As one of the most recognizable people in the world, Michael Jordan needs no introduction. With a legendary basketball career that includes one college national championship, two Olympic gold medals with the USA basketball team, and six NBA championships, Jordan is widely considered to be the greatest player to ever step on the hardwood. Few athletes in the history of the world have transcended their sport in the way Michael Jordan has, turning him into a household name across the world. In 2020 Forbes estimated Jordan's net worth to be over $2 billion.
Before helping to redefine the NBA, Jordan had a very notable college career. Recruited by legendary head coach Dean Smith, Jordan got a full scholarship at the University of North Carolina. As a Tar Heel, Jordan was only the fourth freshman to earn a starting spot under coach Smith. Donning his famous "23" jersey, his early success earned him ACC Freshman of the year honors, the same year that his team won the 1982 ACC championship. When UNC eventually made it to the NCAA’s 1982 national championship game against powerhouse Georgetown, a skinny freshman named Michael Jordan calmly sank the game-winning shot with time expiring on the game clock. Hollywood couldn't have written it any better.
The exemplary performances of his college career continued for two more years when Jordan left UNC prematurely to enter the NBA draft in 1984. A top prospect, he was selected as the third overall pick, where he became a star instantly. Yet despite his great success, Jordan returned in 1986 to complete his Bachelor of Arts degree in geography, showing at an early stage that the superstar had no intention of forgetting his Tar Heel roots.
As UNC's most famous alumni, Jordan's name is indelibly linked to the school’s renowned basketball program. More than a casual observer, Jordan is known for keeping in touch with UNC's basketball coaching staff, once even describing the late Dean Smith as a “second father.” When Jordan’s hectic schedule permits it, he also makes appearances at some of UNC's bigger games. Nor does one have to look very far to find him at the smaller games since his "Jumpman logo" sits across the upper right corner of UNC's jerseys, not to mention their shoes. Then, during a 2019 game between UNC and Virginia, Jordan showed up to announce during halftime that his beloved alma mater would be switching their football uniforms to his Jordan Brand, rather than parent company Nike.
Today, arguably, Jordan's biggest impact on UNC is the legacy of basketball greatness that his world-wide fame has imbued his alma mater with. For decades now, top recruits across the country have been drawn to the Tar Heel state, hoping for a chance to "Be Like Mike." Whether or not his success at UNC can be replicated is up for discussion. But as one of the most effectively marketed athletes in sports history, the presence of UNC's 23 continues to be felt throughout the world.