Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.
SPORTS LEGEND: Michael Jordan was cut by his high school basketball team.
One of the greatest piece of “motivational speech” related to a pro athlete is the story about how Michael Jordan was cut by his high school basketball team. You know, “If Michael Jordan, probably the greatest basketball player of all time, could be cut by his high school team, then you shouldn’t let setbacks in your life get you down.”
It’s a good story.
Now is it true?
Well, first off – “Michael Jordan was cut by his basketball team” is false. Jordan played high school basketball. Obviously. The guy was good, even in high school.
However, while that story get repeated often, the admittedly more accurate “Michael Jordan was cut by his high school VARSITY basketball team” gets repeated just as often.
And yes, Michael Jordan was, indeed, cut by his high school varsity basketball team.
HOWEVER, there is a major condition to that “true.”
Jordan was cut by his high school varsity team at Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina. However, he was cut by the team in his SOPHOMORE year. While plenty of talented basketball players do, indeed, make varsity when they are sophomores, plenty of them do not. In addition, Jordan was not cut because he was not talented enough to make the team. He was – he just was not good enough to play big minutes (do note that Jordan also grew FOUR inches from his sophomore to junior year, going from five foot eleven to six foot three), and the theory was that it made little sense to have a talented player sitting on the bench on the varsity team when he could be starting for Junior Varsity.
Reader Rhod wanted to know the difference between Varsity and Junior Varsity. A high school’s best team in any sport is its “Varsity” team – it consists of its top players, usually. They could be taken from any grade level. The Junior Varsity team is the school’s secondary team. Generally, the Junior Varsity (or “JV,” as it is often called) is made up of first and second year players (freshmen and sophomores). Third and fourth years players (junior and senior) usually make up the Varsity team, because, as you might imagine, juniors and seniors are more physically mature. However, occasionally a very mature freshman or sophomore can make the varsity team. It is definitely not unheard of for a sophomore player to be a major player on a Varsity team. More often than not, though, the younger players who make it to Varsity for a school with a good sports program are going to be back-ups to the older kids. That was what would have happened had Jordan not been cut by his Varsity team – he would have been a back-up to the older kids.
So yeah, Jordan was cut by his high school basketball varsity team, but not in the way that the story gets discussed, and he was definitely NOT simply “cut from his high school basketball team.”
So I’m going with…
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