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Michael Jordan's Clutch NCAA Title Shot Sparked His Legacy

Only 32 seconds remaining. North Carolina's inbounding following a timeout. Georgetown leads 62-61. The NCAA championship game on the line. The Tar Heels needed a bucket. We are about to witness Michael Jordan's college career defining moment.

Senior Jimmy Black throws the ball into freshman Michael Jordan. Black runs across the court above the right elbow to set up the four corners offense. Jordan and Black pass it back and forth, looking for any opening in the Hoyas' 1-3-1 zone defense anchored by star center Patrick Ewing.

Black then makes an to forward Matt Doherty at the high post. Doherty faces the rim and kicks it back out to Black. Black takes a dribble to the lane and throws a skip pass to Jordan. No. 23 is open thanks to a back screen from James Worthy.

MJ rises up...

Nothing but nylon.

Michael Jordan's 1982 Game-Winning Shot

That field goal gave UNC a 63-62 lead. And 14 seconds later, the Tar Heels secured the college basketball crown.

The victory gave head coach Dean Smith his first national title and relieved some scrutiny after losing championship games in 1968, 1977 and 1981.

It was the University of North Carolina basketball team's first NCAA Championship in 25 years and the cherry on top of a 24-2 regular season that included two victories over archrival Duke and an ACC Championship. Jordan, Worthy, and Sam Perkins were the stars.

It was the first time we saw Michael Jordan thrive on the big stage with the game on the line, but definitely not the last.

Michael Jordan's Basketball Career

Michael Jordan drives against the Orlando Magic.

TONY RANZE/AFP via Getty Images

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Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, the Hall of Fame basketball player embraced the pressure of big moments starting at the collegiate level and moving on to become NBA Finals MVP.

Before LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were even considered rising stars, Jordan played with fire at Laney High School and caught the attention of the North Carolina Tar Heels. In Chapel Hill, the GOAT won a national championship, earned the Naismith College Player of the Year Award in 1984, was a Consensus All-American and won a gold medal as a member United States team at the 1984 Olympics. Not a bad college career.

After his junior year, Mike left school and was the third-overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 NBA Draft.

The 1985 Rookie of the Year award, NBA All-Star game appearances, dunk contests, and MVPs were all nice accomplishments. However, after three quarters of dishing assists, secruing rebounds and swiping steals, it was in the final seconds where the Nike icon rose above the rest. When it came down to the last dance of the season, the All-NBA superstar rose to the occasion.

In the first round of the 1989 Playoffs, Air Jordan floated as Cleveland Cavaliers guard Crag Ehlo flew by for an extra inch of space, nailing a 15-footer and eliminating the Cavs.

In Game 3 of the 1991 NBA Finals, he hit a game-tying shot against the Los Angeles Lakers to send the game to overtime and willed the Bulls to victory.

Two years later, the NBA player broke Cleveland's heart again when he hit a fadeaway jumper from the elbow in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to complete the sweep.

And in the 1998 NBA Finals — on the verge of a second three-peat — Chicago's leading scorer sealed the series win against the Utah Jazz with a crossover on Bryon Russell, hitting a jumper and holding that sweet follow through as the ball whooshed through the net.

Legends of the game like Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler of the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets knew Jordan's clutchness first hand while trying to capture NBA championships of their own.

This isn't to say Jordan was perfect. His famous quote regarding failure reiterates that:

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Taking the game-winner requires confidence. Making it takes balls. That's why the Charlotte Hornets chairman is regarded by many as the best player ever.

Jordan had that courage at 19 years old and throughout his NBA career.

To have that courage, you can't be afraid to miss.

This post was originally published on March 27, 2020.