Michael Jordan, born on February 17, 1963, in Brooklyn, New York, is an American former professional basketball player. The all-rounder Bulls legend measuring 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 metres) tall, was a brilliant shooter, passer and defender. His extraordinary leaping ability and acrobatic manoeuvres along with his popularity at the game earned him the nickname ‘Air Jordan’. He led the National Basketball Association (NBA) Chicago Bulls to six championships (1991, 92, 93, and 1996, 97, 98). His most notable endorsement that led him to become the only billionaire sports person is – Nike for Air Jordan basketball shoes.
Growing up in North Carolina
Michael Jeffrey Jordan fondly called MJ was the son of James and Deloris Jordan. He grew up in Wilmington, South Carolina with his brothers Ronnie and Larry, and sisters Deloris and Rosalyn. His athletic prowess was recognized at an early age in the Emsley A. Laney High School where he played basketball, baseball, and football. Here he became the star of Laney’s junior varsity team and tallied several 40-point games. In 1981, he received a basketball scholarship and joined the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to major in Cultural Geography. As a freshman in 1982, he scored the winning basket against Georgetown in the national championship game. He was also named ‘College Player of the Year’ twice. His brother the 5’8 Larry in an interview with ESPN said “I won most of them until he started to outgrow me, and then that was the end of that.” MJ the basketball star was born!
The Michael Jordan Bulls story
In 1984, Jordan became a part of team Chicago Bulls. In his first season (1984–85) as a professional, he was named Rookie of the Year. He continued to lead the NBA in scoring for seven consecutive seasons, averaging about 33 points per game. In 1986-87, he created a piece of history by becoming the second player after Wilt Chamberlain to score 3,000 points in a single season.
Jordan won the prestigious title of NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) five times – in 1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, and 1998.
In October 1993, Jordan retired from basketball to opt foareer in professional r a cbaseball. Nonetheless, in March 1995, he re-entered the basketball game. In the 1995 – 96 season Jordan led the Bulls to a record 72–10 which remained until much later when Golden State Warriors broke the record in 2015–16.
After the 1997–98 season Jordan retired again. In January 2000, MJ bought a share of the Washington Wizards but by September 2001 he renounced his ownership and management positions with the Wizards to be able to play in the games to mark his second return to NBA.
After the 2002–03 season, Air Jordan announced his final retirement. The legend closed his career with 32,292 total points and a 30.12-points-per-game average, which is the best in league history, as well as 2,514 steals, the second most ever. Out of 15 seasons and 35 games that he played in, 6 made it to the Finals.
Some remarkable Bulls dates
1986: Jordan scores playoff-record 63 vs. Celtics
1989: Jordan knocks Cavs out of playoffs with “The Shot”
1990: Jordan scores career-high 69 vs. Cavaliers
1991: Jordan’s “spectacular move” evens Finals vs. Lakers
1992: Jordan drops 56 to finish sweep of Heat
1992: Jordan shrugs off Blazers in Game 2
1993: Jordan’s 54 evens series vs. Knicks
1993: Jordan puts up 55 in Finals vs. Suns
1995: Jordan’s famous double-nickel at MSG
1996: Jordan clinches fourth title on Father’s Day
(Information credits ESPN)
More notable dates
- 1984 Led the U.S. basketball team to Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles
- 1987-88 Only Player to Win the Scoring Title and the Defensive POY in the same season
- 1992 Led the U.S. basketball team to Olympic gold medal in Barcelona, Spain.
- 1996 Named as one of the ‘50 greatest players of all time’ by NBA
- 1996 Starred with animated characters Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in the movie Space Jam
- 2006 Minority owner and general manager of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats (now known as the Charlotte Hornets).
- 2009 Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
- 2010 Bought the controlling share in Charlotte Bobcats to become the first former NBA player to become a majority owner of one of the league’s franchises.
- 2016 Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
In 1989, Michael Jordan married his first wife Juanita Vanoy with whom he has three children – Jeffrey Michael, Marcus James, and Jasmine. When they divorced in 2006, it was termed as the most expensive celebrity divorce on record with Juanita Vanoy receiving USD 168 million. In 2013, MJ married his long-time girlfriend and Cuban model Yvette Prieto after having her sign a prenuptial agreement. Yvette and MJ have identical twins, Victoria and Ysabel.
Though a private person, in 1997, MJ shared his life and the Chicago Bulls dynasty with ESPN for a 10-part documentary series titled ‘The Last Dance’.
Media, endorsements and more made Michael the only billionaire athlete since 2014. Currently, his net worth is estimated at USD 2.1 billion.
The Nike Connection
Michael Jordan’s game fame brought him several endorsements. But among them, the most notable endorsement is the Nike Air Jordan shoe brand. In 1984, Nike signed-up with Michael Jordan for a five-year endorsement contract worth USD 2.5 million. This event revolutionalized the footwear industry across the world. MJ had won the national title at the University of North Carolina, a Gold Medal at the Olympic games in Los Angeles, and was selected 3rd overall by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Draft. It was the right time now. Though Nike slightly unsure at that time, decided to take a risk and create its first colorful basketball sneakers at USD 65 (the most expensive shoe then) to be endorsed by an athlete. The Air Jordan Brand was born.
Interestingly, when MJ wore the Air Jordan 1 at the 1985 NBA season, AJ I Black/Red colorway was banned by the NBA because of rules regarding shoe colors and Jordan was fined USD 5,000 for every game he wore them to. Of course, Jordon continued to wear them and Nike continued to foot the bill, with all the attention and almost free worldwide publicity AJ I was beginning to enjoy. The ban was later lifted once Nike came out with a new pair of Air Jordans. Then came the Air Jordan II as the first “luxury basketball sneaker.” Soon on its heels was Air Jordan III, IV, V.
Released in 1991, the White/September blue version Air Jordan VI took over as the most loved shoes in the Air Jordan line. With Air Jordan VII, Nike design and branding adopted a minimal approach.
The crazy obsession with Air Jordan sneakers continues to date. It even led to a hobbyist group being formed called ‘Sneaker Heads’ where members collect and trade sneakers.
Since then, Nike has been re-releasing old Air Jordans, for serious collectors. San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, is among them who own over 100 Air Jordans.
The sad part of the story behind the Air Jordan shoes which Nike releases as a limited edition only once a year is that the Air Jordans are now a reason for its fan base to fight and kill over them. There has been a rise in crime and violence in African American inner city communities, only to be able to own a pair that has become symbolic of a person’s financial wealth.
The question remains – without Michael Jordan would there be a Nike and without Nike would there still be a Michael Jordan?