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Magazine of the Week
Sports Illustrated, November 28, 1983

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9/21/06 - Life magazine November 29, 1963 - premiere of Magazine of the Week

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The first Sports Illustrated cover for Michael Jordan was about two years late, but MJ made up for lost time. by Rick Gagliano - 9/28/06.

In the annals of sports, the name Michael Jordan is both revered and recognizable for greatness. Nobody has appeared on more covers of Sports Illustrated than the legendary, personable basketball player known to fans as just "Mike", "MJ" or, thanks to his massive Nike endorsements, "Air" or "His Airness."

Jordan gaced the skin of Sports Illustrated 49 times in the two decade span from 1983 to 2003, distancing himself from Muhammad Ali, a Sports Illustrated cover subject 37 times. Not only has MJ been on more covers, he's done so in four different uniforms and in three different sports.

Beginning in 1983, Jordan shows up in the powder blue of the North Carolina Tar Heels. A year later, he would appear in US Olympic team garb; a suit he'd wear again in 1991. Most of the covers Jordan appears on he is in the familiar number 23, red and black colors of the Chicago Bulls , though he also shows up as a Washington Wizard (Oct. 29, 2001, Jan. 14, 2002, Feb. 17, 2003), where he ended his playing career, once as a Bull wearing the number 45 (Mar. 27, 1995), as a major league baseball player with the Chicago White Sox (si31494.jpg) and in golfing garb (si81489,jpg). Jordan also appeared on the cover in cariacature twice (si32095.jpg, si31097.jpg) and as a hologram (December 23, 1991).

Sports Illustrated magazine Michael Jordan 1st cover 11/28/83 The Sports Illustrated cover shown at right (November 28, 1983), with fellow North Carolina Tar Heel Sam Perkins, was Jordan's first appearance on the cover of the world's most popular sports magazine.

Here we see the two college players boasting their pre-season #1 ranking in SI's annual College Basketball Preview issue. Jordan was then a Junior and Perkins a senior, but, Jordan actually should have appeared on the cover two years earlier, as a freshman guard on the Tar Heels' team which won the national championship in the 1981-1982 season.

On the cover of the Novermber 30, 1981 issue (shown at right) is coach Dean Smith fronting four of his team's starting five players. From left to right are Sam Perkins, Brad Doherty, Jimmy Black and James Worthy. But where's Michael? He's mentioned inside the magazine, but there are no photos of him.

Legend has it - and this has been verified as truth - that Jordan missed the photo shoot because he was attending classes. Imagine, possibly the greatest basketball player of all time, missing out on being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Of course, we - and Mike - didn't know that the opportunity would present itself again and again and again...

Story continues below


After that initial disappointment for Jordan, he and the Tar Heels went on to win the National Championship with a 63-62 victory over Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas. Once again, there was opportunity for Jordan to score the cover of the magazine - he did, after all, hit the game winning shot (a baseline jumper from about 12 feet) - but the editors chose instead to use Manny Millan's photo of James Worthy, who led all scorers with 28 points in the final game and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player (MOP).

By that time, Jordan might have felt that he'd never make it to the Sports Illustrated cover, but once he got his shot, he certainly made the most of it.

The first Sports Illustrated cover appearances by athletes are among the most prized by collectors. This one, with Jordan and Perkins, usually sells in the $30-45 range, depending on condition, but has sold for as much as $65 with a label attached. A mint or near mint condition newsstand copy may fetch as much as $80-100 or more.

It's one to keep an eye out for whenever looking through a stack of older Sports Illustrated magazines.

Related pages:
1st Michael Jordan cover (Nov. 28, 1983) price guide page.
November 30, 1981 - Dean Smith and Tar Heels "Starting Four"
March 10, 1997 - caricature
March 14, 1994 - Jordan as a member of the Chicago White Sox
March 20, 1995 - Super Michael cariacature
December 23, 1991 - Hologram cover
February 18, 1991 - Photographer: Theo Westenberger; The Olympic Dream Team: Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Basketball, Team USA
August 14, 1989 - playing golf
July 23, 1984 - USA Olympic Team
Mar. 27, 1995 - Wearing #45 for the Bulls.

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