There was a time when basketball fans might’ve thought “MJ” owned Sports Illustrated for the record fifty times he graced its covers. While a case might be made that the newsstand homages were excessive, his legacy as a mega-year NBA champion, MVP, and All-Star with the Chicago Bulls merited the notice. No one could argue his record as one of the best basketball players of our time, with court prowess that captivated millions worldwide. Celtics star Larry Bird once described him as “God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
By the late ‘90s he began securing lucrative product endorsement and pitchman deals—among them, the likes of Wheaties and Quaker Oats (General Mills), Gatorade (PepsiCo), Hanes, McDonald’s, and Nike for various “Air Jordan” athletic shoes (the latest XXE sells for $250 a pair). Last year, Jordan reportedly profited $90 million from the brand responsible for more than half of all basketball shoe sales in the U.S. Even though it’s been ten years since he’s retired, last month a major online news outlet revealed that Jordan was the first NBA basketball player to become a billionaire. Joining a select group of 400 or so American households with this net worth, the former NBA player also tops Forbes’s richest retired athlete list. Not bad for a kid from the streets of Brooklyn.
Tune in to the National Geographic Channel for the three-night event, “The 90s: The Last Great Decade?” this Sunday, July 6 at 9/8c.