Michael Jordan is probably the most famous athlete of the 20th century. In terms of fame, he was really hitting from every angle. He had an extremely popular line of shoes that still maintains relevance decades after its inception. He had frequent television and movie appearances. He had a strange career trajectory that saw him switch sports in the middle, and he had some personal controversies too that involved gambling problems and long-standing feuds with teammates and opponents alike.
Given how high-profile Michael Jordan has been for his entire basketball career and his post-retirement life as well, you may think that you know all that there is to know about MJ. But little snippets and tidbits are constantly emerging. MJ lived his life on the edge and was a very intense person. On one hand, that is what fuelled his ascent from humble beginnings into one of the most dynamic and exciting athletes that the world has ever seen. On the other hand, it’s that same intensity that lead him to trouble in his personal life. Often, he was downright mean to others. He had a cruel sense of humour and would take jokes too far. Additionally, while he is one of the richest athletes in the world, he has had his share of financial problems too, including one of the most expensive celebrity divorces ever, which resulted in him handing over hundreds of millions of dollars to his ex-wife. Here are some things you didn’t know happened behind the scenes in Michael Jordan’s life.
15. He Has The Second Most Expensive Divorce In Sports
There will never be a day when Michael Jordan is hard up for cash. He’s the richest athlete in the world by a pretty large margin, with a net worth somewhere around $1.4 billion. He is also still raking in tens of millions of dollars every year due to his endorsement deals and his investments. But Michael Jordan lost a big chunk of his money back in 2006, when he divorced his wife Juanita Vanoy and had to pay out around $168 million in the process. They had been married for almost two decades, and apparently the divorce was mutual, but Jordan couldn’t have been happy that Vanoy wound up taking so much money, plus custody of their kids, plus their palatial house in Chicago, which is on around seven acres of land.
14. He Paid A Woman $250,000 Not To Publicize Their Relationship
This is a really weird one. Though Michael Jordan was married for most of his playing career, he had one affair that came to light, although it’s fair to speculate that there were probably plenty more that we don’t know about. Anyway, this one mistress of his, Karla Knafel claims that Jordan actually offered him $5 million in order not to disclose of their affair and then tried to get away with paying less—only $250 000, which he did pay to her. He also apparently told her that he only stayed married to his ex-wife in order to maintain a positive public image. Knafel took MJ to court, where it was ruled that he didn’t need to pay her $5 million after, among other things, a paternity test that determined that he was not the father of her child.
13. He’s Been Married To A Cuban-American Model Since 2013
When you’re the most famous athlete of the twentieth century, the richest athlete in the world, and generally a well-liked and respected person, there’s no doubt that you can probably have your pick when it comes to dating. Michael Jordan ended up with Yvette Prieto after they had been dating for five years and living together for four years. She’s 40-years-old, which makes her around a decade younger than Michael Jordan, and the two of them met at a nightclub in Miami back in 2008 where they danced together. Their wedding was apparently an extremely lavish ceremony, with thousands of guests at the ceremony including no shortage of celebrities, with guys like Usher and Robin Thicke performing at the ceremony. Apparently, MJ is looking to avoid the same kinds of financial woes that plagued him in the past, as before they got married, Prieto signed a pre-nup that protects MJ’s entire fortune.
12. His Wife Used To Date Enrique Iglesias’ Brother
Michael Jordan’s wife Yvette Prieto, who he has been married to since 2013, is a model who was born in Cuba and now lives with Jordan in Florida. Her modelling career has seen her work for brands like Alexander Wang, and she has also made some TV appearances. Before she got married to MJ, she was dating Julio Iglesias, Jr, who is a popular Spanish singer. The Iglesias family is very successful overall. Julio’s dad is a popular Spanish singer also, and his mom was a journalist. His brother, of course, is the much more popular singer Enrique Iglesias, who has sold hundreds of millions or records worldwide. Given her association with celebrities of this magnitude early in her life, it probably wasn’t much of a shock moving from Iglesias to MJ.
11. His Best Basketball Friend Is Charles Oakley
Because of Michael Jordan’s tendency to be over-competitive or even downright cruel at times, it isn’t surprising to hear that he didn’t have all that many close friends in the NBA during his playing days. However, one close friend that he made during his time in the NBA that he is still friends with is Charles Oakley, who he played with in the early days in Chicago and still spends time with on a regular basis. While they were on the Bulls together, Oakley, who was much bigger and tougher than Jordan, was a kind of protector and bodyguard for MJ, much in the same way that hockey players like Wayne Gretzky always had an enforcer around. When Charles Oakley was feuding with the owner of the New York Knicks, it’s no surprise that Adam Silver brought in Jordan to resolve the dispute. (It’s not surprising either Jordan allegedly acted cruel toward future Bulls three-peat mainstay Bill Cartwright, whom the Bulls acquired for Oakley in 1988.)
10. He Never Liked Dennis Rodman
Michael Jordan has been very vocal about his praise for Dennis Rodman’s athletic ability, often saying that his former teammate was one of the best athletes he had ever seen, in any sport. Meanwhile, Dennis Rodman has spoke positively about Jordan in the media lately, saying that people don’t give MJ enough credit these days, and that there’s no way that LeBron James could have done what MJ did. Despite their praise for one another, Rodman and Jordan absolutely did not get along when they were teammates, and are said to have never spoken off the court in Chicago. This distance may have been what allowed them to stay so focused, but it is still strange to hear of players who are so closely associated in the minds of sports fans who did not actually like one another.
9. Yvette Had Twins In 2014, Giving MJ Five Kids
If you’re the child of a successful parent, you feel the pressure of that lineage seep into many areas of your life. Often, we see the offspring of the ultra-successful toil in uncertainty, as they don’t have the same level of ambition as the rest of us because they have seen their parents already push the limits of what is possible. At least five people will grow up and have to grapple with this, and possibly more, as Michael Jordan and his wife had twins back in 2014, and both of them are still well within the age range in which they could possibly have more children. MJ first had kids with his first wife in the early ’90s, when he was still on the rise as a basketball player. Two of his sons ended up being college basketball players, but neither of them were able to make it to the NBA like their father.
8. He And His First Wife Got Divorced On Pretty Good Terms
Michael Jordan is well-known for having had turbulent relationships, both on and off the court, so it may surprise some people to learn that his divorce from his first wife, Juanita Vanoy, was actually mutual and on good terms. MJ and Juanita first met at a restaurant in Chicago during MJ’s early days there, and they stayed together for 17 years, having two sons and a daughter during that time. They didn’t exactly have a clean split, though. After first filing for divorce, they got back together, before splitting up again for good. It is somewhat of a trend for the very best NBA players to have a stable marriage during their playing years: just look at LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Kobe Bryant. Stability at home likely goes a long way in terms of helping with the focus and mental clarity needed to be a high level athlete.
7. His Dad Was Murdered While Sleeping In His Car
While much of Michael Jordan’s life has been idyllic, this is one section that is both strange and very sad. Jordan and his dad James had a very close relationship during MJ’s playing days, and he is said to have picked up his signature tongue-out move while focusing from his father, who worked as a mechanic for General Electric. Many of the most iconic photos of MJ’s career consist of him emotionally posing with his dad after winning championships, like the one above. His dad died on July 23, 1993. After he had gone missing, his body was found in a remote swamp. His car was later found, stripped of its tires and expensive stereo. It turned out that he was killed by two young men who were mostly just trying to steal his car. The death of James Jordan is said to have had a profound effect on the life of his son.
6. Here’s Why MJ Is Afraid Of Water
Here’s another intense fact about Michael Jordan’s personal life that may serve to explain why he has such an intense demeanour and such a ruthless attitude toward success. As detailed in the biography about Michael Jordan called The Life, Michael was swimming with a friend when he was seven years old, when the friend freaked out and tried to grab ahold of Michael but was unable to. Michael pushed the boy’s arms away so that he wouldn’t be dragged under, and the boy drowned in the ocean. Later, Jordan’s girlfriend in college drowned in a swimming pool while on summer vacation. Jordan has said that he has a general distrust of water and does not swim as a result of these tragedies, which makes sense.
5. He Punched Steve Kerr In The Face During Practice
This one is surprising because Steve Kerr seems to be one of the best natured guys in all of sports. He has the extremely stressful job of coaching the NBA’s best team, managing the personalities of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, and he never gets stressed or angry. However, during the Chicago Bulls’ training camp back in 1995, he ended up in an actual fist fight with Michael Jordan over trash talking that got taken too far. They exchanged blows and Kerr wound up with a black eye, but he said that if Jordan had actually been trying, he could have killed him, which seems true. Kerr laughs off the incident now, saying that he doesn’t know what he was trying to accomplish in picking a fight with the world’s best basketball player, but it just goes to show how crazy Michael Jordan’s temper could be.
4. He Punched Will Perdue In The Face Too
It’s crazy enough that Michael Jordan got into a fist fight with the endlessly likeable Steve Kerr, but he also punched another one of his teammates on the Chicago Bulls: Will Perdue. It helped that these kinds of things were happening way before the days of social media, where videos on Twitter and Instagram would have made the events spiral out of control, instead of largely staying under wraps until players were ready to joke about them years later. Phil Jackson is often given the blame for the fights that broke out in Bulls practices, as he encouraged the players to be extremely competitive. After Perdue set one illegal screen too many on MJ in practice, Jordan didn’t hesitate to punch Perdue right in the face, giving him a black eye.
3. Both Of His Parents Were Well Under 6-Feet-Tall
If you average out the height of every player in the NBA, it comes out to around 6’7″. While we’ve seen many players over the years who have proven that you can be relatively short and still have a successful career in the NBA, in order to be a superstar of MJ’s magnitude, you’ve generally got to be pretty tall. It’s really surprising that both of Michael Jordan’s parents were under six feet tall. His dad was 5’9″, and his mom was only 5’5″. MJ wasn’t very tall in his childhood years either, which lead to the famous story about him not making the varsity team at his high school. However, he soon shot up to a height of around 6’6″. None of his brothers were very tall either, so it’s weird to think about where Jordan’s height came from, compared to the rest of his family.
2. His Best Friend Is A Chicago Cab Driver
It’s weird to think about who famous people’s friends are. If you’re Bill Gates, for example, it would be pretty weird to hang out with people who aren’t super rich, because you wouldn’t have all that much in common. At the same time, there’s probably a hollowness to friendships that are based largely on wealth, and it makes sense when you hear about celebrities being very lonely people despite their accomplishments and wealth. Apparently, Michael Jordan’s best friend is George Koehler, who was a limo driver who first drove him around when he moved to Chicago. MJ didn’t really know anyone in the city and relied ton Koehler’s knowledge and friendship, and they remain close friends to this day, despite the differences in their circumstances.
1. He Used To Trick Scottie Pippen Out Of Money
This is a pretty ridiculous story, but it’s true. At Chicago Bulls games, there was a cartoon bull race that played during breaks in play. Jordan showed up early before one game and asked the operators of the bull race if they knew in advance who would win. They told him it was prerecorded and who would win. Later that evening, during the game, Jordan bet Scottie Pippen $100 that he knew which bull would win. He made the same bet with Pippen every home game for the rest of the season, and Pippen never caught on that he was being swindled out of $100 per night. Now, $100 is obviously pennies to guys of that kind of stature, but it still goes to show that Jordan has always been committed to winning by any means necessary.
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