“I want to wake up every day and do whatever comes in my mind, and not feel pressure or obligations to do anything else in my life.”—Michael Jordan
“It’s heavy duty to try to do everything and please everybody. My job was to go out there and play the game of basketball as best I can. People may not agree with that. I can’t live with what everyone’s impression of what I should or what I shouldn’t do.”—Michael Jordan
In addition to being one of the most talented and popular athletes of all time, Michael Jordan also has some of the best inspiring quotes to boot. But surprisingly, basketball wasn’t even his first choice when it came to sports. When he did eventually turn to the court, he made a big impact—he’s widely considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time, and he’s got the awards, records, and rings to show for it. And when his endorsement deals get tacked on, he’s worth a pretty good chunk of change. This list of facts isn’t as long as Jordan is tall, but it’s a good start—keep reading to find out more about his captivating life.
34. Swing, Batter Batter—Now Jump!
Jordan’s dad, James, was a huge baseball fan and would often play catch in the yard with his son. Though Jordan also found himself enjoying the game, he found another sport he liked too—basketball. One of his older brothers, Larry, was part of his inspiration for sport. But, believe it or not, Jordan was considered too small and raw when he tried out for his high school’s team as a sophomore and he actually got cut. But have no fear! He practiced everyday and grew like a weed the following summer, adding four inches to his height.
Jordan may have been born in Brooklyn, but his parents decided to uproot the family to Wilmington, NC not too long after he was born. They felt like Brooklyn wasn’t the best place to raise a family—Jordan has four other siblings, three older, one younger.
According to Jordan, being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame meant that “your basketball career is completely over.” Well, he was inducted in April of 2009. We think it’s one of the highest honors, especially deserving because of the incredible career he had!
31. The Family Business of Basketball
The love of basketball must run in the Jordan family blood. His son, Jeffery, made it onto the University of Illinois’ basketball team in 2007. “He wants to be a basketball player, but he wants to do it on his own terms… The thing that we have tried to tell Jeff is that you set your own expectations. By no means in this world can you ever live up to someone else’s expectations of who you are,” the elder Jordan once said in an interview with the Today Show.
30. All-American Teenager
When Jordan was a senior in high school, he was picked to be on McDonald’s All-American Team—he had been averaging 25 points a game during those last two years. College treated him just as well, and he received a basketball scholarship at North Carolina University, where he helped lead his team to the championship in just his first year there. In addition to making that pivotal game-winning shot, he was also named ACC Freshman of the Year.
29. Best of the Best
Jordan was selected as the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century. ESPN conducted the survey among sports figures like athletes and journalists, among others. He even beat out names like Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali to earn the top spot on the list.
28. Commercial Endeavors
Space Jam, the classic 90s flick that saw Michael teamed up with the likes of the Looney Tunes, actually came about because of a commercial. In 1993, Nike produced an ad for the Super Bowl featuring Jordan and Bugs Bunny and it was such a big hit that they decided to make a whole movie out of it.
27. Half Court Discount
Ever dreamed of living in his house? Well, you can—if you have $14.9 million dollars. And really, that’s a steal considering just six years ago the Chicago compound was on the market for $29 million. I mean, it has its own basketball court and pool, with a section of lawn in the middle! Not that he’s really hurting for money, but during the time its been on the market, he’s paid close to $700,000 in taxes on it.
26. Can’t Say He Isn’t Loyal (or Patriotic)
At the Olympics in 1992, Jordan defied his team’s sponsorship with Reebok by using the American flag to cover up their logo. You see, he was Nike’s ambassador—he couldn’t wear something with the competition’s brand! He had the flag with him always, saying that “the American flag cannot deface anything.” He used it to completely cover Reebok’s logo on the right shoulder of his uniform.
25. Go Shorty
Jordan could have been the ambassador for Adidas but they decided to pass him up. Why? He wasn’t tall enough for them. They only wanted basketball players who were over seven feet tall. Do you think they might regret that decision now?
24. No Shortage of Celebrities Here
Over a 13-year period, starting in 2001, Jordan hosted a charity golf tournament, aptly named the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational. With stars like Wayne Gretzky, Michael Phelps, Samuel L. Jackson and Mark Wahlberg entering, funds were raised for a number of charities. Cats Care, Make-A-Wish, Opportunity Village and Keep Memory Alive were among the foundations that benefited from this tournament.
23. It’s All Coming up 23s
He isn’t the biggest fan of the pace of golf at his current country club, so what’s he doing? Building his own golf course, naturally. Set to open in 2019, Grove XXIII will be in Hobe Sound, Florida. And, in case you aren’t too familiar with Roman Numerals, XXIII is 23 in regular digits, just like his jersey number—and oddly enough, just like this fact number.
22. One Million Strong
When the attacks on September 11, 2001 happened, Jordan was playing for the Washington Wizards. He decided to donate all one million dollars of his salary that year to the victims. $100,000 of that went directly to the children who had lost parents, while the rest was split between different organizations that helped with relief efforts.
21. Taking Them to Court
MJ has won quite a number of lawsuits against companies that had used his likeness and name without getting his permission first. He’s never kept any of the millions of dollars he’s won, though. No, he’s donated every last bit of it to 23 different children’s charities. “The 23 charities I’ve chosen to make donations to all support the health, education and well-being of the kids of Chicago,” he’s said. “Chicago has given me so much and I want to give back to its kids—the city’s future.”
20. He Holds Records—and Grudges
Jordan has a bit of a beef with Sports Illustrated, ever since they published their cover story “Bag It, Michael.” It seems he wasn’t a fan of their opinion about his short-lived and lackluster career in baseball. Despite all the time that’s past, he’s still not over it and he still refuses to speak to the magazine.
19. For the Love of the Game
We always hear of athletes or even actors who have clauses in their contracts essentially forbidding them from doing any activity that may be detrimental to their job. Well, Jordan had a clause in his contract that ensured he was allowed to play basketball against anyone, whenever, wherever. It was known as the “love of the game” clause.
18. The First Year
He was picked third overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 NBA draft after dropping out of college to commit to the league. Have no fear, though—he went back in 1986 to complete his geography degree. Back to that first year as a Bull: He averaged just over 28 points per game, which included six games where he scored over 40 points! He even made the NBA All Star Team and was named Rookie of the Year. Talk about a breakout year!
17. He Got Game
Incredibly, during the 1986-87 season, Jordan had a whopping 3,000 points! He was second only to the great Wilt Chamberlain with that incredible achievement.
16. Slam Dunk the Funk
He has a number of nicknames, including MJ, Air Jordan and His Airness. Over his career, he was known for his dunking and leaping abilities. Case in point: during a 1988 game against the Utah Jazz, the 6’6” Jordan managed a dunk over his 6’1” opponent, John Stockton. Someone in the crowd ragged on him, telling him to try it “with somebody your own size.” Jordan accepted the challenge, dunking over 6’11” Melvin Turpin.
15. It’s Magic, Ya Know
Jordan’s first car was a 1976 Grand Prix that had a special license plate with one of his original nicknames. That nickname was Magic Jordan, a take off of Magic Johnson, whom Jordan idolized when he was growing up.
14. The Grand Jumpman
You know Jordan’s iconic “Jumpman” logo? We hate to burst your bubble, but the depiction isn’t really of him performing a dunk—he’s actually doing a ballet move! The grand jeté is nowhere close to how MJ actually performed a slam dunk, but does a pretty good job of making it look like he’s leaping for the basket.
13. When Tragedy Strikes
James Jordan was killed on July 23, 1993 on the side of Interstate 95 while returning home from a funeral. He had been robbed, shot in the chest and thrown in a swamp. Just months later, Jordan announced he was retiring from basketball, saying that “he no longer had the desire to play.” He had just won his third successive NBA championship, but his father’s murder had struck a hard chord.
12. Guess Who’s Back, Back Again (and Again)
Jordan’s retirement from basketball only lasted one season. In that time, he tried out for the Chicago White Sox, landing himself a position on their Double-A team, the Birmingham Barons. Sure, he played well, but he missed basketball, so he went back. Four years later, he retired again, vowing he wouldn’t return. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Two years after that he signed with the Washington Wizards, though his magic must have run out. His game wasn’t the same and he suffered through many injuries. He officially (for real this time) retired after two seasons with the Wizards.
11. Walk a Mile in His Shoes
On December 12, 2013, the shoes Jordan wore for game five of the 1997 NBA Finals sold at an auction. The signed Air Jordan XII’s went for $104,765 after being put up by the Utah Jazz’s ball boy from that time. Preston Truman had been given them by Jordan himself following that game, a game during which he was battling flu-like symptoms but still managed to score 38 points in the Bulls win, going down in history as “The Flu Game,” one of the greatest basketball performances in history.
10. That New Sneaker Smell
He must have a really big obsession with shoes. In every single game he played, he wore a brand new pair of shoes. He says it made him feel like an “excited kid” and even helped prepare his mental state for the upcoming game. But, what did he do with all those shoes after?
9. One Man, Three Numbers
He only ever wore three numbers in his career—and one of those was just for a single game. He most often wore the number 23, but sometimes would wear his brother Larry’s high school number, 45. That third number? 12, which he wore during a game the Bulls played in Orlando in 1990 after an employee of the arena stole his uniform. That back-up jersey, minus Jordan’s name, led him to a pretty incredible game; he scored 49 points that night, giving the Bulls a big win.
8. Hashtag Winning
Jordan has so many accolades to his name, it’s a little hard to keep up. He won six NBA championship titles with the bulls, he earned himself the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award on five different occasions and even scored the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player three times! He also has two different Olympic gold medals from the 1984 and 1992 Games in Los Angeles and Barcelona, respectively.
7. Life of the Party
Just before the final game of the Barcelona Olympics, it’s said that Jordan, well, lived it up. He drank and gambled the whole night, did interview after interview with the press and even played 18 holes of golf before he and his fellow American teammates won the gold over Croatia.
6. Four! (Hundred for This Shot)
He’s actually quite the gambler. According to Charles Barkley, Jordan has been known to wager hundreds of thousands of dollars during rounds of golf. A fan also lost $500 to MJ after betting that the basketball star wouldn’t land his ball on the green during a charity golf tournament.
5. Mo Money, Mo Problems
In the early 1990s, MJ got himself into a bit of a pickle with his gambling. The night before a 1993 playoff game against the New York Knicks, he was spotted gambling away in Atlantic City, NJ. He later admitted that he had roughly $57,000 in gambling losses he needed to pay back that year. In a 2005 interview with 60 Minutes, Jordan talked about his gambling. “I’ve gotten myself into situations where I would not walk away and I’ve pushed the envelope. Is that compulsive? Yeah, it depends on how you look at it. If you’re willing to jeopardize your livelihood and your family, then yeah.” He said in the same interview that he never did jeopardize his family or livelihood, however.
4. Water Woes
When Jordan was young, he witnessed a friend drown in the ocean, and he himself also almost drowned when he was 11 while he was at a baseball camp. Because of these incidents, you likely wouldn’t find him near large bodies of water or on a boat because of the aquaphobia he developed.
3. What’s Up, Mike?
In Space Jam, Jordan mentions how he wears his shorts from his college basketball days under his Bulls shorts. He actually did do this, considering it a good luck charm. This also started a new trend in the game: longer shorts. His UNC shorts wouldn’t fit under the Bulls’ short shorts, so he had to wear baggier ones. He became such a star that basketball players started emulating him, and soon long shorts were the norm in the NBA.
2. He’ll Never Want for Anything
He’s worth a whole lot of dough—over a billion dollars worth! He has restaurants, a stake in the Charlotte Hornets, endorsement deals with companies like Gatorade, Upper Deck, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Chevrolet and Hanes, and most importantly, he’s the creator of Nike’s Air Jordan brand. So how well does he do with his fingers in all those pies? Even though he’s retired, he still makes more money annually than active players like Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
1. A Price he Was More Than Willing to Pay
His original Nike Air Jordans got him in a bit of hot water with the NBA. You see, they weren’t authorized by the league, but he wore them anyway. League commissioner David Stern took issue to this and fined him $5,000 every single game he wore them in the 1985 season, which amounted to $410,000 against his $630,000 salary. But don’t feel too bad for him, Nike paid the fines, and even used the controversy as part of an ad campaign to make Jordans that most popular basketball shoe brand of all time. This has proved to be by far the most lucrative of Jordan’s financial endeavors, and the brand has accounted for the lion’s share of his estimated $1.7 billion fortune.