Michael Jordan is often hailed as the greatest basketball player of all time. While his basketball accolades are well-known, his influence extends far beyond the court. With his Brand Jordan collaboration with Nike reaching staggering heights, he has become a global sports icon.
In a candid interview with Cigar Aficionado’s Marvin R. Shanken, the six-time NBA champion shared his thoughts on high school players entering the NBA directly. His opinions, though from 2005, remain relevant today as they shed light on the impact of LeBron James’ early entry into the league.
When asked about his fondest basketball memories, Jordan fondly reminisced about his time with the North Carolina Tar Heels. It was here, in college, that he first gained recognition. As he candidly put it, “No one knew me until then.”
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The University of North Carolina provided the foundation for his basketball career, far from the media spotlight. Reflecting on his decision to leave college early, Jordan admitted that he did have some regrets about missing his senior year.
His time at college was filled with new experiences, friendships, and excitement. However, it was his college coach, Dean Smith, who played a pivotal role in his decision to enter the NBA early.
Michael Jordan felt high school players shouldn’t have been allowed to enter the NBA directly
Discussing his return to North Carolina for the NCAA championship, Jordan expressed his satisfaction at seeing the tradition and camaraderie still intact. He noted that his heart remained with Carolina, despite Illinois playing in the finals during his visit.
The conversation then shifted to high school players making the jump directly to the NBA, a topic Jordan feels passionately about. Jordan mentioned that he firmly stands by the perspective that high school kids should not be allowed to do so.
Jordan said, “That’s exactly what I’m saying. I’m a firm believer in that. You can argue a lot of different situations, from social to financial. Maybe there has to be some type of arrangements, or agreement between the NCAA and the NBA, for those kids who are not financially stable. For them, there will always be pressure for going to the pros, to take care of their families.”
Furthermore, he emphasized that various scenarios, including social and financial factors, need consideration. Jordan also suggested the possibility of establishing some form of understanding or agreement between the NCAA and the NBA, especially to assist young athletes who may not be financially stable.
He acknowledged that LeBron James had an exceptional start to his NBA career. “You’re talking about one player, LeBron James, who’s been very successful in his first two years,” Jordan stated. He continued, “Kobe [Bryant], Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal—all those guys took at least three years before they adapted to what they had to do as professional basketball players.”
His Airness emphasized that LeBron was the exception, not the rule. He pointed out that players like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and Jermaine O’Neal took at least three years to adapt to professional basketball.
Jordan strongly believes that players should spend at least two years in college before joining the NBA. College not only facilitates maturity but also imparts valuable life skills. It provides an environment where players can develop not only as athletes but as individuals.