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Michael Jordan in the Olympics

Jordan is the only Tar Heel to earn two Olympic Gold Medals in men’s basketball

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Michael Jordan competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles as an amateur prior to his NBA career and again in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona as a professional. Jordan’s teams never lost an Olympic game, going 8-0 in both 1984 and 1992. He and his teammates on both squads, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin, are the only ever athletes to win Olympic gold medals both as amateurs and as professionals in men’s basketball.

Jordan is the only Tar Heel to win two Olympic Gold medals in men’s basketball (1984 and 1992), and leads all UNC alums in Olympic games (16), points (356), and most points in a game (24 in 1984 versus Spain). He is one of 14 Tar Heels to play in the Olympics games in men’s basketball to go along with five UNC coaching appearances.

Take a look at the game-by-game statistics for Jordan in the 1984 games:

Michael Jordan 1984 Olympic Stats

Game Final Score Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers
Game Final Score Points Rebounds Assists Steals Turnovers
Group B vs. China 97-49 14 2 1 0 4
Group B vs. Canada 89-68 20 4 3 0 4
Group B vs. Uruguay 104-68 16 4 3 3 2
Group B vs. France 120-62 16 1 1 2 2
Group B vs. Spain 101-68 24 4 0 2 2
Quarterfinals vs. West Germany 78-67 14 4 3 1 6
Semifinals vs. Canada 78-59 13 4 3 1 1
Gold Medal Game vs. Spain 96-65 20 1 2 3 1
17.1 3.0 2.0 1.5 2.8

Jordan, a co-captain of the squad, led the U.S. Olympic Team in scoring, averaging 17.1 points per game.

The selection of Indiana head coach Bobby Knight proved to be a complex and controversial choice. The infamous decision to put rising Indiana sophomore Steve Alford on the roster over the likes of future first round picks Johnny Dawkins of Duke and Auburn’s Chuck Person ruffled feathers and was seen as blatant nepotism.

Jordan was publicly positive about the relationship with Knight, stating that “he wants the best for his players, and it’s somewhat similar to Coach [Dean] Smith. Except for the language, but I can get over that.”

The relationship between the two would prove to be trying, but eventually harmonious.

Sam Perkins, Jordan’s three-year teammate at Carolina and member of the 1984 Olympic team, revealed in a 2016 interview that Knight made Jordan cry after a six turnover performance against Detlef Schrempf and the West Germany team:

He told Michael that’s the worst he ever played. Now, Michael’s going to deny this but he cried, he cried after the game because of the fact that Bobby Knight told him, ‘You should apologize to everybody in here.’

But Jordan certainly responded. Prior to the Gold Medal Game four days after the previous incident, Jordan left a note for Knight on the whiteboard in the locker room: “Coach, don’t worry. We’ve put up with too much s--- to lose now.”

In the early 1990s, when the decision was made that professionals could participate in men’s basketball in the Olympics, Jordan’s teammate Scottie Pippen asked if he would play for Team USA. According to Sam Smith in The Jordan Rules, when speaking of his 1984 experience, Jordan said:

I don’t know if I would have done it if I knew what Knight was going to be like. I’d heard about Coach Knight when I was at North Carolina, so I asked Coach Smith and he advised me to do it. I think all the coaches did because after playing for Coach Knight they knew you’d appreciate them more.

However, there was a mutual respect that emerged between the two, with Knight sharing his insights on the immense talent and potential of Jordan to NBA scouts and executives during the Olympic trials. Years later, Jordan invited Knight to his first retirement in 1993.

Check out this compilation of Jordan highlights from the ‘84 games:

Here is his rundown during his eight games as a member of the Dream Team:

Michael Jordan 1992 Olympic Stats

Game Final Score Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers
Game Final Score Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers
Group A vs. Angola 116-48 10 2 2 8 1 1
Group A vs. Croatia 103-70 21 2 3 8 0 3
Group A vs. Germany 111-68 15 1 12 4 2 0
Group A vs. Brazil 127-83 15 2 7 2 1 3
Group A vs. Spain 122-81 11 3 5 5 0 1
Quarterfinals vs. Puerto Rico 115-77 4 3 4 2 0 0
Semifinals vs. Lithuania 127-76 21 3 4 6 2 0
Gold Medal Game vs. Croatia 117-85 22 3 1 2 0 2
14.9 2.4 4.8 4.6 0.8 1.3

Basketball fans know about the lore of the Dream Team. The team was composed of 11 future Hall of Famers. We will not mention the name of the only person on the roster not to make it into the hall.

The team outscored the competition by an average of 43 points. Jordan was the only player to start all eight games in ‘92.

In the quarterfinals versus Puerto Rico, Jordan scored just four points. It was the only time in 16 games during his Olympic career that he failed to score in double figures. If not for that game and a 30-point explosion by Charles Barkley against Brazil, Jordan likely would have been the highest scorer on Team USA again. He finished second in 1992.

Jordan bounced back in the semifinals and Gold Medal Game, leading Team USA in scoring in both games.

The 1992 Olympic Team was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010, and is just one of ten teams ever in the Hall of Fame.

Here is another compilation, this time from the 1992 games: