James Worthy recalls Michael Jordan’s ‘Assassin’ mentality at UNC

When Michael Jordan first arrived at the University of North Carolina, James Worthy was the top player on the team. However, it wasn’t long before he was deposed by the young Guardsmen.

James Worthy went on to have a great NBA career, but not to the level of Michael Jordan. The Hall of Fame forward recently opened up about their time together as college teammates.

Prior to Jordan’s arrival in 1981, Worthy had just finished his sophomore season, averaging 14.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Speaking on the “All the Smoke” podcast, the Los Angeles Lakers said it took about three weeks for Jordan to surpass him as the team’s No. 1 player.

“For about three weeks, I was better than Michael,” Worthy said. “He was an assassin. He bullied me and he wanted the best in everything.”

In their only season as teammates, Worthy and Jordan led UNC to a national championship. After winning the championship, Worthy was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the first overall pick in the 1982 draft. He went on to play 12 seasons with the team, making seven All-Star appearances and winning three championships.

Michael Jordan’s final shot at James Worthy during the 1982 championship game

Although James Worthy believed Michael Jordan was better than him at the time, his numbers were better in the 1981-82 season. Despite being the team’s best player, it was the future Chicago Bulls legend who got the ball in the biggest moment of the year.

In the 1982 national championship game, UNC faced off against Patrick Ewing and Gerogetown. The game entered the final moments and Jordan secured victory for his team.

Rather than setting up Worthy’s final play, they used him as a distraction. When the defense collapsed on him, they quickly moved the ball to the other end of the court where Jordan was waiting. He hit a mid-range jumper that ultimately gave North Carolina the game-winner.

Jordan made 7 of 13 shots in the game and scored 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

During their time together, Worthy got a glimpse into what drove Jordan to become one of the greatest NBA players of all time. His obsession with being the best player was the catalyst that led him to six championships with the Chicago Bulls and cemented his place in the GOAT conversation.

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