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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Michael Jordan could have been a Dukie? Check Coach K’s letter to a young MJ

The Dagger

Here's a story guaranteed to send chills down the spines of both pro- and anti-Duke fans, though for markedly different reasons. Duke apparently tried, obviously without success, to recruit Michael Jordan out of high school. That there, via ESPN's Darren Rovell, is a letter from Coach Mike Krzyzewski to "Mike Jordan," and it's a fine relic of college basketball history.

Let's deconstruct this: Coach K says he's "sorry to hear" that Jordan no longer has "an interest in learning more about Duke University." That means, of course, that it was Jordan turning down Duke, not the other way around. And, as we all know, Jordan does indeed tend to make an immediate impact wherever he goes. (Birmingham Barons notwithstanding.)

Now, bear in mind, we can't really blame Jordan for spurning the Blue Devils; while Duke had just come off three straight NCAA tournament appearances, Krzyzewski was just starting his first year as a head coach. It would be four seasons before Duke again reached the NCAA tournament and eleven years before he won his first national championship.

[Also: Kansas suffers one of the season’s most stunning upsets]

Jordan had always had an eye for North Carolina State, but it was North Carolina and Dean Smith, of course, who won the battle for his services. (See Jordan's original letter of intent and a letter from Smith right here.) The Tar Heels proved more attractive to Jordan than Duke, N.C. State, Maryland and South Carolina.

Side note: Krzyzewski would eventually get the opportunity to coach Jordan as part of the 1992 Dream Team coaching staff. As Jack McCallum's book "Dream Team" notes, Jordan, then unquestionably the greatest player on earth, approached Krzyzewski the very first day of practice and said, "Coach K, you got time? There's some stuff I want to work on."

"Michael didn't have to do that," Krzyzewski would later recall. "It was his way of saying, 'You're important and none of that other [Duke-UNC, pro-college] garbage means anything. We're all on the same team."

For a few weeks, at least.

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-

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