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How Wilmington Played A Part In The Life Of MJ

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Dec 14, 2023
World-famous basketball player Michael Jordan called Wilmington home at an early age. Now, his family has plans to bring a museum to Wilmington's downtown. (File photo)
World-famous basketball player Michael Jordan called Wilmington home at an early age.
 
In 1968, when Michael Jordan was 5 years old, his family moved from Brooklyn, New York, where Jordan was born, to settle in the Port City.
 
Jordan’s father, James, and mother, Deloris, had five children: Michael, his brothers James “Ronnie” Jr. and Larry, and sisters Deloris and Roslyn.
 
James Jordan Sr. worked at General Electric as a maintenance worker and then manager, while Deloris was a bank teller.
 
Jordan attended Laney High School on North College Road in Wilmington, playing several sports throughout his four years. His father encouraged his athletics, introducing him to baseball and building a basketball court in the family’s backyard. Jordan played high school football, baseball and basketball.
 
In 1993, Jordan’s father, James Jordan Sr., was murdered in Robeson County. Two men, teenagers at the time, were convicted for the murder and are currently serving life sentences at separate North Carolina prisons.
 
In an often-told origin story, Jordan did not qualify for the Laney High varsity basketball team his sophomore year. In a Newsweek article, Jordan said the rejection inspired him to work harder. The next year, in 1979, Jordan had grown four inches and made the varsity team, according to Newsweek. He was named a McDonald’s All-American athlete in his senior year of high school, and several collegiate basketball teams recruited him.
 
The young athlete chose to continue his basketball career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Under coach Dean Smith’s stewardship, Jordan cut his teeth in the sports industry, receiving national attention for his achievements and winning the NCAA championship. After being drafted in 1984 by the Chicago Bulls, he continued his domination of the sport, earning NBA Rookie of the Year and leading the Bulls to an NBA championship.
 
In 1984, Jordan competed with the U.S. Olympic basketball team, earning a gold medal. He also participated in the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball Dream Team, the first time professional basketball players were included on the Olympic team. 
 
Jordan played professional basketball for 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls, winning six NBA titles, and played two seasons with the Washington Wizards. He also retired three times during his professional basketball career, twice to pursue baseball, before his final retirement in 2003.
 
One of few athletes with a name brand, Jordan’s 1984 deal with Nike to create the famous Air Jordan sneakers continued to cement his name in popular culture.
 
He’s owned the majority stake in several professional basketball teams, including the Washington Wizards in 2000 and the Charlotte Hornets, which he sold his majority stake in this summer.
 
Jordan’s public statements about growing up in Wilmington have not always been positive. He spoke candidly with the Chicago Tribune in 1992 about an incident he experienced in ninth grade when a classmate called him a racial slur.
 
But since then, he’s contributed time and funds to the community. For example, Jordan made several returns to the city after notable hurricanes to provide aid, namely Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and Florence in 2018.
 
In 2021, Jordan donated $10 million to Novant Health to establish two medical clinics in the Wilmington area. The donation was part of a partnership started in 2017 between Jordan and the healthcare system to increase access to healthcare for underinsured communities.
 
As a result, two Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinics in Wilmington are in the works. The first is under construction at the corner of Greenfield and 15th streets.
 
“Wilmington holds a special place in my heart,” Jordan said in a release about his clinic donation, “and it’s truly gratifying to be able to give back to the community that supported me throughout my life.”
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