We all know the story. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team and then went on to become the greatest athlete ever. But along the way, 33 years after it happened, fact slowly morphed into myth. Most Jordan fans can tell you “Okay, yes he was technically cut from the varsity, but he still played jayvee, dominated, and then came up and kept dominating on the varsity the next year as a junior.” That’s nothing outrageous. Shoot, I’ll argue John Wall might even have a crazier story: getting cut from his high school team and having to transfer because no one wanted him nor thought he was good enough. The full MJ story was never given the light. Until now.
Sports Illustrated has a new piece in their newest issue that takes us back to Laney High School, Wilmington, North Carolina and the decision that probably helped change Clifton “Pop” Herring’s life forever.
MJ was banished to jayvee because he was only 5-10. The varsity needed size, and Leroy Smith (the man who would go on to become synonymous with Jordan’s maniacal wrath and competitiveness) and his 6-7 frame were chosen. Herring and the other coaches justified it this way, and after seeing Smith go on to actually play professionally, one can hardly argue taking this 6-7 high school kid was an asinine decision.
But Jordan? He became a jayvee monster.