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January 12, 2012

Michael Jordan cut from HS team? 'A lie'


Michael Jordan, shown as a senior at Wilmington Laney High, played JV as a sophomore. But the story that legend says he was cut from the team as a sophomore, a story that continues to haunt his former coach. Wilmington Star News file photo.


Sport Illustrated has a story this week about Michael Jordan and his former coach, Clifton 'Pop" Herring.

Herring says he's still haunted by an urban legend regarding Jordan: In 1978, the story goes, Herring cut Jordan, then a high school sophomore, from the basketball team at Wilmington Laney High.

In truth, Jordan was on Laney's JV roster that year, developing the skills that eventually made him one of the all-time NBA greats.

But the story that Herring cut Jordan persists.

“It’s a lie that you continue to tell,” Herring tells Sports Illustrated.

A story by Robbi Pickeral published in The Observer in 2009, just before Jordan's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, was one attempt to set the record straight. 

In that story Pickeral quoted Ruby Sutton, who called it her pet peeve to hear the story of Jordan being "cut" from the Laney High varsity basketball team as a sophomore, and of that event spurring him to greatness.

"Back then, (most) 10th-graders played JV; that's just the way it was. Nobody ever 'cut' Michael Jordan, " Sutton said then, shaking her head as she retold the story for at least the 100th time.

"Him not making the varsity that year was not his motivator - he was motivated well before that. He just always wanted to be the best."

Still, the story endures, in no small part because of Jordan himself. He referenced being cut from the varsity in 10th grade in his acceptance speech for the Basketball Hall of Fame, first in a list of slights he said motivated him.

Herring, the Sports Illustrated story says, later resigned as Laney's coach after displaying symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, which ran in his family. He has also dealt with homelessness.

Once and for all, maybe the Sports Illustrated piece will put the story, and the pain Herring feels in dealing with it, to rest.



Posted by Observer Sports on January 12, 2012 at 01:06 PM | Permalink


Sad story. The mentaly ill are being thrown on the streets by the hundreds. Access to medical care should be a right, not a priveledge.

Posted by: REAL | Jan 12, 2012 1:39:11 PM

Why is this such a big story? Jordan missed out on one of the final spots of the varsity roster that he thought he deserved, so he viewed it as being "cut". His coach (and others) disagree with the term, but not what actually happened. This doesn't make Jordan a liar.

Posted by: Nick | Jan 12, 2012 1:49:26 PM

I have heard the myth a few times that he also had his father killed. I know that is a lie, but that legend persists as well.

It is pure craziness and sadness. I hope his former coach is doing ok.

Posted by: theodore milfman | Jan 12, 2012 1:49:48 PM

jordan is a sick human being...check this story on his hof speech.


Posted by: Fletch! | Jan 12, 2012 2:03:31 PM

Yea - I have always thought it is funny to hear he got "cut" from the team. Sophomores don't typically play Varsity unless they can contribute a lot. Chris Paul played JV his sophomore year, but you don't hear him running around saying he was cut from the Varsity team.

Posted by: Mike | Jan 12, 2012 2:11:24 PM

Sounds like the TRUTH, if he was cut from Varsity in the 10th grade, then he was CUT from the Varsity team. Michael Jordan is RIGHT. The others are wrong, including COACH POP Herring.

Posted by: Southernboy JJ | Jan 12, 2012 2:14:19 PM

So what do you call trying out for the varsity team and not making it? I guess those 10th graders that didn't make the JV team weren't "cut" from the team either?

Posted by: MW | Jan 12, 2012 2:28:34 PM

People asked him what motivated him to succeed and that was it. Him being cut from the Varsity was the truth. Even though he play JV he didn't play varsity until the next year. It's like saying you got cut by the Carolina Panthers but you made the practice squad. YOU GOT CUT!!! He never lied, he said he was cut from his "Varsity" team. He never told people to go after his coach. Is it me or does the media more than ever use the "He said, she said" tactic more than usual now?

Posted by: ckirk | Jan 12, 2012 2:30:59 PM

The full version of this story states that Jordan had an older 6-7 friend who made the varsity because they needed a big man. MJ was 5-10 at the time.

Posted by: Brent | Jan 12, 2012 2:36:23 PM

What cares

Posted by: Thomas | Jan 12, 2012 2:45:44 PM

For those of you who obviously aren't all that informed on what it means to be "cut" from a team, you have to be ON the team in order to be later CUT from the team.

Michael Jordan never earned the Varsity spot in the 10th grade, so he was never CUT from the team. He earned that right in the 11th grade.

Posted by: KM | Jan 12, 2012 3:01:09 PM

You have to tryout for a team to get cut. MJ wasn't trying out for the varsity team in the 10th grade. The people who believe the lie will never be convinced. The story also said the "coach" in the Come Fly with Me video that said he cut MJ wasn't the coach during MJ's 10th grade year. I guess that's not a lie either.

Posted by: Reggie | Jan 12, 2012 3:26:34 PM

Its pathetic that we keep hearing the same old Michael Jordan fables over and over and over again. Who cares in the year 2012?

The guy has been exposed as a womanizer and just another rich hedonist pig.

Report some real news for a change and see your circulation go up.

Posted by: Tex | Jan 12, 2012 3:28:45 PM

I hate when people mess ruin a good story with facts.

Posted by: Rod | Jan 12, 2012 3:58:15 PM

"you have to be ON the team in order to be later CUT from the team"

Yeah, ok. What player ever gets cut from a team then? If 20 people try out for a 15-man basketball roster, the 5 that don't make it do not constitute as being cut? Like I said before, this whole story is overblown based on a war of semantics.

Posted by: Nick | Jan 12, 2012 4:06:09 PM

"The guy has been exposed as a womanizer and just another rich hedonist pig. "

You make the call: A woman or gay man?

Posted by: Yackletoast | Jan 12, 2012 4:29:52 PM

I can easily imagine a scene where the old coach gets introduced to some brainless twit who recognizes the name and screams, "I heard of you! You're the guy that cut Michael Jordan when he was in 10th grade!" And I can see that scene getting repeated countless times. I'm sure it got REALLY old.

I do agree with Nick; this is just semantics and a sign that there are a ton of people who haven't had anything to do for 34 years.

Posted by: J | Jan 12, 2012 4:38:50 PM

Healthcare should NEVER be a right. people DON'T pay for rights. you don't pay for free speech, you don't pay for the right to own a gun, you do have to pay for the gun though, but not the right. Also healtcare is a "service", which "requires" an individual to work to take care of you. Only 2 choices here. Force this person to be a slave, or pay this person for providing a service. You cannot make one a slave to give another a right. And you cannot pay for a right. hence, healthcare can NOT be a right.

Though, everyone should have access to affordable healthcare.

Posted by: David | Jan 12, 2012 4:45:02 PM

i've always heard the story told as "cut from varsity" not that he didn't play JV. and you can say what you want to say about it being the 70's or whatever.....but it IS the same thing. the cream still rose to the top and most ELITE nba players of that generation played varsity from day one their freshmen years. you're talking about the greatest basketball player of all time playing jv as a sophomore. normal in those days sure. normal still today. I know plenty of guys that played JV as a soph as recent as 4 years ago and still played college ball. we aren't talking about a NORMAL player. we're talking about jordan.

that's why the story is so incredible and has the wings it does. JORDAN playing jv at all is a story.

Posted by: charlottean | Jan 12, 2012 4:52:43 PM

Does Jordan really have a serious STD? Healthcare, like insurance, a car, a house and clothing is not something should ever have to give you because you're too lazy or on drugs to get provide for yourself. If you can't afford food....you starve. I'll be damned if I'm taking money from my kids to give to YOU for your doctor visits. Good luck with that!

Posted by: Liberal_Idiots | Jan 12, 2012 4:58:24 PM

Look at the picture MJ is a Vulcan, a very ugly Vulcan but he has the finger spread and the ears down pat.

Posted by: Robert Openhiemer | Jan 12, 2012 5:48:29 PM

I like how the NBA covered up his suspension for gambling and called it a retirement so he could play baseball!

Posted by: joe cool | Jan 12, 2012 6:10:30 PM

Jordan should be cut as the owner of the Bobcats. That whole organization is a joke right now and he don't seem to care.

Posted by: brian dempsey | Jan 12, 2012 9:55:03 PM

It is too bad that MJ showed poor taste in his Hall of Fame speech, but I'm with His Airness on the "myth" that he was cut from Laney High's varsity team as a sophomore. Methinks his chagrined former coaches have protested too much -- now again in venerable Sports Illustrated.

These are the facts:

-- Jordan was talented and driven, as his coaches knew. He practiced like a demon. And he was an extraordinary competitor.

-- Jordan wanted to play on the varsity team as a sophomore. Sophomores usually were restricted to the JV team, but sometimes won a spot on the varsity squad.

-- Jordan's coach logically chose a taller sophomore over Jordan to join the guard-laden varsity team, to Jordan's great disappointment.

-- Jordan went on to be the JV team's star player that year.

-- Jordan joined the varsity team as a junior, exploded as a senior, played for Dean, hit The Shot, and the rest is history.

So maybe Jordan was not technically "cut" from the varsity team his sophomore year, because he was never on it. But Jordan wanted badly to play on the varsity team, he tried to win a spot on it, AND THE COACH TURNED HIM DOWN. Even assuming the coach made the right call, the bottom line is, Jordan didn't make the team he wanted to play on -- i.e., in layupman's terms, he was cut.

If I were Jordan, I would believe, feel, and say that I had been cut from the team. As in, he didn't make the cut, despite his fervent wish, his intense effort, and his obvious talent. He's still bitter about it, which is a shame. It was the coach's call -- but the coach did, in fact, make the call.

The great irony is, not making varsity that year probably made Jordan a better player, boosted his confidence, and set him on his historic path. For that, he probably should thank his coaches instead of ridiculing them for cutting him, as he has.

But to argue that he was not "cut" from the team on which he was denied a spot he had sought is to insist petulantly on a technical distinction without a meaningful difference.

And so the "myth" is no myth at all -- though in the end the story has no villain, either.

Matthew Eisley

Posted by: Matthew Eisley | Jan 12, 2012 11:50:01 PM

I like the vulcan story. That vulcan has done very well for himself. Is it true Jordan never pays for anything? Did he really steal Buzz Peterson's shoes? Investigate that and If he actually pays for the cool clothes he sports. Look forward to the story. Circulation is bound to go up.

Posted by: pirate93 | Jan 13, 2012 4:59:44 AM

As Matthew says: Michael tried out, he didn't "make" the varsity and was allowed to play on the JV team. He was not "cut" he simply didn't "make" the varsity team.
Did any of the posters here even play on an athletics team in high school...geez.

Posted by: Tom McMahon | Jan 13, 2012 6:49:38 AM

HE WAS CUT!!! If you try out for the Bobcats and don't make it but then sent to the developmental league you were cut from the team!!!! You don't say I wasn't cut because I play semi-pro ball for the N. Dakota fireballs. All Michael ever said is that he was cut from varsity and this is what drove him more to succeed. S.I almost seem to be trying to make him the villain. Yes I'm sorry his coach is on hard times but the way they are portraying is that it is all M.J's fault, when it is not.

Posted by: ckirk | Jan 13, 2012 8:52:13 AM

David Thompson played his first varsity game as a 10th grader and scored 44 pts. Saw it first hand as I sat on the bench as a 10th grader at RS Central.
I was a teammate of Fred (Tyrone) Lynch who went on to become the JV coach at Laney who some mistake him as being the one who "cut" Jordan.
I used the Jordan "cut" story when I coached middle school teams and one morning after I posted a list of players who made the football team a 7th grader who was "cut" came up and asked me---What was your friends name in high school who "stabbed" Michael Jordan? True story!

Posted by: D Dukes | Jan 13, 2012 10:30:34 AM

In sports such golf you make the cut, therefore you continue to play in the tourney. On sports team when there are tryouts, you have either demonstrate through practice the necessary skills to participate as a member of the team or not. When you do not demonstrate those skills it is called cutting (reducing the number to the desired amount).This practice is derived from culling as down with animals, certian crops and other nouns that require a process of thinning.

Posted by: brown | Jan 13, 2012 1:24:23 PM

You can't be "cut from a team" if you aren't ON the team. You can "miss the cut" at tryouts, though.

In HS, I had a friend who wouldn't try out for baseball unless I did, too. Didn't hit a single pitch. Never even got a chance to field. Does that mean I was "cut from the team?" Nope.

Posted by: Jesse | Jan 13, 2012 1:28:13 PM

In the case of Michael Jordan, It is a slow day at the Observer, It is Friday before a long Government sanctioned weekend. The gangbangers are taking a break from crime (I hope)So let's talk about one of North Carolina's favorite sons and his struggle to make his basketball team, his devistation with having to walk four miles to and from practice without suitable shoes during the coldest time of the year. When he finally arrived home all the supper had been eaten, all the places in the one bedroom house in the one bed taken and he had to stand up to sleep, therefore growing and additional 8 inches. Which was why he was cut from the Varsity in the first place, he was on 5' 10 inches and a taller person was warranted

Posted by: brown | Jan 13, 2012 1:34:43 PM

in response to Jessie,
You are missing the point. At the time of tryouts a team has not been established, therein lies the rub (tryouts). You are accessing the talent pool in order to form a team. Those that don't measure up are considered cut from the tryout and the evaluation process. They are free to weigh thier other options. In the case of Michael J. That would be the Junior Varsity.

Posted by: brown | Jan 13, 2012 2:00:11 PM

What the hell! He got cut and his only alternative was to play JV!

Posted by: capitalist | Jan 13, 2012 2:44:55 PM

Has any of you actually read the SI article?
Pop Herring assigned Jordan to the JV. Then, as MJ himself aknowledged, Herring picked him up everyday at 6 AM to help him work on his game.
What strikes me in the story is how self-centered and insecure Jordan is: come on, Pop Herring has lost his mental health, his job, his wife and his daughter's love, while Jordan has won everything, titles and millions, yet Jordan still feels the urge to fire cheap shots, in his hall-of-fame induction speech at that. Sheesh...

Posted by: kirikou | Jan 14, 2012 8:24:30 AM

He was cut from the Varsity and had to play JV since thats the way the system used to work. It always caused a lot of problems with the upper class players when lower class players moved up to quickly. The old system was always the best and still is.

Read closer.

Posted by: ex-player | Jan 14, 2012 9:25:15 AM

Jordan is such a fraud in his personal life and that's what HS is/was. He's a joke as a GM & an owner with his bigger than GOD ego. There's many a story that his "retirement" from the NBA to go play baseball was in reality a suspension for gambling. The womanizing and other shady exploits at night are no different than Tiger Woods. As a player, he gets an "A+", but as a man, I'd give him an "F".

Posted by: BIG MAC | Jan 14, 2012 10:02:37 AM

There is no such thing as a cured gambler or a cured womanizer and he definitely has to use a wide door to get his head through.

Posted by: wilmington | Jan 14, 2012 12:55:50 PM

Rick What the Hell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Diaw coming off the bench made my year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Perfect for facilitating which is what he wants.... Until obvioulsy traded to NY, which w/out question is what he wants! and someone should get on it with trading him somewhere NOW, because he does not want to be here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: David Stern has to go!! | Jan 15, 2012 12:25:39 AM

TT is Very "RUSTY", I agree! However he is trying his ASS!!!!!!!!!!!! off.
Unlike some others, who are cheating their talent!

Posted by: David Stern has to go!! | Jan 15, 2012 12:32:22 AM

Too bad he can't find that competitive fire to figure he needs to take his hands off the wheel and let people who know what they are doing run an NBA franchise. This team will continue to be a joke until that is the case.

Posted by: IusedtositnearBuzz | Jan 15, 2012 11:15:38 AM

I am absolutely blown away at peoples inability to understand that not making a team you tryout for IS CALLED BEING CUT from that team. You WERE on that team while you were trying out. And in most cases, there are numerous cuts. Usually the last cut in basketball is the one to determine jv vs. Varsity.

Why is that complicated?

If a guy was in panthers training camp and then gets released.....he got cut. How did everybody miss that?

Lol @ the david thompson story with the kid saying "stabbed" thats funny.

Posted by: charlottean | Jan 16, 2012 1:57:35 AM

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