“There is an I in ‘win.’”
There is only one athlete that this phrase could be attributed to and it’s the one and only Michael Jordan. The Chicago Bulls star captivated the nation from his college days at North Carolina and used his professional career to break through barriers of what a basketball player could be. Jordan became a global icon in his 15-year NBA career and continues to be an international sensation.
This was all before the dawn of social media.
Today’s basketball stars, including Kevin Durant, Candace Parker, Damian Lillard, Breanna Stewart and the NBA’s new scoring king, LeBron James, have built fanbases through excellence on and off the court. The importance of a personal brand continues to increase. But Jordan literally created his own brand.
As the six-time NBA champion celebrates his 60th birthday on Friday, here are 60 facts about his basketball career, pop culture influence and life beyond the hardwood:
Michael Jordan’s early days
1. Michael Jordan was born on Feb. 17, 1963 to James and Deloris Jordan. The couple was living in Brooklyn, New York, at the time, but moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, a few years after he was born. Jordan has two older brothers, an older sister and a younger sister.
2. Michael Jordan was motivated as a child by his brother, Larry, who also played basketball. They both wore No. 45 jerseys, but when they played on the same team, the younger brother had to pick a new number. So he cut 45 in half and rounded up to No. 23. He carried it through college, the NBA and into icon status.
3. The only time Michael Jordan wore 45 after committing to 23 was after the return from his first retirement in March of 1995. He finished out the regular season and the first round of the playoffs in the new number before struggling in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and deciding he had better luck in No. 23.
4. Michael Jordan was very close with his father, James. In “The Last Dance,” he revealed that he was suspended three times during his ninth grade year and his father put him back on track.
“My father pulled me aside that summer,” he shared, “and he said, ‘Look, you don’t look like you’re headed in the right direction. If you want to go about doing all this mischievous stuff, you can forget sports.’ That’s all I needed to hear. It was like from that point on, it was tunnel vision.”
5. His sophomore year, Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team at Laney (N.C.) High School. The experience gave him reason to not ever be left off a team again.
Michael Jordan’s legend starts at North Carolina
6. As a freshman with the North Carolina Tar Heels, Michael Jordan hit the game-winning jump shot in the victory over the Georgetown Hoyas to win the 1982 national championship.
7. Michael Jordan received his degree from the University of North Carolina in 1986 when he returned to complete his classes after breaking his foot. He majored in geography.
8. Michael Jordan wore a pair of North Carolina practice shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts for every game.
Michael Jordan dominates the basketball world
9. Michael Jordan was selected by the Chicago Bulls as the No. 3 overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft. Ahead of him was Hakeem Olajuwon by the Houston Rockets and Sam Bowie by the Portland Trail Blazers. Other stars in the draft class included Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers and John Stockton of the Utah Jazz.
10. Michael Jordan was named the 1984-85 NBA Rookie of the Year. He finished his first season with the Chicago Bulls starting all 82 games with a stat line of 28.2 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game and a .515 field goal percentage.
11. Michael Jordan broke his foot in his second season. He powered his way through rehab to return to top shape.
12. Michael Jordan’s highest-scoring game was when he racked up 69 points in a 117-113 overtime win against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 28, 1990. He scored 60-plus points five times in his career.
13. The legacies of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson weighed heavily on Michael Jordan early in his career since he was known as a scorer, but not a winner. The 1991 NBA Finals in which the Chicago Bulls defeated the Los Angeles Lakers was a big relief to the rising star, who won his first of six championships.
14. Michael Jordan only packed one suit when the Chicago Bulls traveled to play the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals. The Bulls failed to clinch the title in Game 5 at home.
“We going back to win one game,” he recalled telling the team in “The Last Dance.” “I’m not going there to play two games.”
He scored 33 points in Game 6 as the Bulls won their third straight title, becoming the the third team in NBA history to accomplish a three-peat.
15. Michael Jordan announced his first retirement in 1993 after the death of his father.
16. On March 18, 1995, Michael Jordan shocked the world when he returned to basketball. He shared the news with an often-imitated, never duplicated two-word fax, “I’m back.”
17. Michael Jordan played with a stomach bug in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, the “Flu Game.” He scored 38 points and a key three-point shot that gave the Chicago Bulls the lead for good. Chicago wrapped up the series in the next game and Jordan captured his fifth title.
18. Despite initially not appreciating Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, which emphasized team play, Michael Jordan advocated for giving the head coach a contract extension ahead of his last season with the Chicago Bulls.
“Phil should be the head coach and I shouldn’t be put in a position to have to make a choice to play for another coach other than Phil Jackson,” he said in a press conference during the 1995-96 season. “… Sadly as it may be, I have choices. I will not choose to play for another coach.”
19. Michael Jordan was a mentor to Kobe Bryant, who entered the NBA in 1996, Jordan’s 12th season in the league. Jordan spoke at Bryant’s memorial after he died in 2020 at the age of 41.
20. Madison Square Garden was Michael Jordan’s favorite arena to play in. When he played there in 1998, believing it was his last season of basketball, he broke out an old pair of Air Jordan 1s, which he wore several years before during his debut at the iconic New York venue. He scored 42 points in the game even though his feet were bleeding.
22. Michael Jordan was away from the NBA for three seasons and took on the role of president of basketball operations and was a minority owner of the Washington Wizards. The lure of the game pulled him in yet again as he signed a two-year deal with the team on Sept. 25, 2001.
“I feel there is no better way of teaching young players than to be on the court with them as a fellow player, not just in practice, but in NBA games,” he said. “While nothing can take away from the past, I am firmly focused on the future and the competitive challenge ahead of me.”
23. Michael Jordan played his last NBA game at the age of 40 on April 16, 2003 when the Washington Wizards played the Philadelphia 76ers. He scored 15 points in 28 minutes.
24. The Chicago Bulls retired Michael Jordan’s No. 23 number in 1994 after he first stepped away from the game.
25. Even though Michael Jordan never played for the Miami Heat, the franchise retired his No. 23 in 2003, his final season in the NBA.
26. Michael Jordan was an All-Star in 14 of his 15 NBA seasons, including both seasons with the Washington Wizards.
27. Michael Jordan was the NBA scoring champion 10 times. He scored 3,041 points in the 1986-87 campaign, which is the third-highest total in history.
28. After LeBron James became the new NBA all-time scoring leader, Michael Jordan is now fifth with 32,292 career points.
29. Michael Jordan was named the MVP five times in his career. The NBA named the award after him in 2022.
30. Michael Jordan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. He chose his childhood hero, former North Carolina State star David Thompson, to present him.
Michael Jordan’s Olympic greatness
31. Michael Jordan wore No. 9 in the Olympics because the games only allowed numbers up to 15. He took his favorite number from childhood, 45, and added 4 and 5 together.
32. Michael Jordan won two Olympic gold medals, one in 1984 when he was a college player and one in 1992 as a member of the Dream Team. Alongside Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, Christian Laettner, John Stockton and his Chicago Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen, Jordan and the U.S. won eight straight games to be crowned the best basketball team in the world.
33. During the 1992 Olympic gold medal ceremony, Michael Jordan, a Nike athlete, famously covered up the Reebok logo on his jacket by draping an American flag over his shoulders.
34. Michael Jordan won an NCAA championship, an NBA title and an Olympic gold medal. He is only one of seven players to do so.
Air Jordan takes on a life of its own
35. Michael Jordan signed with Nike in 1984 at the advice of his agents and parents after initially wanting to join Adidas. He received a monster deal of $550,000 per year over five years. In the first year of the contract, the company sold $126 million worth of product.
36. Michael Jordan’s Jordan Brand became its own company in 1997 and has become synonymous with style, performance and greatness.
37. Spike Lee helped Air Jordan gain traction across the country by using the sneakers in his movies and working with the company on their ad campaigns. He coined the phrase, “Is it the shoes? It’s gotta be the shoes!”
38. Air Jordan cleats are now fairly common to see on the NFL field. San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel has worn multiple pairs and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts wore Jordan XI Concords and Jordan 1s in Super Bowl 57.
39. The most expensive pair of Jordan sneakers to be sold at retail was the Jordan 1 collaboration with Dior, which had a price tag of $2,200 upon its release in 2020 and has resold for $12,000.
40. Several game-worn sneakers from Michael Jordan’s career have sold for incredible amounts of money. The “Flu Game” Jordan XIIs sold for $104,675 at auction in 2013. An original pair of Jordan 1s that he wore during an exhibition in Italy still have a piece of glass in the sole from when he shattered a backboard on a dunk. The sneakers sold in 2020 for $615,000.
Michael Jordan’s baseball career
41. Michael Jordan threw the first pitch at Comiskey Park for Game 1 of the 1993 ALCS between the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox.
42. Michael Jordan entered Minor League Baseball in 1994 at the age of 31. He played outfield for the Birmingham Barons, a Double-A farm team for the Chicago White Sox.
43. Michael Jordan’s father inspired him to pursue baseball. James Jordan was a fan of Bo Jackson, who was an All-Star outfielder for the Kansas City Royals and a Pro Bowl running back for the then-Los Angeles Raiders. When Jordan’s father died in 1993, he took the opportunity to fulfill the dreams they always talked about.
44. Terry Francona, who won two World Series titles later in his career, was Michael Jordan’s manager when he played baseball and believed he could have had a successful career in the majors if he continued with America’s Pastime.
45. Michael Jordan hit .202 in his lone season in Minor League Baseball. His manager Terry Francona said that the batting average is reasonable for someone who was so rusty. However, famed batting coach Walt Hriniak was less than pleased with his student’s performance.
“I didn’t expect him to tear it up,” Hriniak told MLB.com, “but I expected him to do better.”
46. Michael Jordan’s baseball career abruptly ended due to the baseball strike of 1994-95.
Michael Jordan in pop culture
47. Michael Jordan has been the subject of several songs, including “Michael Jordan” by Kendrick Lamar and “Jumpman” by Drake and Future. Many artists, including Jay-Z, Big Pun, Lil Wayne, Fabulous and Nicki Minaj compare themselves to the champion in their lyrics to associate themselves with greatness. The tributes even come from overseas as British rapper A.J. Tracey paid homage to the basketball legend in 2021 with an entire album called “Flu Game.”
48. Michael Jordan starred in the 1996 film “Space Jam” where he was abducted by the Looney Tunes to help save the day from a group of aliens who stole the powers of other NBA stars. The movie, which Michael Jordan made while getting back in basketball shape after his first retirement, earned $90.4 million and became a pop culture sensation.
49. In 2002, Lil Bow Wow starred in “Like Mike.” The rapper/actor — who dropped the “Lil” in his moniker and now goes by his given name, Shad Moss — played an orphan who got extraordinary basketball powers after finding a pair of sneakers with Michael Jordan’s initials on them. The film reflected how MJ was the star everyone aspired to be.
50. In 2020, ESPN released the 10-part documentary “The Last Dance” on Netflix. The series came at a serendipitous time as the world was going through the coronavirus pandemic and had the time to sit and watch Michael Jordan’s story of perseverance and greatness.
Michael Jordan beyond the court
51. Michael Jordan is a father of five children. He had two sons, Jeffrey and Marcus, and a daughter, Jasmine, from his first marriage to Juanita Vanoy. He had twin daughters Ysabel and Victoria with his current wife, Yvette Prieto, in 2014. His older children have been involved with his business ventures.
52. In 2021, a game-worn jersey from Michael Jordan’s championship season with the North Carolina Tar Heels sold for $1.38 million, the record for a Jordan jersey at the time.
53. In 2022, the record for highest-selling Michael Jordan jersey was blown out of the water. A game-worn jersey from the 1998 NBA Finals sold for $10.1 million. Not only did it beat the previous Jordan jersey record, but it set the amount for the highest-selling piece of sports memorabilia ever.
54. In the 1990s, Michael Jordan was friends with WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, who was the first women’s basketball player to have her own signature shoe, Nike’s Air Swoopes. The four-time WNBA champion was known as Her Airness.
55. Michael Jordan’s autobiography, “For the Love of the Game: My Story,” was released in 1998 after his second retirement.
56. Michael Jordan is the co-owner of the NASCAR team, 23XI Racing, with NASCAR standout Denny Hamlin. The two launched the team in 2020 with Bubba Wallace, who won his first race in 2021 at Talladega Superspeedway, making him the second Black driver to claim a victory in the Cup Series.
57. In 2010, Michael Jordan became the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats — now the Charlotte Hornets — for a reported $275 million. He mentored college superstar Kemba Walker, who became a three-time All-Star with the team. Upon Walker’s departure, the Hornets drafted LaMelo Ball, who was the 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year.
58. Michael Jordan is an avid golfer. He played 36 holes of golf a day while in Barcelona for the 1992 Olympics. He hosted his own charity tournament, the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational, from 2001 to 2014, and has his own golf course, The Grove XXIII, in Florida.
59. Some of the most iconic photos of Michael Jordan feature him smoking a celebratory cigar. But besides using them as a symbol of victory, the superstar genuinely enjoys smoking cigars. In an interview with Cigar Aficionado, he said, “It is the most relaxing thing.” His favorite? Partagas Lusitanias.
60. To celebrate his 60th birthday, Michael Jordan donated $10 million to Make-A-Wish, a charity that he has supported since 1989. The organization said that it was the largest donation in its history.
“For the past 34 years, it’s been an honor to partner with Make-A-Wish and help bring a smile and happiness to so many kids,” he said. “Witnessing their strength and resilience during such a tough time in their lives has truly been an inspiration.”
Source: USA Today