When 23 Turns 50

readycheers.com North Carolina #23 jersey image

readycheers.com North Carolina #23 jersey image

To start this post, I have to give recognition to a U.S. female sports professional who made history earlier today. Despite all the hoopla about her personal life of late, Danica Patrick drove into the sports history books today, becoming the first woman to win the pole position for the Daytona 500.  Congrats to Danica, and, now, on to another famous athlete…

Though we’ve already witnessed a plethora of stories in the news this weekend about basketball great Michael Jordan reaching his milestone 50th birthday today, I’m adding this post to the chorus.

As a North Carolina native and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) alumna who grew up only about two hours from Michael’s childhood home of Wilmington, N.C., I have to admit that, no matter any controversial stories that may have arisen about Jordan over the years, I usually smile when the topic of “MJ” comes up.

Why?  Because of the positive associated memories, of course.  When I hear about or speak of Michael Jordan, the days of my youth here in ACC country return.

For example, I recall my cassette tape with the radio-recorded “Here We Come New Orleans” song that I played via Magnavox boombox at my parents’ game-viewing party on that fun night in 1982 when the Tarheels beat the Georgetown Bulldogs to win the NCAA Men’s Division I National Basketball Championship.  I can still hear the celebratory shouts of joy as well as, “Jordan!”

And, what about those Air Jordan shoes?  I can recall so many of the teenage boys at my high school wearing them.  Then there were my college years in Chapel Thrill.  I can still see the Chicago Bulls posters featuring Jordan hanging on the dorm room walls of so many of my male counterparts.

The inspiration that so many Tarheels, like me, received from Number 23 on that championship night back in 1982 seemed to expand to the nation and then to the world.  Yes, before there was a Tiger or a Serena or a Venus, there was Mike.

Michael Jordan was one of the first U.S. athletes to establish himself as a unique marketing brand, and, none of us here in the U.S. were immune to the national advertising campaigns that highlighted Mike and his basketball feats, as his basketball career and star rose. Who could forget this Gatorade TV commercial spot with its “Be Like Mike” tagline?

Certainly Michael Jordan’s practiced skills and God-given talents helped him reach the highest peaks of basketball success, but, without doubt, a massive marketing machine also helped his star ascend — so much so that millions of people today are reflecting on what it means when number 23 turns into number 50.

For me, today evokes happy memories of long-gone Tarheel times and is a reminder of how much a Tarheel can achieve.  Years ago, I realized that I’ll never, “be like Mike.”  But, that’s OK. I’m content just to like Mike and wish him all the best.  Thanks for the memories and Happy 50th, Number 23!

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