During his high school career, all signs pointed to Michael Jordan attending the University of North Carolina.
He grew up in Wilmington, a little more than two hours from Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels, led by Hall of Fame head coach Dean Smith, were one of the elite programs in the country and had just gone to a Final Four the year before Jordan arrived. Jordan's good friend Buzz Peterson was also interested in the Tar Heels -- he later committed to UNC to play with Jordan -- and young assistant Roy Williams had been recruiting Jordan hard, trying to keep him under the radar as the coaching staff tried to earn a commitment from the ultra-talented shooting guard who went by "Mike" at that time. The Tar Heels had gotten in early on Jordan before the likes of Duke and North Carolina State.
And as is the case with all recruitments, Smith's in-home visit with Jordan and his family was instrumental.
Goldin Auctions, the company that sold one of the famous T206 Honus Wagner cards for $2.1 million, has put Smith's recruiting letter to Jordan up for bid. It reads:
Our staff surely enjoyed visiting with you and your family there at your beautiful home. It was a delightful evening and one which we were able to use to get to know you better. Hopefully you felt more comfortable with us and that you will consider the University of North Carolina for your college education.
If there are any questions which came up following our departure, please give me a collect call and I will be happy to discuss them with you. Otherwise we may give you a follow-up call before too long just to touch base.
We do think you are a tremendous young man and are impressed not only with your obvious basketball talent but the way you have been a leader at school and done well academically. We look forward to following you closely this year and hope to see you frequently in Chapel Hill.
I am writing your parents separately since they were so very hospitable to us. Enjoyed seeing you, Michael, and hope that beginning in September 1981 I can be your coach.
Dean E. Smith
Dated: Aug. 12, 1980
Here's a photo:
The rest is, of course, history, as Jordan committed to Smith, Williams and the Tar Heels that next April. As a freshman he made the game-winning shot in the NCAA Championship against Patrick Ewing and Georgetown, and after his junior season was selected No. 3 overall by the Chicago Bulls, where he enjoyed quite a bit of success in the NBA.
Smith's recruiting letter is up for auction after a man in North Carolina found the letter in a storage locker he purchased. That letter, as well as a recruiting letter from UNC assistant Bill Guthridge, is up for action. Also, Jordan's class schedule from his freshman season is up for auction. Two classic pieces of memorabilia that have incredible history behind them. The opening bid for the Smith letter is $5,000.