Had He Been Taller, Michael Jordan’s Brother Would Have Been The Greatest Ever

James Jordan always claimed that his son Larry had the real basketball talent in the family.

With that sentence, Melissa Isaacson began her 2009 article that took a look back at Michael Jordan’s formative years.

Like most articles that touch upon the subject of Jordan’s family, Isaacson’s piece made a familiar claim: For all the hype, trophies and rings that Michael Jordan had, his brother, Larry, was a superior player.

MJ even attributes his choice of jersey number to that fact (and it is just that — a fact — one that Michael has insisted upon on numerous occasions).

The number 23 might be synonymous with the being of Michael, but it was really all about Larry. Michael chose the number in high school because he’d always said he wished to be half as good a player as Larry, who wore number 45. Of course, 22.5 was unavailable.

When Michael was famously denied the chance to play for the Emsley A. Laney high school varsity team as a sophomore, it was Larry who starred on the squad.

It was also Larry, just 11 months older than Michael, who was a regular winner of the two brothers’ numerous one-on-one pick-up games.

Indeed, Larry was the better brother. That is, until one summer.

Larry told Isaacson:

I won most of them [the one-on-one games] until he started to outgrow me. And then that was the end of that.

Michael grew five inches between his sophomore and junior years, which finally gave him the physique to match his talent.

During his senior year of high school, Michael averaged a triple-double, earning McDonald’s All-Ameircan honors and a full scholarship to North Carolina in the process. Before that, though, he had one chance to play a season alongside number 45. Of that year, Larry said:

We played one year of varsity basketball together when I was a senior and Michael was a junior, and that’s when his play just went to another level.

Even though there were five guys on the floor, he pretty much played all five positions. His level of play was just so much higher than the rest of us.

Larry, meanwhile went in the opposite direction. While Michael’s growthspurt catalyzed the start of a journey that would see him reach legendary status, Larry’s diminutive stature kept him back.

David Halberstam, author of “Playing For Keeps, Michael Jordan and the World He Made,” might have summed up the situation perfectly when he said that Larry was “a formidable athlete in his own right, though he was packaged in a wrong-sized body.”

Still, even after the growth, even after the national championship at UNC, even after the NBA All-Star appearances, MJ still insists that LJ was a better player, a point made when Larry was in Chicago during the 1987-1988 season.

The footage shows Michael boasting proudly about his brother, after Larry threw down a ridiculous double-pump reverse slam.

When you say ‘Air Jordan,’ I’m number two, he’s one.

The video was shot shortly after Larry was drafted by Chicago in 1987. That is, drafted by the city’s team that competed in the International Basketball Association, which was a 6-foot-4 or under league.

Showing off his moves next to a Michael Jordan who seemed just as pumped when his brother scored as he did for his own baskets, Larry’s insane hops confirmed the “rumors” that were cited in one report by the New York Times around the IBA’s inaugural draft.

In response to word going around that he could “jump through the roof,” Larry told the Times:

I jump pretty well, but I won’t say through the roof.

Well, Larry was pretty damn close; close enough that anyone could see that hang time clearly ran in the family. Nevertheless, Larry only played that one professional season in his life, with Chicago’s IBA becoming defunct after the ’87-’88 campaign.

That is of little consequence, though. Larry’s true legend was never going to depend on his performance in an arbitrary league. After all his legacy, the real reason why he is worthy of note, has long been set in stone.

James Jordan always claimed that his son Larry had the real basketball talent in the family.

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Joseph Milord