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James Worthy Reveals He Beat Michael Jordan 3 Times In 1 On 1 At North Carolina, Says He Was Better Than Michael Jordan But Only For About Three Weeks

James Worthy Reveals He Beat Michael Jordan 3 Times In 1 On 1 At North Carolina, Says He Was Better Than Michael Jordan But Only For About Three Weeks

James Worthy is a name that looms large in NBA history, not only was he a three-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, Worthy was also teammates with none other than Michael Jordan at the University of North Carolina. Obviously, Jordan is more decorated than he was, but when the two were in college, Worthy was slightly older and the much bigger star. 

And he has revealed that when Jordan came to UNC as a youngster, he beat him thrice in games of 1 on 1. Speaking to Adam Mendler, creator and host of the 'Thirty Minute Mentors' podcast, Worthy elaborated on what his early encounters with Jordan during their college years were like and how Jordan changed in that time to become the greatest basketball player of all time. 

Adam Mendler: "Great advice and universally applicable whether you're talking about leading a basketball team or leading across any organization. And you mentioned your former college teammate, Michael Jordan. What are your favorite memories and biggest takeaways from your year spent in college with a young MJ?"

James Worthy: "My favorite memory is him as a recruit. And coming in extremely confident. I mean this guy - he wasn't arrogant - but he would let you know immediately that he was not afraid of anything. And so when he came to Carolina - I made this comment on his documentary The Last Dance, where I said - I was better than Michael Jordan when he came to Carolina but only for about three weeks or two weeks. 

"And after that, he just took off man. He was extremely confident. And he always sought out the best. And he was the best. And we would practice sometimes for two and a half hours, just really, really tired. And all I want to do is get a shower and get back to the dorm. And he would find me walking off the court. And he would push me back onto the court physically. He would call me young fella. He said, “Come on, young fella. Where are you going? Let's play a little game.” 

"And so I was like, “Man, I'm tired.” But he was like, “Nah, you're scared. That's what you are.” He said, “You're not tired. You're scared.” He said stuff like, “Yeah, I'll bust your ass.” You know, he was just always like that with a big smile on his face. And I think I beat him three out of five times and I stopped playing. And that's the one thing that I have on him - to this day - are those three games in a one on one that I beat him. 

"But he was amazing mental capacity because it could be Game 6 or Game 7 of the Finals or it could be a backgammon game in the dorm room. If he lost, they were the same to him. He was extremely upset. And that's who he is - it doesn't matter, it could be a game of marbles in the backyard or it could be a big shot in the NBA Finals. 

"He hated to lose and he hated to be taunted. You couldn't challenge him. And so he was just an amazing guy. And you know, when he left Carolina, Coach Smith was the right coach for him because he needed a little bit of discipline in his game, he needed to understand how to take his talent and apply it to the team, and Coach Smith gave him that, and from that, he just took off. And I knew he would be an All-Star, but I had no idea that he would be arguably one of the top three players in the game."

Michael Jordan became an NCAA champion with the Tar Heels in 1982 and his production in college went up by almost 7 points per game after his freshman year with the Tar Heels. Worthy ended up with the Los Angeles Lakers immediately after that year when he was also a huge part of the championship team, and would go on to be a part of their intense rivalry with the Celtics. 

Worthy enjoyed his best years in the 80s, but by the time Jordan was in his prime in the 90s, there was no stopping him and his Chicago Bulls. Worthy had some more great battles with MJ, although apparently none that gave him as much grief as his previous clashes with Larry Bird. In any case, their careers may have panned out otherwise, Worthy will always be able to say that he beat the GOAT 1 on 1 three times.