Jordan was born in Brooklyn, but he was a small-town kid at heart. He grew up in North Carolina, where his family had moved when he was a toddler. He attended high school and college there. So while Jordan made the transition to the NBA rather seamlessly, the one to Chicago posed a larger challenge at the outset.
The Bulls were a predominantly young bunch who enjoyed the nightlife. Some, a bit too much. While player salaries shot up in the 1980s, drugs became the habit of choice around the league. Yet as Jordan was well aware, he had more to lose than any of them.
Even at a young age, he knew the importance of his brand, something he would protect as passionately as the ball on the last possession of a tie game. The kid was no shrinking violet, all right, especially when it came to attractive women, but he wasn’t one to follow the crowd. What’s more, he didn’t trust easily. His inner circle would always be an exclusive group.
Jordan did find someone that he could relate to in preseason camp. The person was forward Rod Higgins, who was three years older. Higgins attended high school in southwest suburban Chicago and knew the lay of the land. A second-round draft pick who played college ball at Fresno State, he was a low-key, happy-to-be-here guy, and Jordan felt comfortable around him.
The same couldn’t be said of teammate Quintin Dailey, who was among the few teammates who were a bit put off by the Jordan hoopla so early in his career. Dailey had another reason to have a jaundiced eye — he would compete against Jordan for minutes at the off-guard position.
"At the end of all three of our physicals, Michael needed a ride back to the hotel," Higgins said. "When I dropped him off, he asked me if I would come back and pick him up for practice the next morning. The rest is kind of history. We developed a great friendship. That fall, right before the season, he ended up buying a condo right next to my condo. We were teammates, we became friends, our families became close."