A Myth Debunked: Was Michael Jordan Really Cut From His High-School Team?

The greatest basketball player the world has ever known was never cut from a team. He just happened to begin his career as the greatest junior-varsity player the world has ever known.

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Michael Jordan was always legendary; he just happened to begin as a junior-varsity legend

It’s a classic motivational story. A friend doesn’t immediately succeed at a creative or athletic endeavor, be it soccer, bassoon, rhythmic gymnastics or witchcraft. You console and encourage with a simple but powerful anecdote: Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.  But he worked hard and, eventually, turned out to be pretty good at it.

The story inspires, yes, but it also baffles. How could this superhuman being – this bona fide legend – have been cut from a basketball team? There’s an easy explanation. He wasn’t.

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Sports Illustrated recently profiled Clifton “Pop” Herring, the coach responsible for the widely misrepresented decision in 1978 to place Jordan on the junior-varsity team at Laney High in Wilmington, N.C. That year, most of the varsity spots were already guaranteed to returning players, and underclassmen like the 15-year-old Jordan seldom played on varsity anyhow. Herring did happen to make an exception but based it chiefly on height, placing Jordan’s friend and fellow sophomore Leroy Smith – who stood at 6’7” – on the varsity squad.

Jordan went on to repeatedly declare he’d been cut from Laney High’s team, and a myth was born. But the 1978-79 season was a great one for Jordan, who enjoyed extensive play time and popularity. As the undeniable star player, he led his teammates to a series of wins.

So while the myth has been quite exaggerated, let us still find motivation in the facts: sometimes starting on the JV squad isn’t so bad. For Michael Jordan, as you might have noticed, things seemed to turn out okay.

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3 comments
jacksonthor
jacksonthor

It's not a myth. Jordan tried out for the team and did not make the a list despite his skills. So he was cut from the a team and put on the b team.

However this writer and the coach spins it, the fact is the coach thought 15 players including another sophomore had more potential and were better than Jordan that day. And that is what drives Jordan and all others who are wrongly cut from teams, companies, awards, book publishers desks, etc.

jacksonthor
jacksonthor

Our dream is to one day make it to a level past what those who don't believe in us, to show the naysayers that they were wrong. Jordan did this and lives out this dream for many of us.

We all dream of the day we will stand before the world at a hall of fame banquet and tell that coach, "You were wrong." Jordan put it in his face and did what most of us want to do.

CharlesDrengberg
CharlesDrengberg

During high school sports tryouts, you either tryout for JV or Varsity.


Those that don't make the Varsity squad are ceremoniously "cut" when roster decisions are posted in the locker room or gym. 


You can be cut from the Varsity roster and land on JV.

No myths being "debunked" here.