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Michael Jordan’s Competitiveness Led to Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith’s Rise In Confidence

Shubham Singh

Michael Jordan's Competitiveness Led To Kenny 'The Jet' Smith's Rise In Confidence

Kenny Smith and Michael Jordan spent one season with each other as UNC Tar Heels athletes. This one-year stint with MJ was transformational for the Jet as Jordan’s fierce attitude inspired him to develop self-belief. During a recent appearance on the ‘All the Smoke’ podcast, Smith revealed that Jordan’s competitive nature infused him with confidence that carried over to his pro-hoops journey.

He highlighted that the stories about MJ’s “competitiveness” are true, which became his template. Smith recalled that, back then, the “pros” used to play “crossover” games against the younger athletes. Considering that MJ was a “senior” in college, he had the right to pick players and early on, first-year players like Smith were overlooked.

However, just a week after Smith’s arrival, senior athlete Jordan showed belief in the New York City native. This achievement filled the young athlete with confidence and competitive fervor,

First day as a freshman, they not picking you, so you got on the court at the end. About a week later, Michael is picking and he’s like, ‘I got New York’, they used to call me New York. I was like, ‘Oh sh**, I got picked first’ It’s 20 pros in the gym, so my confidence was boosted.

During their lone season together at UNC, they led the squad to a 28-3 record but couldn’t make it past the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament. After MJ left for the 1984 draft, a revved-up Smith led the team to two Elite Eight appearances and made it to the All-American Consensus First Team in 1987.

He had a fairly successful NBA career and his biggest moment came when he nailed 7 triples against the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the 1995 Finals. Such high-octane performances helped him win two championships alongside Hakeem Olajuwon. However, these accomplishments may not have been possible without Air Jordan.

Kenny Smith repeatedly hails his former teammate

In April 2024, a video of the GOAT fumbling the ball went viral and paved the way for the so-called “We Done with the 90s” discourse. Videos of him committing blunders were widely circulated and people started to claim that the all-around maestro had “no left hand”, which was, of course, a laughable notion.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

However, Smith defended his former college teammate and called him the “most complete player” of all time. While calling out the “idiocy” of such claims, Smith likened Jordan not having a left hand to “Prince not being able to play the guitar”.

While the 2x NBA champion had a close look at Jordan, the Hooper, he also picked up a few things about his persona. During a ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ appearance in February 2024, he referred to the former North Carolina resident as a “country bumpkin”

Thus, the Inside the NBA analyst witnessed the version of MJ that evaded the public eye. Since Jordan recruited him to play for UNC Tar Heels and triggered the fire for a pro-hoops journey, the GOAT holds a special place in his heart. The Chicago Bulls legend inspired various youngsters in the league and Smith is another esteemed name in the list.

Post Edited By:Hitesh Nigam

About the author

Shubham Singh

Shubham Singh


Shubham Singh is an NBA Journalist at SportsRush. He found his passion in Writing when he couldn't fulfil his dream of playing professional basketball. Shubham is obsessed with box scores and also loves to keep track of advanced stats and is, particularly, fond of writing CoreSport analytical pieces. In the league, his all time favorites were 80s Bad Boys, Pistons, while Dennis Rodman and his enthralling rebounding made him love the game more. It also made him realize that the game is much more than fancy scoring and playmaking. Shubham is also a huge fan of cricket and loves to watch all forms of women sports.

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