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It’s hard to believe that Michael Jordan, to me, the best basketball player of all time, was cut from his high school team as a sophomore but it really happened.
Related: Greatest Michael Jordan Cards All Time
Just a few years later, North Carolina claimed the 1982 national championship after MJ made the game-winning jumper against Georgetown.
This was the beginning of Jordan’s legend. Air Jordan six NBA championships in six trips to the NBA Finals, eight scoring titles, five regular-season MVP awards, six NBA Finals MVP awards, three NBA All-Star game MVPs, and one Defensive Player of the Year award.
Michael Jordan established a record by making the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team nine times and he was a 14-time NBA All-Star and a former NBA Rookie of the Year (1985).
He finished his career with 32,292 points, averaging 30.1 points in 1,072 games over 15 years (13 with the Bulls). He also had 6,672 total rebounds, 5,633 assists, 12,192 field goals and 5,633 steals.
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Jordan averaged 31.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists in 930 games over 13 seasons with the Bulls and he was the star of their legendary teams in the 90s.
Air Jordan averaged 28.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 38.8 minutes over 82 games to win the NBA MVP award in his final season with the Bulls in 1998.
He retired for three seasons before coming back to the league in 2001 as a member of the Wizards for two years.
MJ gave it his all to win every game he played in his career, which is why he demanded a lot from his teammates and sometimes came off as too tough and not the friendliest. The Air Jordan worldwide brand he created with Nike surpassed the ones from his contemporaries and everyone wanted to “Be Like Mike.”
Air Jordan is a brand synonymous with basketball and his Airness was also a key member of two United States Olympic Basketball teams (in 1984 in Los Angeles and 1992 in Barcelona) and in 1996 he was the start of Warner Brothers’ popular animated motion picture Space Jam.
Jordan was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and he became the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats (now Charlotte Hornets) in 2010. This made him the first NBA player to become a majority franchise owner.
The Pistons Outmuscled the Bulls in 1990
Michael Jordan’s drive to be the best helped him overcome many obstacles in his career. Jordan kept coming at his opponents until he won. He always used frustration and anger to become stronger.
In ‘Michael Jordan: The Life,’ Roland Lazenby provides great insight into how Jordan dealt with the Detroit Pistons eliminating the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year.
“Furious with his teammates, Jordan cursed them yet again at halftime, then sobbed in the back of the team bus afterward. “I was crying and steaming,” he recalled.
“I was saying, ‘Hey, I’m out here busting my butt and nobody else is doing the same thing. These guys are kicking our butt, taking our heart, taking our pride.’ I made up my mind right then and there it would never happen again.
That was the summer that I first started lifting weights. If I was going to take some of this beating, I was also going to start dishing out some of it. I got tired of them dominating me physically.”
How Things Changed
The Pistons played MJ as physically as possible, forcing outside shots and making his teammates beat them. Whenever Jordan cut to the basket, the Pistons bodied him, especially in the fourth quarter. The result was another playoff exit against the Bad Boys of the NBA.
During the offseason, Michael Jordan started working with Tim Grover, a sports enhancement specialist. MJ was very serious about his weight training and added 15 pounds of muscle.
Jordan made one of the weaknesses in his game a strength. That latest loss to the Pistons fueled him and he committed to doing something about it.
In 1991, the Bulls dominated the Pistons, sweeping them in four games to reach their first NBA Finals and beat the Lakers to win the first of six championships.
Jordan’s willingness to learn from his losses made it all possible.
What Makes This Card So Iconic
Michael Jordan’s rookie cards are highly sought-after because he is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all time and one of the most famous athletes the world has ever known.
Most Michael Jordan rookie cards are not hard to find but the supply never seems to be enough to satisfy the demand, putting some of them high on the list of most valuable sports cards in the hobby.
The 1986 Michael Jordan Fleer Card in particular, is the most recognizable one. It is arguably the most important modern card from any sport.
I don’t think that Fleer could have chosen a better Michael Jordan image for this card. It perfectly captures MJ’s essence as an unstoppable scorer capable of dominating on offense with his unmatched high-flying acrobatics.
The signature red, white and blue border on the card makes it instantly recognizable and those three colors perfectly complement the imagery of Jordan.
The back of the card is clearly not as exciting as the front but that’s not surprising, that’s actually what is expected from any sports card.
You will find the Bulls logo in white atop Michael Jordan’s personal information and his stats from his first two seasons in the NBA and in the bottom right corner there’s another small Bulls logo. The back of this card is very straightforward and it has all you need to know.
You can find this card on eBay, I saw it at the following prizes or best offer: $49.95, $157, $1,275, $3,975, $11,995, $12,000 based on whether it is pre-owned or minted.
Want more proof of Jordan’s greatness? Just look at what he did in the 1987-88 season:
- Defensive Player of the Year
- All-NBA First Team
- All-Defensive First Team
- All-Star Game MVP
- Slam Dunk Champion
- Scoring Champion
- Steals Leader
…and he played all 82 games.
Jordan won the Defensive Player of the Year award and averaged 35.0 points per game. No other Defensive Player of the Year winner has averaged at least 30.0 points per game in any season across their career (the closest: David Robinson – 23.2 in 1991-92).
Cedric Maxwell, two-time NBA champion with the Celtics and 1981 NBA Finals MVP told me what it was like to play against a young MJ:
“Michael was young and the rosters he played on were not even remotely close to what most people remember from his six championships. We all knew some kid named Michael Jordan was going to be a high-impact player but very few people actually knew just how game-changing he’d become.”
Which sports fan wouldn’t want the rookie card of a legendary player like Michael Jordan. MJ is arguably the greatest athlete ever, not just because of his success on the court and excellence or his perfect resume, it’s because of what he means to the culture.
His impact had perfect timing, he transcended professional sports, made individual brands a thing and made kids dream and want to be like him. I know, I was one of them!
Tom Brady deserves all the respect in the world, what he’s done on the gridiron is admirable and he is the NFL’s GOAT but you will notice football players wearing MJ’s Jumpman on the fields Brady plays on.
When talking greatest, it isn’t just about the accomplishments. Jordan’s greatness, his aura, the fire in his eyes, his love for the game, his success, his body of work, his dominance, his legacy, what he meant to the culture, his brand, his impact, his vibe, his excellence and what he meant to the game are unmatched. Players can win awards and many rings across all sports but MJ did that AND transcended professional sports. ESPN’s ‘The Last Dance’ proved this while documenting the Bulls’ success, focusing on the 1997-98 season, Jordan’s final campaign with them, and the end of their dynasty.
Roland Lazenby, author of ‘Michael Jordan: The Life,’ shared his thoughts about ‘The Last Dance’ with me last year:
“I thought it was excellent and an awesome display of power. In addition to the story-telling, director Jason Hehir’s great success was getting Jordan to be forthcoming about his ruthlessness in driving his teammates and everyone associated with the Bulls through the grueling process of winning championships, something I’ve written about in several books, including ‘Michael Jordan: The Life’ and ‘Blood on The Horns’ (my book about the end of the Bulls dynasty).”
The 1986 Michael Jordan Fleer card is clearly the most popular basketball card ever made and prices continue to climb. MJ’s ascension to international superstardom and the rise in popularity of basketball cards helped fuel this growth.
I collect all kinds of Michael Jordan memorabilia, including sports cards and this is my advice: the key to what this Michael Jordan card is worth has everything to do with the condition, and to me, you can’t rely on your own eye test. I would definitely add this to my collection and it can possibly earn a high grade. Grading this card is worth it if you plan on selling it but most importantly, buy it ungraded JUST if you know what you’re looking for. I bought an upgraded one and I don’t plan on selling it.