by Matt Kupec

April 26, 2020

ESPN’s “Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty, has captivated the sports world.

For me, anything covering Michael Jordan is special.  MJ is widely regarded as one of the most influential sports personalities of all-time.  His talents, grace, competitive fire, winning ways, determination, charisma and charm mesmerized many of us during his prolific career.  “Last Dance” is taking the legend of Michael Jordan to even higher level!

As a former UNC QB and chief fundraiser at the school, Michael’s UNC roots make it obvious why I am such a Michael fan.  I am sure the entire Tar Heel nation joins me in that admiration society.

In my twenty-years at UNC’s vice chancellor for advancement for some 21 years I had the chance to meet Michael on many occasions.  I also had the great fortune to interact with his mom, Delores Jordan.

I do have a favorite Michael Jordan Story and it was a chance encounter.

It was an Easter Saturday.  A good friend of mine, FedEx’s Fred Smith had asked me if I would provide a campus tour for the CEO of a large advertising firm and his daughter, a senior in high school who was trying to decide on whether to attend UNC.

We met for breakfast at the Siena Hotel, a five-year hotel/restaurant in Chapel Hill.  While we were eating, Michael Jordan appeared in the restaurant and starting going through the buffet line.

Knowing Michael, I went up to him and asked if he could come over and say hello to the visitors.  Michael was all in!  Not only did he come over but he sat down and spent some 15-20 minutes where he was charming and recruiting hard for UNC.  What was ironic is that the daughter had little clue as to the fame and status of Michael.

Turns out, her younger brother back home did!

He was a big UNC fan and knew everything about Michael Jordan.  When father and daughter returned home, the girl told the brother that she met some former UNC basketball player.  The son anxious to know which player, half-jokingly blasted out “was it Michael Jordan?” The girl replied, “yes, I think so!”  And then the son let a scream of excitment!

How many of us would give most anything to have a fifteen minute one on one conversation with Michael Jordan?

As it turns out, the daughter chose to attend the University of Virginia!

The next time I saw Michael, I gave him a hard time for “not being able a close the deal and get the girl to attend UNC”.  He flashed his charismatic Michael grin and we had a good laugh.

But that story shows that Michael Jordan really is a good guy.  But, not even Michael can close every deal!

About the Author

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed four major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit. He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, leading SIU’s recently extended campaign with an increased goal from $75 million to $200 million.

Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels. During his career he set 19 season and career passing records. Two of which still stand — most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB. Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC. Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.