“His Airness” recently turned 52, and although his playing days are long behind him, he still remains one of the most popular and recognizable athletes in the world. The NBA owes a huge amount of its popularity to Jordan, who inspired millions of people around the world to pick up a ball (this includes many of today’s top stars too). There are endless debates surrounding who the greatest of all time is, and Jordan is (rightfully) usually at the forefront of this. He excelled at every single area of the game and was a highlight waiting to happen, but he also possessed the crucial competitive edge which gave him the ability to continue to improve and win.
All of MJ’s talent, success, experience, popularity, drive and competitiveness make him a fascinating character. Even outside of the NBA, Jordan’s impact is felt around the world, and he is of course a brand and successful entrepreneur as well as one of the most talented athletes to grace the planet. Despite this, since retiring it is a rarity to see the man himself on television, as it appears he prefers to keep his life personal after living in the limelight for so many years. He can be seen courtside at Hornets home games as he is chairman and principal owner of the team, but his media appearances are few and far between. This of course adds some mystery and intrigue to his character, and anyone that has read about Jordan knows that behind all his success there is a slight dark side to his personality, which certainly contributed to his astonishing level of talent.
It has been an extraordinary 52 years for Jordan, who has accomplished so much in his life. A six-time NBA Champion and finals MVP, five-time regular season MVP, 14-time All-Star, Defensive Player of the Year, 10-time scoring champion, two-time Olympic champion, entrepreneur, global icon and NBA legend are just a few things that you could say about Air Jordan, and of course who could forget Space Jam.
Here are 15 interesting facts about the man, the brand, the G.O.A.T and the legend, Michael Jordan.
15 He is afraid of water
When Michael Jordan was just a young child, he unfortunately saw a good friend of his drown. This, understandably, caused a phobia of water from childhood, and contributing to this he himself almost drowned at a baseball camp at the age of 11. Although he has somewhat overcome this fear now, MJ is still uncomfortable on small boats and also near big bodies of water.
14 He has 5 children and has been married twice
In addition to being an NBA legend, global icon, brand and businessman, MJ is also a family man and father. He has three children with his first wife, Juanita Vanoy, two sons called Jeffrey Michael and Marcus James, as well as a daughter called Jasmine. The couple divorced in 2006 (more on this later), with Jordan marrying former model Yvette Prieto in 2013. It was announced in February 2014 that his wife had given birth to identical twin daughters, Victoria and Ysabel. Jordan’s first three children are now in their 20’s, and of course both sons have been closely followed by the media. Marcus played college ball, but decided to step away from the game as his heart wasn’t in it.
13 He has the Greek letter Omega tattooed on his chest
Unlike many professional athletes, Jordan had no visible tattoos whilst he was playing. This is also partly why he was such a marketable athlete for so many different companies. He does, in fact, have ink though, and this is the Greek letter Omega which he has tattooed on his chest where his heart is. This shows his commitment to his Omega Psi Phi fraternity, the first predominantly African-American fraternity to be founded at a historically black university (Howard University).
12 His father was murdered
In July 1993, Michael’s father, James Jordan, was shot to death whilst he slept in his car. His body was found in August in a swamp in Bennettsville, South Carolina and two men were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. This had a huge impact on Michael, who retired from the game shortly after and cited this as part of the reason for his decision. Following his return to the game, there was an unforgettable moment when Jordan and the Bulls won their first title since his father’s murder (1996) on Father’s Day, with Jordan crying on the floor of the lockeroom.
11 He wore #12 for one game after his jersey was stolen from his locker
Jordan is of course famous for wearing #23, but also #45 temporarily after returning from retirement. These are not the only two numbers he wore during his professional career however, as in a road game against the Magic in 1990 he was forced to wear a nameless #12 jersey after his was stolen from his locker. This frustrated Jordan, but it did not slow him down as he poured in an impressive 49 points although the Bulls would lose the game. The jersey was never recovered, and MJ refused to sign autographs after the game.
10 He had a gambling addiction
The stories of Jordan’s extreme competitiveness are well documented, and this competitiveness certainly helped him to become the incredible player and winner that he is. There was also a dark side to this competitiveness however, which got him in plenty of arguments with those around him. There are also many stories of Jordan’s gambling and debts, including being spotted in a casino in the early hours of the morning before a playoff game with the Knicks, losing $1.25 million on a game of golf and plenty more. Some conspiracy theorists even claim that when Jordan went to play baseball he was actually suspended from the NBA for his gambling activities.
9 He hit 3 home runs during his baseball career
Jordan’s short lived baseball career is the butt of many jokes (especially in Space Jam), and although it was not a huge success, it wasn’t without a few highlights. Baseball was his first love, and following his first retirement he signed a minor league baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox and would play for the Birmingham Barons (a minor league affiliate of the White Sox).
They lost their first game with Jordan, with him going 0-3 at the plate. He did however hit his first home run 4 months after joining, and would follow this up with another 2 during his time. In 127 games, MJ had a batting average of .202, had 3 home runs to go along with 51 RBI, plus 46 runs and 30 stolen bases. He then, thankfully, returned to basketball and the Bulls.
8 He holds the record for regular season career scoring average
There have been countless incredible scorers throughout the years, including the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Dominique Wilkins, Larry Bird, Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. It is Jordan that leads the pack in regular season career PPG however, with a remarkable 30.12 PPG. Chamberlain closely follows with 30.07, with LeBron in third on 27.44.
His consistency throughout 15 seasons is remarkable, and although a prolific scorer he was much, much more than this. Jordan is also one of the greatest defenders to play the game, and he also was a top passer and rebounder too. In terms of total regular season points Jordan sits 4th, however he played between 200 and 500 games less than those above him.
7 He had one of the most expensive divorces of all time
When Jordan and Juanita Vanoy divorced in 2006 it was reported to be the most expensive celebrity divorce deal of all time, with Juanita walking away with around $168 million. They split after 17 years of marriage and 3 children, but it was on mutual and amicable terms. Before marrying his new wife, Yvette Prieto, Jordan had her sign a prenuptial agreement and you can understand why after such an expensive split.
6 He donated his first year Wizards salary to 9/11 relief efforts
Jordan came out of retirement (again) to join the Wizards in 2001, making an announcement in late September. While MJ looked weird in a Wizards jersey, at least his return went to a good cause. His return came shortly after 9/11, and the NBA legend announced that he would be donating all of his salary for the season for relief efforts. This included $100,000 to help the children who tragically lost their parents, and $900,000 to other organizations involved with relief.
Jordan stated “obviously our country has changed forever, but nothing has changed more than the lives of the families of the victims of this tragedy.”
5 He is the only player to score 40+ at age 40 or older
Jordan’s stint with the Wizards cannot be called a success, but he did prove that he was still more than capable of dominating even as one of the oldest players in the league. He is the only player to score over 40 in a game who is 40 or older, as well as the only 40-year-old to average over 20 PPG. In his first season with the Wizards, MJ also became the oldest person to drop 50 when he was 38 years and 315 days.
Playing with the Bulls at 35, Jordan also became the oldest player to win MVP as well as scoring champion. The Hornets sure could use a proven scorer right about now, and the thought has surely crossed his mind. Even at 52, the Hornets would probably be much improved with Jordan in their starting lineup.
4 In 1989 he recorded 10 triple doubles in 11 games
Although not typically known for collecting triple doubles (but not a bad passer or rebounder at all), Jordan demonstrated his ability to dominate in different areas of the game during a stretch in the 1988-89 season. Incredibly, MJ posted 10 triple doubles in 11 games, including seven in a row. Jordan was excelling in his new PG role and was demonstrating that he had all the tools, but the new system was not earning too many wins. During this 11-game stretch, MJ averaged an eye-popping 33.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG and 11.4 APG, and the only game he did not register a triple double in he dropped 40 points, 11 assists and 7 boards.
3 He is the only player to win the scoring title and DPOTY in the same year
In today’s game it is common to see the best scorers in the league neglect their defensive duties, which can be infuriating for teammates, the coaching staff and the fans. Jordan was a player that understood the importance of playing defense, and remarkably he won the scoring title and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, as well as MVP. This meant that whoever he was matched up with knew they were in for a long night, and his abilities on both sides of the ball are what separate him from many of the other top players. He is the only player to win the scoring title and DPOTY in the same season (1987-88), averaging a staggering 35 PPG in the process.
2 In June 2014, Forbes announced he had reached billionaire status
Everyone is aware that Air Jordan is one of the wealthiest athletes in the world, but Forbes stunned many when they announced in June 2014 that Jordan had reached billionaire status. His increase in his stake in the Charlotte Hornets is what took him over the threshold to give him a net worth of $1 billion. Tiger Woods is the only other athlete to reach these lofty financial heights, but Tiger’s stay was brief following his very public fall from grace where he lost many endorsements.
Jordan’s wealth has come from a variety of avenues in addition to the Hornets, but mainly through the Air Jordan brand and his partnership with Nike, which dominates the basketball shoe market. In addition to this, he also pulls in plenty from endorsements, as well as entrepreneurial ventures including restaurants and a car dealership.
1 In 35 Finals Games, he averaged 33.6 PPG and never scored fewer than 22
What separates Jordan from many of the other great players is his ability on the biggest stage, the Finals. His averages in the NBA Finals are something to behold, and they clearly demonstrate why he is the greatest of all time. Jordan played in 6 Finals series (35 games), and impressively won every series. In these series he averaged an astonishing 33.6 PPG, and the lowest he scored in a game was 22 (highest was 55). It is not just his scoring however, it was his complete dominance and ability to take and make the big shots which many would cower away from. He also averaged 6 RPG and APG.
For comparison, Kobe won five out of seven series and averaged 25.3 PPG, whilst LeBron has won two out of five series and has put up 24.1 PPG.