Basketball Michael Jordan icona 19-year-old University of North Carolina freshman guard, authored the first chapter of his legend with a thrilling shot to beat Georgetown in the NCAA Championship game on this day in history, March 29, 1982.
A sweet 16-foot jump off the left rim with 17 seconds left in the game lifted the Tar Heels to a 63-62 victory over the mighty Hoyas.
62,000 fans watched the show live at the Louisiana Superdome, while about 17 million viewers watched it on television.
Jordan was a largely unknown figure on the national stage up until that point.
His heroics from the hardwood propelled him down a path to greatness and, eventually, to a rare level of international stardom that extended far off the court and deep into broader pop culture.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame wrote of a player widely considered to be the greatest player in the history of the sport: “Michael Jordan embodied greatness on the court, and redefined a sporting superstar.”
He capped off his freshman season at UNC by hitting Jordan for the game-winning game in 1982 NCAA national title game. That shot put Michael on the map and a new era was born.”
The match culminated in a turn that announcer Brent Musburger called “March madIn front of a national audience for the first time in 1982.
“That shot put Michael on the map and a new era was born.” Basketball Hall of Fame
Jordan wasn’t the only basketball legend in the spotlight Historic North Carolina victory.
North Carolina native Jordan and future Basketball Hall of Famer James Worthy pulled off the win with a steal in the final seconds. They outlasted a strong Georgetown team led by another freshman phenomenon, as well as Hall of Famer-in-waiting, Patrick Ewing.
The victory sealed legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith after a stellar run that was missing an important piece of equipment.
“He led the United States to a gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics. He was a four-finalist. He led the charge of desegregating sports at North Carolina, and signed Charlie Scott as the first black scholarship athlete at UNC in 1967,” he said. Jason Owens wrote for Yahoo! sports in 2020.
“He was a giant of the game, one of its great masters who commanded the respect of his peers and those outside the basketball world. He had it all. Everything but a national championship.”
North Carolina, one of the leading programs in NCAA men’s basketball history, has been propelled into a new era of success in the wake of Jordan’s vault.
The Tar Heels added four more national titles in 1993, 2005, 2008, and 2017.
Jordan was selected as the No. 3 overall by Chicago Bulls from the NBA after his freshman year in 1984.
Go on to a professional career unparalleled in combining statistical achievement, team success, and personal stardom.
Jordan has been 14 times NBA All Stars And the scoring champion 10 times in his 15 seasons.
He led the Bulls to six NBA championships, and won the Finals MVP award six times.
“Jordan has gone on to a career unparalleled in his combination of statistical accomplishments, team success and personal stardom.”
He also won two Olympic gold medals representing the United States in men’s basketball, in 1984 and again as part of the legendary 1992 “Dream Team.”
He was joined by Ewing, the Georgetown superstar who lost to the Jordanian Tar Heel in the 1982 NCAA Final, over both American Olympic champions.
Jordan’s fame was fueled not only by his dominance on the court, but by his famous ballet ability to slide and leap past opponents with gravity-defying ease.
His incredible acrobatics were evident while winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contests in 1987 and 1988, which cemented his fame among casual sports fans.
This exceptional sport inspired his nickname Air Jordan.
Nike introduced the Air Jordan sneaker in April 1985, near the end of Jordan’s rookie season with the Bulls.
“Nike expected to sell just 100,000 pairs of the $65 shoes in the first year,” sports website The Ringer said. Instead, it shipped 1.5 million in the first six weeks.
“Nike expected to sell only 100,000 pairs of the $65 Air Jordans the first year. Instead, they shipped 1.5 million in the first six weeks.” – Ringer
Sneakers are still a popular fashion statement today – early models are coveted expensive auction items the world over.
Jordan proved to be at the forefront of a new era in international sports marketing where success on the field or on the field blended seamlessly with brand image and consumer product marketing.
He parlayed his talent for basketball into a large business empire, including current ownership of an NBA franchise Charlotte Hornets.
The Basketball Hall of Fame said, “The court was his and the world soon followed.”
“His unmistakable style—his wobbly tongue, baggy shorts, and signature line of sneakers—helped make the 14-time All Star the most recognizable person on the planet.”