ball into the Tar Heels half-court and was aiming to find their star, Sleepy Floyd. Instead, he passed it straight to James Worthy, who then drained out the clock. He was fouled with just two seconds to go and was sent to the free-throw line.

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The chaos didn’t end there as Worthy missed both of his free throws. The Hoyas were given a final lifeline, but their full-court heave was unsuccessful. The Tar Heels held to their one-point lead to win the game 63-62 in one of the most thrilling NCAA tournament finals.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – MARCH 7: Former player Michael Jordan of the North Carolina Tar Heels is honored during a halftime ceremony during a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at the Dean Smith Center on March 7, 2007 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

In his just freshman season, Jordan wowed fans across the country and became a college hero as well with his game-winning shot. He stayed for two more seasons, but the 1982 championship was the only NCAA title he won during his college days. He then declared for the 1984 NBA Draft and began his journey towards greatness.

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Aaron Mathew

1666 articles

Aaron Mathew is a sports analyst at EssentiallySports. A graduate in Mass Media from Xavier’s College, Aaron has been a part of EssentiallySports since May 2020 where he covers both NBA and NCAA basketball news, and has also covered NBA 2K. In the past, Aaron has worked at the Sports Desk of Mumbai Mirror.

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