Jordan stands as icon, years after retirement

BY THOMAS ROSS ’14
Contributing Writer

It’s no secret that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time, and possibly the fiercest competitor to ever lace up a pair of kicks. What his basketball greatness frequently overshadows is how much he meant to an entire generation of kids growing up in the 90’s who wished one day they, too, could, “be like Mike”.

It’s truly fitting that Jordan’s 50th birthday falls on NBA All-Star Weekend. Michael was never one to shy away from the spotlight and he’s been receiving a lot of attention right now, deservedly so. Driven by inner beasts unexplainable to the common man, Jordon is out to prove he’s the best at anything he does. Jordon has been retired from the game for more than 10 years now since his final retirement, but he didn’t stay away from the game for long. In 2006, Jordan invested roughly $20 million to become partial owner of a new NBA expansion team in Charlotte named the Bobcats. Jordon was immediately given the title of the team’s managing member of basketball operations. In 2010, the Bobcats majority owner, Robert Johnson, sold a majority interest in the team to Jordan, making him the primary owner of the Bobcats.

Jordan’s impact on the game goes far beyond the x’s and o’s of his playing style and his management schemes. Jordan is more than an athlete, more than a celebrity. He is a world icon, a symbol of greatness, grit, and determination. Every kid wants to wear Jordans; every kid wants to fly in the air as only Your Air-Ness could; most of all, everyone wants to win, not only in basketball, but in everything they do.

Jordan’s Jump-Man logo has become the universal symbol for pride, determination, and the will to win, all of which Jordan stands for. Jordan played every game the same whether it was game six of the NBA finals or a pre-season exhibition match. Sports figures around the world praise Michael Jordan for what he has done for them and the game of basketball. Jordon was a visionary. He became the first professional basketball player to sign an endorsement with a clothing company and was the first basketball player to have his own shoe. Now it is practically routine for high picks in the NBA draft pick to sign a shoe contract even before they have played their first NBA game.

Jordon’s Jump-Man logo can been seen all over the world today in a range of business ventures across many sports. When people know someone is aligned with “Team Jordan,” they know he or she means business. From Nascar to the NFL, Jordan has it covered, and he doesn’t discriminate by sex, either. Multiple women are endorsed by Jordan, including track and field star April Holmes and WNBA star Maya Moore. One of Jordan’s business ventures even involved a motorcycle racing team. In 2004, a group of racers thought having Jordan’s Jump-Man logo on their chests while racing would attract some extra attention. As a result, Jordan created Michael Jordan Motorsports, lending his name to the racing team.

Jordan has revolutionized the business of sports and his greatest impact is being felt by athletes all over the world who are signing multi-million dollar endorsement contracts. Jordan was signed to endorsements by companies such as Wheaties, McDonalds, Gatorade, and Nike, to name just a few.

On Nov. 17, 1984, the world of sports was forever changed when Jordan walked onto an NBA court wearing his red and black signature Air Jordans. A year later, Nike decided to mass-produce the Air Jordans, which reportedly grossed nearly $130 million their first year.

Jordan was a pioneer in self promotion, developing new ways to market himself around the globe.

In 1991, Jordan and fellow athletes Wayne Gretzxy and Bo Jackson starred in a Saturday morning cartoon called ProStars. In 1996, Michael partnered with Bijan Fragrances and created Michael Jordan cologne. The very same year, Jordan ventured on to the big screen, co-starring alongside Bugs Bunny and the entire Warner Brothers cast of characters in one of the highest grossing animated movies of all times: Space Jam, which reportedly grossed over $230 million worldwide. But Jordan wasn’t done yet. He hopped into the restaurant business with a premiere steakhouse chain bearing his name. Fortune Magazine reported in 1998 the Jordan brand had generated over $10 billion in revenue for the game of basketball since Jordan entered the NBA in 1984.

Driven by excellence, Jordan felt he had a duty to give back to the community in other fashions as well. The Jordan Fundamentals Grant Program offers support for public school teachers. The program awards about $1 million annually to teachers across the United States who motivate and inspire their students to achieve excellence.

Whether it is in the classroom, boardroom, on a basketball court, golf course, or in a gym, if Jordan is involved, you can count on him to hold you accountable physically and mentally to push you to be the best you can be.

One of the greatest things Jordan accomplished was showing the world what it means to have the will and determination to succeed. Just as Jordan said in his Hall of Fame induction speech, “One day you might look up and see me playing a game at 50. Don’t laugh. Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”

Questions? Email First at tross@fandm.edu.

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