Michael Jordan: Domination Through March Madness

Widely regarded as the greatest basketball player ever, Michael Jordan first captivated fans across North Carolina and the nation with his aerial acrobatics and clutch shooting as a young star for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

During his three-year amateur career under legendary coach Dean Smith from 1981-1984, Jordan unleashed his amazing gifts in March Madness, creating magical moments that have become integral to the tournament’s rich lore.

Michael Jordan's college jersey hanging from the rafters at the Dean Smith Center, among other notable players' retired jerseys.
Photo sourced via Wikimedia Commons in the public domain of Michael Jordan's college jersey hanging from the rafters at the Dean Smith Center, among other notable players' retired jerseys.

Jordan Becomes A Tar Heel

Arriving in Chapel Hill in 1981 as an under-the-radar recruit, Jordan quickly established himself as a budding superstar, leading the veteran Tar Heels in scoring at over 13 points per game on an impressive 53.4% shooting as a freshman.

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He gave the country a glimpse of his future clutch greatness against Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA Tournament, sinking a jumper with 15 seconds left to lift UNC to a thrilling 63-62 second-round upset victory.

Jordan's Sophomore Season

Jordan’s sophomore season saw him blossom into a bona fide collegiate star, claiming ACC Player of the Year and consensus 1st team All-American honors in 1983 after averaging over 20 points and 5 rebounds a game. He took his game to another level come tournament time, memorably pouring in 26 points including a late go-ahead basket to edge rival Virginia and Ralph Sampson 54-52 in the East Regional semifinals.

As every fan knows, filling out March Madness brackets with the North Carolina DraftKings promo code each year brings added excitement. And Jordan created perhaps the greatest buzz of all with his iconic buzzer beater to sink Sampson and top-seeded Virginia 63-62 in the Regional Final, which remains etched in tournament highlight reels forever as simply “The Shot.”

Jordan averaged a stellar 25 points per game in the 1983 tourney, also tallying a record-tying 33 points in a double-overtime second-round victory against UCLA. Although North Carolina fell to eventual champion N.C. State in their next contest, Jordan’s lasting imprint on March Madness was cemented.

He again dominated the competition as a junior in 1984, averaging over 27 points through 4 games before UNC was eliminated in the Sweet Sixteen.

Jordan's Last March Madness

Rather than enter the NBA Draft, Jordan returned to North Carolina for his senior season in 1984-85 to make one last run at a national championship. He did not disappoint, turning in 28 points and 5 assists to lead the Tar Heels past rival Duke in the title game and cut down the nets as a senior. Jordan finished his UNC tenure with a standout 20.1 points per game average over 88 games played.

Before he captured six NBA championships and five league MVPs to earn the unofficial “god of basketball” moniker with the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s, Michael Jordan went from unheralded prospect to all-time Carolina great over three spectacular seasons in Chapel Hill.

Come March Madness, he propelled Dean Smith’s Tar Heels to within a game of two more Final Fours while authoring several of the tournament’s most magical moments – plays that will live on sports bar televisions when fans fill out their brackets keyed to the North Carolina DraftKings promo code this year and every year to come.

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