Michael Jordan Was Never Cut

I recently watched two videos featuring an endearing young child president. One was of him dispensing advice, the other was of Obama showing him around the white house.

Overall, they’re good 3-minute videos; though I was disappointed to hear the young fellow hypothesize about an alternate reality wherein Michael Jordan gives up after getting cut from his high school basketball team. This is a gross misconception. Michael Jordan was never cut from any team.

If anyone needs a refresher course on American high hchool sports, it pretty much goes like this:

Major sports teams have junior varsity and varsity squads. Sometimes schools are afforded freshman teams. Freshman team or no, it’s typical for 9th and 10th graders to be on JV, while the varsity team is comprised of 11th and 12th graders. Of course there are always exceptions and varyations on this theme.

Don’t be mistaken, when Jordan was a freshman, his superior talent and drive were already apparent. He interpreted “getting cut” as not making varsity as a 10th grader.

This decision was made by his coach who had to consider Jordan’s ego and his varsity team’s well-being at the time. Coach decided it would be good for Jordan to be “The Man” of the JV squad. On JV, Jordan would be alloted the full amount of playing time as a starter, as opposed to more of a back-up role on varsity. Jordan did in fact become The Man as JV games became more popular than varsity games as hoardes of people showed up to witness Jordan’s dazzling play.

Jordan followed the track of most other high school athletes and made varsity his junior year.

His self-professed cut-from-the-team bugs me for two reasons: The first is that I actually did not make the baseball team in high school. I didn’t make the JV team, meaning I didn’t get to play baseball for my school. In 9th grade I got that terrible sinking feeling young people do every day when they walk up to a sheet of paper with a list of names on it that doesn’t include their own. In 10th grade the sinking was worse because unlike the year before, I actually had a prayer as I was substantially bigger and I smacked the shit out of the ball during my batting session.

The second reason this bugs me thing is that the coach Jordan blames for “cutting” him suffers from a severe mental disability that began in his late twenties. I read about all this in a much longer Sports Illustrated article from a couple of years ago. The coach who cut him was an amazing coach before the dementia set in. He and his wife opened their house to players on the team. Jordan and the rest of them ate meals at the coach’s table.

It’s weird and sad, but getting cut pretty much means your career as is over, at age 14. I heard a high school basketball coach once proclaim that he teaches life to his girls through basketball. For those of us who don’t make teams, we have to extract all our extracurricular learning from the experience of trying out and failing. And to be honest, we do- it’s just not nearly as fun.

So now you know that Jordan made the team and was never close to getting cut. He was merely denied the privilege of being a sophomore on varsity, which means that you’re elite and you get to walk around campus like a bad-ass.

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