Fans of NCAA men’s basketball are familiar with the story of Mike Bibby. As a massively talented freshman, Bibby led his University of Arizona teammates to a stunning upset of the top-ranked University of Kansas Jayhawks, enroute to a national title at the conclusion of the 1996-97 season. Bibby went on to experience success as a member of several NBA teams, and now spends his retirement giving his time to charities and simply being present for his children.
Mike was born on May 13, 1978 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He is the third child of Virginia and Henry Bibby. His father is of African-American descent and was born in the United States, while his mother was born in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Mike’s family has professional sporting experience in its blood, and it was unquestionably passed down to Mike.
Henry was standout-player at the University of California-Los Angeles where helped lead the Bruins to three consecutive NCAA titles between 1970 and 1972. His success continued when he joined the NBA. As a member of the New York Knicks, he won an NBA title in 1973. Henry’s career lasted nine seasons and included stints with the New Orleans Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, and San Diego Clippers, appearing in two more NBA Finals with the 76ers (1977 and 1980).
The athletic bloodlines don’t stop there though. Henry’s brother, Jim, was a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. His career spanned 12 seasons and included stints with the St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Jim’s career highlights include pitching a no-hitter in 1973 with Texas and winning the World Series with Pittsburgh in 1979.
The athletic background of his father and uncle was clear from the moment Mike set foot on the basketball court in Phoenix, AZ. Although he was born in New Jersey, he grew up in Arizona’s capital city and attended Shadow Mountain High School.
Mike capped off his career at Shadow Mountain High School as the basketball program’s leading scorer of all time, with more than 3,000 points. As a senior, he was named a McDonald’s High School All-American and led his high school teammates to an Arizona Division II State Championship. His abilities garnered attention from top programs across the country, but Lute Olson and the University of Arizona were the lucky recipients of his talents in college.
As a freshman in 1996, he led the Wildcats to a stunning upset of the Kansas Jayhawks in the Sweet 16. That season concluded with the first national title in school history. It landed Mike accolades including Freshman of the Year in the Pac-10, member of the 1997 All-Final Four Team, and a third-place finish in voting for the 1998 Wooden Award.
He went on to play one more season at the University of Arizona, as a sophomore, and earned the title of Pac-10 Player of the Year for his performance. During his collegiate career, Mike never missed a game for the Wildcats. He was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the second pick in the 1998 NBA Draft.
Following in his father’s footsteps in the NBA, Mike experienced some of the highest highs possible. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team following the 1998-99 season, and was eventually traded to the Sacramento Kings in 2001. While playing for the Kings, between 2001 and 2008, he made a name for himself as one of the superstars of the NBA.
Mike helped elevate the image of the Kings in the NBA, turning the small-market team into a national favorite in the US. The latter stages of his career saw Mike play for the Atlanta Hawks (2008-2011), Washington Wizards (2011), Miami Heat (2011), and New York Knicks. It was fitting that Mike ended his career where his father made a name for himself.
Forgiveness, Healing, and Giving Back
Throughout his collegiate career, Mike had to deal with questions about his personal life. His father Henry had abandoned the family while Mike was young, leaving his mother Virginia to raise Mike, his two older brothers, and his younger sister, as a lone parent. His father had embarked on a crusade to resurrect his coaching career, traveling the nation to coach in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), United States Basketball League (USBL), and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
When Mike stepped into the limelight in Arizona during college, his father was the head coach of the basketball team at Arizona’s Pac-10 opponent, the University of Southern California (USC). As a young man, Mike brushed off comparisons to his father. He was famously short with reporters asking about his father, pointing out that he became the player and man he is today courtesy of his mother Virginia.
However, clearly raised well by his mother, Mike is a man who believes in forgiveness. Since 2002, Mike has been working to reconnect with his father and rebuild the connection the two lost when Henry disappeared from the family.
Throughout his professional career, Mike has used his public profile to help raise money and awareness for multiple charities. As a member of the Sacramento Kings, he appeared on Wheel of Fortune in October 2005 to raise money for the Red Cross’s Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. His appearance on the show helped raise a minimum of $100,000 recovery and rebuilding efforts in New Orleans.
While playing for the Atlanta Hawks, Mike and his family participated in HOPE Atlanta’s Adopt-a-Family program during the holiday season. The program provided new clothes, toys, and food during the holidays to families living in low-income housing and shelters across the metropolitan Atlanta area.
No story about Mike would be complete without discussing his continued dedication to his beloved sport of basketball. In June 2014, Mike ran a skill-building camp for young basketball players in Sacramento. The camp took place over four days at Natomas Middle School. Currently, Mike serves as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Shadow Mountain. His son, Michael Bibby Jr., is a sophomore and led his school to a state title as a sophomore, besting his father’s efforts by two years.
It is clear that Mike’s life has come full circle. He has learned from the experiences of his youth, and used his position as a superstar in the NBA to give back, before returning to a simpler life as a coach and strong role model for his children.