Ask former players, current players, front office executives, or random fans on the street who the greatest basketball of all time is, and more often than not, you’ll get the same answer. Michael Jordan. His grace on the court, along with his fiery competitive nature, made him an instant fan favorite. This attitude also led to Jordan winning six NBA titles.
His reputation as a star began building long before he ever entered the NBA, however, as Jordan became an instant fan favorite at Chapel Hill when he sank the game-winning jumper against Georgetown to win the 1982 NCAA Championship. This game occurred on March 29, 1982.
But what if I told you that the greatest player in league history nearly had his NBA career cut short before it ever even began? Stick around and read the bizarre tale of how Michael Jordan almost got cut in half by a martial arts expert with a samurai sword at a North Carolina prison.
Michael Jordan’s brush with death at a North Carolina prison long before his legendary NBA career with the Bulls ever began.
That same summer, Dallas evangelist Bill Glass stopped in North Carolina for his prison ministry tour. To bring more excitement to his act, Glass called up the coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels, Dean Smith, and asked him to send him a basketball star. Now, the player Glass had in mind was Sam Perkins. Heck, he would’ve even taken Jimmy Black. The player that showed up was, instead, Michael Jordan.
The ‘Weekend of Champions’, as the tour was known, was all about giving the prisoners a good show to help them forget about their situation, even just for a minute. On this trip, Glass also brought along a man by the name of Mike Crain. A martial artist from Tennessee, Crain knew how to put on a show. To make things more interesting for the crowd, Crain brought out a samurai sword and requested a volunteer to assist with his next act.
Of course, Jordan would be the one to volunteer as he jumped up on the stage. At least, that’s how Glass remembered the occasion. Crain, on the other hand, remembered Jordan being a little timid about joining the act until Crain challenged Jordan, and no one challenged The GOAT and got away with it. Jordan joined Crain on the stage, and the act would be Jordan lying on a table with a watermelon on his stomach. Crain would then blindfold himself and slice the watermelon in half without touching His Airness.
The problem was that Crain did, in fact, touch Jordan. A small slice was near Jordan’s navel, but Jordan didn’t notice at the time. What he noticed was the tear in the warmups he was wearing. Jordan earned these warmups from his first international tournament, and he didn’t appreciate Crain’s sword slice tarnishing it.
It wouldn’t be until the car ride home that Jordan noticed he was cut, as he didn’t feel any pain. This was because the cut wasn’t deep at all, but it still would require three stitches. Crain, who reportedly performed the watermelon trick 1,750 times, has only cut 16 people.
“That’s not a lot,” Crain joked about cutting Jordan, “He’s missed over 70 game-winning shots. Only mine are more costly.”
Jordan would be okay as his wound healed. He’d go on to not only make his way into the NBA, but he’d go on to become the greatest player the league had ever seen. Jordan’s six NBA championships, six Finals MVPs, five MVPs, a Defensive Player of the Year Award, and 10 scoring titles make it hard for anyone to catch him as the G.O.A.T. Nothing could stop Michael Jordan from achieving greatness… Not even a samurai sword-swinging, blindfolded martial artist.