This is the fourth in a series of examinations of basketball-related legends and whether they are true or false.
This installment is a re-format edition, so these legends have already been posted on this site, just not in this format.
BASKETBALL 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 really good, even in high school.
However many times THAT story gets repeated, admittedly the 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 major major condition to that “true,” and in fact, it’s SUCH a major condition that I think it makes the answer effectively false.
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, when many kids would not be playing varsity ANYways. 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 is that it makes 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 main team in any sport is its “Varsity” team – its best players, usually. The Junior Varsity team is the secondary team. Generally, it 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 “cut from his high school basketball team.”
BASKETBALL LEGEND: The Harlem Globetrotters began in Chicago!!
It’s really amazing some of the marketing ideas that people can come up with, but few people could top the idea by Abe Saperstein of inventing the hometown of a team!
The Globetrotters have been around in some form or another since the early 20th Century, but the team as we know it today was formed as the “Savoy Big Five” who would play basketball before performances at Chicago’s Savoy Ballroom (which was named after the famous Harlem Jazz Club of the same name) in the late 1920s.
Members of the Savoy Big Five were organized by Abe Saperstein into becoming a traveling barnstorm team known as the Globetrotters.
However, Saperstein figured that a traveling team would be more interesting if they were out of towners.So he went to figure out a place where the team could be “from,” and he settled upon Harlem, because of the great Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. And in 1929, the New York Harlem Globe Trotters began playing!
And the rest, as they say, is history!
The Globetrotters’ first “home” game was in 1968, nearly four decades after taking the name!
As mentioned in an earlier legend, Saperstein’s only intention with the Globetrotters was to make as much money as possible, this shouldn’t be THAT much of a surprise, I suppose.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org