did michael jordan get a scholarship to north carolina?

did michael jordan get a scholarship to north carolina

Michael Jordan is a name that needs no introduction. He is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, with a career that spanned over two decades and left an indelible mark on the sport. But before he became a household name and a global icon, Jordan was just a young boy with a dream of playing basketball at the highest level. And that dream started to take shape when he received a scholarship to play for the University of North Carolina (UNC). However, there have been debates and speculations over the years about whether Jordan actually received a scholarship to UNC or not. In this article, we will delve into the facts and uncover the truth behind this intriguing question.

The Early Years of Michael Jordan

Michael Jeffrey Jordan was born on February 17, 1963, in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he developed a love for basketball at a young age. Jordan’s father, James, was an equipment supervisor at UNC, and his mother, Deloris, worked in a bank. Jordan had four siblings, and he was the fourth child in the family.

As a child, Jordan played multiple sports, including baseball, football, and basketball. However, it was basketball that captured his heart, and he spent countless hours practicing and perfecting his skills. Jordan attended Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, where he played for the school’s basketball team. He quickly became a star player and caught the attention of many college coaches.

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The Recruitment Process

During his high school years, Jordan received numerous offers from top college basketball programs, including Duke, Syracuse, and Virginia. However, his top choice was always UNC, as it was his dream to play for the Tar Heels. Jordan’s high school coach, Clifton “Pop” Herring, had connections with UNC’s head coach, Dean Smith, and he helped facilitate Jordan’s recruitment process.

UNC’s assistant coach, Bill Guthridge, was the one who first saw Jordan play and was impressed by his skills. He then brought Jordan to Chapel Hill for a visit, where he met with Coach Smith and the rest of the coaching staff. Jordan was offered a scholarship on the spot, and he accepted it without hesitation.

However, there have been rumors that Jordan did not receive a scholarship to UNC and that he had to walk on to the team. These rumors gained traction when Jordan’s high school coach, Herring, stated in an interview that Jordan did not receive a scholarship from UNC. This statement caused confusion and sparked debates among fans and sports analysts.

The Truth Behind the Scholarship

So, did Michael Jordan really get a scholarship to UNC? The answer is yes. Despite the rumors and speculations, Jordan did receive a scholarship to play for the Tar Heels. However, there is some truth to the statement made by his high school coach.

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During Jordan’s recruitment process, UNC had already used up all of their scholarships for that year. This meant that they could not offer Jordan a full scholarship, but they did offer him a partial scholarship. This partial scholarship covered his tuition and books, but not his room and board. This is where the confusion lies, as some people consider a full scholarship to include all expenses, while others consider it to only cover tuition and books.

Furthermore, Jordan’s high school coach, Herring, was not aware of the details of Jordan’s scholarship offer. He only knew that Jordan did not receive a full scholarship, and he assumed that meant he did not receive a scholarship at all. In a later interview, Herring clarified his statement and admitted that he was mistaken about Jordan’s scholarship.

The Impact of the Scholarship

Regardless of the type of scholarship Jordan received, it had a significant impact on his life and career. Without the scholarship, Jordan may not have been able to attend UNC, and his basketball career could have taken a different path. Playing for UNC allowed Jordan to showcase his skills on a national level and gain exposure to NBA scouts.

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Moreover, Jordan’s time at UNC helped shape him into the player he became. Under the guidance of Coach Smith, Jordan learned the fundamentals of the game and developed his leadership skills. He also formed lifelong friendships with his teammates, including James Worthy and Sam Perkins, who would later join him in the NBA.

The Legacy of Michael Jordan at UNC

During his time at UNC, Jordan led the Tar Heels to an NCAA Championship in 1982, hitting the game-winning shot in the final seconds. He was also named the College Player of the Year in 1984 and was a two-time All-American. Jordan’s jersey number, 23, was retired by UNC in 1988, and he was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.

Even after leaving UNC and achieving great success in the NBA, Jordan has maintained a strong connection with his alma mater. He has made generous donations to the university, including a $5 million gift to the UNC School of Social Work in 2007. Jordan also attends UNC basketball games and has been seen sitting courtside, cheering on the Tar Heels.


In conclusion, Michael Jordan did receive a scholarship to play for the University of North Carolina. However, it was not a full scholarship, as some people may have assumed. Despite the confusion and debates surrounding Jordan’s scholarship, there is no denying the impact it had on his life and career. Playing for UNC helped shape Jordan into the legendary player he became and solidified his place in basketball history. And even though he went on to achieve great success in the NBA, Jordan’s time at UNC will always hold a special place in his heart and in the hearts of Tar Heel fans.

So, the next time someone asks, “Did Michael Jordan get a scholarship to North Carolina?” you can confidently say yes and share the story behind it. Jordan’s journey from high school to UNC is a testament to his determination, hard work, and talent, and it will continue to inspire future generations of basketball players for years to come.

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