In the eyes of many, Michael Jordan is the best to ever put on a pair of basketball sneakers. You would find it hard to argue with that statement. From individual accolades on the basketball court, commercial success outside of it, not to mention team championships, Jordan has done it all.
However, looking through the lens of a casual fan or someone who did not see him play in his prime, is he versatile enough to succeed in this era? What positions did Michael Jordan play when he terrorized the NBA? Let’s find out.
What Teams Did Michael Jordan Play On?
Michael Jordan got in the Laney High School Varsity team as a junior. (We all know the story about how he was cut from the team as a 5-foot-9 sophomore.) From there, he committed and played college basketball for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. As a freshman, he averaged thirteen points a game and then pumped in twenty points a night in his second year.
North Carolina won the National championship in 1982 as a freshman. He made a crucial shot to win the NCAA title game against Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown with 18 seconds left.
Michael Jordan played in three seasons at UNC for coach Dean Smith. After winning the Naismith and the Wooden College Player of the Year Awards, he left North Carolina after his junior year to take his talents to the NBA.
Jordan was drafted third overall after Ewing and another big man by the name of Sam Bowie. Ewing went first overall to New York while Bowie was selected by Portland, rationalizing that they do not see any need for Jordan because they already have Clyde Drexler. Bowie was ravaged by foot injuries throughout his career and played a total of only 511 games in the league. MJ played 930 games for the Bulls, 179 of which are playoff wars.
Jordan then returned after a three-year hiatus and suited up for the Washington Wizards in 2001. He wore the Wizards uniform for another two seasons, even playing in all 82 regular season games in the 2002-03 season.
What was Michael Jordan’s Main Position?
Michael Jordan was a guard in high school up until he turned pro. He mainly played shooting guard with the Chicago Bulls, and it was that position where he became universally recognized as the greatest of all time.
When Jordan’s high school team lost the state championship to their rivals, New Hanover, to the score of 56-52. The coach at New Hanover, Jim Hebron, thought Laney could have easily won the game if not for Pop Herring stubbornly playing MJ as a guard.
“He could have played him inside and won a state championship,” Hebron was quoted as saying. “But he didn’t. All he was concerned about was, `How can I prepare him for college?'”
We can say that Jordan perfected the definition of a shooting guard. Throughout his career, Jordan averaged 30.12 points a game, just eclipsing Wilt Chamberlain (30.07) for the all-time record. He also made almost 50% of his shots and was remarkably clutch in crucial situations.
Aside from his scoring prowess, Jordan had underrated passing skills and can create offense as a point guard in half-court sets. Jordan was just one of two persons to bag both the season MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year distinctions in the same year. The other one is Hakeem Olajuwon, but Jordan was the first to do it in 1988 while The Dream had his in 1994.
What Position Did Michael Jordan Play in the NBA?
While Jordan played out his heyday as a shooting guard, he assumed the small forward position during his tenure with the Wizards. As a small forward, especially during that era, Jordan’s lack of quickness would not be so apparent as opposed to chasing the faster two-guards out in the perimeter.
Regardless, Jordan recorded three 40-plus point games in his farewell season. He was not the Mike of old, but he can still show glimpses of his former self every once in a while. His per-game averages for that final year were 20 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals shooting 45% from the floor and 82% from the line.
What Made Michael Jordan So Great at His Position?
As mentioned, Jordan was the perfect shooting guard. He has size, athleticism, shooting touch, and he got the fundamentals of basketball down to a tee.
Jordan was also one of the best, if not the best, two-way players in the game of basketball. He took pride in playing both ends of the floor while winning multiple scoring titles. He will pick you up from 94 feet and never let the opponents rest, especially during his younger days.
In the game of basketball, Michael Jordan was truly dominant during his prime. He had six championships, six Finals MVPs, five regular season MVPs, a 14-time All-Star, one-time DPOY, 11-time All-NBA, and was the scoring champion for 10 seasons.
Probably the one thing that MJ could have improved on was his three-point shot. He was a career 32.7% shooter from deep on limited volume. However, because he played in an era where shooting three-pointers do not make up 80% of the offense, Jordan may not have felt the need to shoot threes in large volume.
Could Michael Jordan Have Played Point Guard?
Jordan was the main initiator of the offense in his first years with Chicago under Kevin Loughery and especially under Stan Albeck. However, since the Bulls’ roster during Jordan’s early years were not as talented as his 90s teams, MJ was forced to be the primary scorer of that lineup.
Could he have played point guard for a good stretch? There’s no question. If you have the time to see the full game where he scored a playoffs-record 63 against the Celtics in 1986, you can see Jordan bringing the ball up the floor and calling plays almost the entire fourth quarter and OT. Sure, they lost and got swept, but he averaged nearly six assists in that series and over five dimes a game in his career.
But perhaps the most fitting example and the most concrete answer to the question was what happened on March 11, 1989. To provide a little background on what took place: Jordan expressed his frustration to then-coach Doug Collins about his lack of help in the backcourt. At the time, the Bulls point guard was Sam Vincent, who was not entirely bad, but obviously not good enough for Jordan’s standards.
After the meeting with Collins, he decided to play Jordan at the point, starting on March 11 against Seattle. From that game on, he even had a stretch of 12 double-digit assists games. In the 24 games where Jordan officially played point guard, he accumulated 257 assists and only had six games where he did not reach double figures in that category.
It could have been an exaggeration by Clyde Drexler, but he made a rather interesting comment on Jordan’s point guard skills. From the Amino Apps, Drexler said: “Everybody has to watch him with the ball. The other guys are free to roam, and their shooting percentages are going to soar. I think (Jordan) handles the ball better than Magic. (Jordan) just makes Everybody else better. When he gets used to that position . . . “
Obviously, Jordan did not stick to the position, and the triangle offense they implemented later eased the burden of not having a pass-first point guard. But one thing rings true when it comes to Michael Jordan– when you’re good, you’re good, no matter where they put you on the floor.
Wrapping Things Up: What Positions Did Michael Jordan Play?
Michael Jordan was considered by many as the GOAT, but he mainly stuck playing two positions in his career. For the major part of 15 seasons in the Windy City, MJ played mostly shooting guard. In the latter part of his career playing for Washington, MJ slid over to the 3-spot, or the small forward position.
It’s understandable why Jordan became the best while playing on the wings. If we are going to have a brief Michael Jordan skill breakdown, he had excellent fundamentals, excellent footwork, top-notch athleticism, and an insatiable thirst to score. He is a scorer at heart, and from the shooting guard and small forward positions, there are not many people in the world who can handle him there.
But wait! If you have not seen him play in the 80s, here is one of the most interesting facts about Michael Jordan: He did play point guard for a stretch of 24 games under Doug Collins in 1989. During that span, he averaged 10.8 assists a night and had a string of 12 consecutive games with double-digit assists.
Apparently, Jordan went back to his natural and original position. However, there’s no doubt he could be a menacing force even if he focuses on getting the ball to his teammates. So if one of these nights, your friend asks you the question, “What positions did Michael Jordan play in the NBA?” you can confidently add “point guard” in there, denoting the year 1989.
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