Saturday, August 17, 2013

An interesting piece of video footage has been making the rounds on the 'net this week. It's of Michael Jordan's first-ever college basketball game. The game took place between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Kansas Jayhawks on November 28, 1981 at Charlotte Coliseum. A nine-minute highlight video was posted on YouTube in July 2007, but it's resurfaced on people's radars after some major sports websites "dug it up" this week (I saw it on CBS' Eye On Basketball).

There are several interesting things to note about the first-ever college game played by the greatest basketball player of all-time:
  • Many sports fans know this, but it's worth pointing out that Michael Jordan used to go by Mike Jordan.
  • The game was held at Charlotte Coliseum, which today is Bojangles' Coliseum. Many of you might think of the arena where the Charlotte Hornets used to play, that used to be located on Tyvola Road, when you hear of Charlotte Coliseum. But Charlotte has had multiple venues named Charlotte Coliseum throughout its sports history. When a new sports and entertainment facility opened on East Independence Boulevard in 1955, it was named Charlotte Coliseum. But when a new, larger, 24,000-seat arena was being built on Tyvola Road in the mid- to late-1980s with the primary intent of hosting college basketball tournaments, and Charlotte was awarded an NBA franchise that began playing in 1988, the Independence Boulevard arena closed, and the Tyvola Road arena took the name Charlotte Coliseum (what's now known as Bojangles' Coliseum reopened in 1993). Charlotte sports fans soon gave it the nickname "The Hive" and proceeded to sell out 364 consecutive Hornets home games and lead the NBA in attendance for several years. And then, of course, as the story goes, Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn moved the team to New Orleans in 2002 because the city wouldn't build him a new publicly funded arena with the amenities and plethora of luxury suites that had become customary in NBA arenas, the league awarded Charlotte another franchise that would be called the Bobcats that started playing in 2004, with a new Uptown arena, eventually named Time Warner Cable Arena, opening in 2005. Charlotte Coliseum on Tyvola Road, not quite 19 years old, was demolished in June 2007.
  • And as the above long-story-short continues with its twists and irony, Jordan would eventually become majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010, after spending a few years as a minority owner and front office executive with the team. Then this past May, after the New Orleans Hornets' new owner changed his team's name to the Pelicans, and after plenty of Charlotteans lobbying, Jordan made the decision to rename the Bobcats the Charlotte Hornets, which will take effect for the 2014-15 NBA season.
  • Got all that? Good. (Whenever I run through elements of Charlotte's history like this, it's primarily for the many newcomers who move to this city each year. Many of whom don't know much about Charlotte's history, even its recent history and how much things have changed in this growing city in the last decade alone.)
  • Now, back to the video of Jordan's first game. During the player introductions, we're reminded that another Tar Heel great and NBA legend, James Worthy, is from nearby Gastonia. This was a true "home" game for him, much closer for his family, friends, and former high school classmates than the Tar Heels' usual home court in Chapel Hill.
  • The first shot Jordan took in this game, which he missed, looks a lot like the famous game-winning shot he made four months later during the 1982 NCAA Championship Game against Georgetown.
  • Early in the game, one of the television analysts makes these remarks about Jordan: "So many things have been said about him. Comparisons to Walter Davis and David Thompson, in this part of the country. That's pretty heavy metal for a youngster of 18 years old. He is talented, and he really is kind of going against the system. Dean Smith normally doesn't start even the most talented of freshmen." Two things about that. I guess we all tend to compare new talent to more established talent, whether it's in sports, music, or whatever. But it's funny to hear that the players Jordan was being compared to at the time were viewed as sort of big shoes to fill, when he would eventually become the greatest basketball player of all-time (and sell the most popular basketball shoes). Secondly, Dean Smith knew early on the special talent he had with Jordan, hence the reason he started him as a freshman. 
  • Jordan made his second shot attempt in this game, on his way to scoring 12 points, on 5 for 10 shooting, as the Tar Heels defeated the Jayhawks 74-67 in front of a sold-out crowd of 11,666 fans at Charlotte Coliseum.


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