How Michael Jordan Became a Billion-Dollar Athlete
Photo Credit: PAUL BUCK/AFP via Getty Images

How Michael Jordan Became a Billion-Dollar Athlete

Michael Jordan is an immovable fixture in the sports pantheon, and by extension, the business world.

On Sunday, April 19, ESPN will premiere “The Last Dance,” a 10-hour documentary that focuses on the icon’s final season (1997-98) with the Chicago Bulls. With never-before-seen footage, the series centers on Jordan’s role in one of the greatest dynasties in basketball history.

As competitive as the greatest all-time player once was on the court, his off-court determination in business earned him the title as the highest-paid athlete of all time in 2017. Now, he is the first billionaire athlete with a $2.1 billion fortune, according to the Forbes list.

Checks over stripes.

Nike is Jordan’s longest and most recognizable endorsement deal. The relationship began in 1984 when the then-rookie and the sneaker conglomerate launched The Jordan Brand. As the legend goes, Jordan wanted to sign with adidas but ultimately signed with Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike.

Following the first release of his first high tops, the still-coveted Air Jordan I, in April 1985, the shoe titan made over $100 million in the first year thanks to No. 23.

After Jordan’s retirement, retro releases became an even more sought-after commodity. Today, Jordans are the holy grail of sneakers, coveted by sneakerheads, athletes and casual wearers alike. As of 2015, the North Carolina-bred baller was reportedly still raking in $100 million a year in Nike royalties, according to Business Insider.

From player to owner.

Forbes reports — in 2010 — the former NBA MVP purchased the Charlotte Hornets for $175 million, becoming a major franchise owner. As the team’s value grows, the net worth of the former baller blossoms as well, given his 90 percent equity in the club.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Jordan sold a minority portion of the Hornets to “two New York-based investors” in late 2019. He is still the controlling owner.

“While I will continue to run the Charlotte Hornets, make all decisions related to the team and organization, and remain the team’s NBA Governor, Gabe and Dan’s investment in the team is invaluable,” Jordan said in a statement released by the Hornets. “Gabe and Dan are industry standard-setters and proven leaders, with a belief in philanthropy and a passion for basketball. They share my commitment to Charlotte and the Carolinas.”

Donations, donations, GIFTS!

Along with lucrative business moves with Nike and the Charlotte Hornets, Jordan acquired millions with several other endorsements. Over the years, your Airness lent his likeness and celebrity to Hanes, Gatorade, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Chevrolet, and General Mills. What’s more, a 1992 Super Bowl ad with Looney Tunes general Bugs Bunny resulted in cult classic film “Space Jam. ”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc61UtYUgbs&feature=emb_title

Life after ball…

No one outside of Jordan’s accountant can pinpoint how much the Hall-of-Famer made since that ’84 draft day. However, Forbes estimates that, in 2019, he banked $15 million in non-Nike sponsorship earnings for the year.

With 30-year partnerships, steakhouse ventures, and The Grove XXIII, Mike’s retirement days look like a perfect third act for a living legend.