Being Michael Jordan must be pretty damn good. The superstar former basketball player has won more wards than you can probably care to count, and was the sport’s face for what seemed like time eternal. He played fifteen seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) — for most of the top teams — and he amassed a fortune worth over $1.1 billion.
Even the NBA states: "By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.”
Sure, he’s probably one of the richest too. What helped his meteoric rise in popularity in the 80s and 90s and thus, wealth, was Jordan’s marketability. Not only was he a fine basketball player, over time he racked up endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Gatorade, McDonald's, Ball Park Franks, Rayovac, Wheaties. His endorsement list is extensive.
He had a long relationship with American sports drinks company Gatorade, where he featured in more than twenty adverts with lines such as "Be Like Mike”, such was he public appeal. And as we all know, where there’s public appeal — there’s money to follow.
And what’s more, despite the fact that Jordan hasn’t even bounced a ball (played professionally) for well over a decade, he reportedly still earns a colossal $80-100 million a year from brand endorsements and his own personal business ventures.
When playing for Chicago Bulls, Jordan was the first athlete to earn over $30 million a year in salary. And that was in the 90s. Then came the popular films Jordan featured in such as Space Jam, a classic. Then lets consider than he is the majority owner of NBA team the Charlotte Hornets. We start to see how he reaps his huge financial rewards now.
“Gambling is legal and betting is legal, for what I bet.” Said Jordan once upon a time.
He probably felt this more viscerally when he was filing for divorce in 2002 from his wife Juanita Jordan, whom he’d been married to for thirteen years. This old chestnut cost him a jaw-dropping $168 million. ‘Can we just stay friends instead?’ you’d be tempted to say.
It was one of the most expensive divorces in history and included the couple's $29 million, seven acre suburban Chicago mansion. But oh well, lets not have too much sympathy — Nike did give Jordan stock options which helped increase his ever-increasing salary to ever greater levels.
“In college I never realised the opportunities available to a pro athlete. I've been given the chance to meet all kinds of people, to travel and expand my financial capabilities, to get ideas and learn about life, to create a world apart from basketball.” Said Jordan.
His parents must’ve been pleased that he was the first athlete ever to become a billionaire. Sport is always a gamble of a career — but if you can hit the big time, then there’s some real top money to be earned. And that’s even after you’ve retired. Long after.