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Giorgia Scaturro journalist


In the small port town of Wilmington, in North Carolina, the one and only attraction and landmark for decades was the battleship “Carolina”: it fought World War II, following which the conflict had been moored in the town, serving as a floating museum. Today, the place has become famous for something else: it’s the hometown of Michael Jordan, the greatest (and richest) sportsman of all time.


On February 17, 1963, while America was enjoying the Golden Sixties, an era of rosperity and peace, which months later would be traumatized by the President JFK assassination in Dallas, at the Cumberland Hospital in Brooklyn, a new baby screams: his name is Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Little did anyone know at the time that he would become one of the greatest athletes of all time. At the time, Brooklyn was a poor NYC neighborhood filled with immigrants. Michael comes from a close-knit family: he is the fourth of five children born to James and Deloris Jordan. His father worked at an electric plant, while his mother worked at a bank. The boy spent his formative years in Wilmington, where he developed a passion for basketball at an early age, often shooting hoops with his father in their backyard. His older brother, Larry Jordan, also played a crucial role in nurturing his talent: it was clear that Michael had a gift for basketball. He played for his high school team, the Laney Buccaneers, where his talent quickly became evident. However, despite his early success, he faced setbacks. He was cut from his high school team as a sophomore, a moment that would drive him to work even harder to prove himself.


After high school, Michael attended the University of North Carolina, where he played under legendary coach Dean Smith. His time at UNC was marked by excellence, including hitting the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship game against Georgetown. This moment foreshadowed his future clutch performances. In 1984, the NBA welcomed Michael Jordan as the third overall pick in the draft by the Chicago Bulls. From the moment he stepped onto an NBA court, it was clear that he was something special. His combination of athleticism, skill, and an unmatched work ethic made him an immediate sensation. Michael's impact on the game of basketball was unparalleled. He won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, earning NBA Finals MVP honors each time. His scoring ability was otherworldly, and he led the league in scoring for ten seasons.

The NBA threw them out of the game. Fortunately, the NBA can't stop you from wearing them. (Nike Tv Ad in 1985)


In the very same year a young Michael moved to icy Chicago, an American sport shoes company from Seattle called Nike signed the NBA rookie Jordan to an endorsement deal: the Air Jordan brand was born. At the time, Nike, which was named so in 1971 after the ancient Greek goddess of Victory, had been in business for 20 years, so it was no start-up. It had made a name for itself in the athletic footwear industry, but it was not yet a global or iconic brand. Nevertheless, by the mid-1980s, the company's annual revenues had surpassed the one-billion-dollar threshold: it was rich enough to start signing endorsement deals with notable athletes, including tennis star John McEnroe, distance runner Steve Prefontaine, and basketball player Moses Malone. These campaigns were nothing compared to what the Jordan deal would bring. The original contract, which would revolutionize the sport industry, fashion and society forever, was reportedly worth around 500,000 Dollars per year for five years. Since then, it has become a billion-dollar franchise.


The first pair of shoes, the Air Jordan 1, made its debut in 1985 and instantly became a sensation. Its bold design and distinctive color scheme broke away from traditional basketball shoe aesthetics. To be honest the introduction of the Nike Air cushioning technology dated back to 1979, but it wasn’t until the Air Jordan shoe that it really became a successful trademark. Initially, the AJ1 faced controversy from the NBA due to its non-regulation colors. Jordan continued to wear them, even though he was fined 5,000 Dollars per game. This gives an idea of the entrepreneurial attitude of the basketball player which would emerge in full force many years later when he retired from the pitch. Nike used this controversy as a marketing opportunity, famously running ads that declared: "The NBA threw them out of the game. Fortunately, the NBA can't stop you from wearing them."

The Air Jordan line has evolved over the years, with each new release generating tremendous hype and demand among sneaker enthusiasts and basketball fans. The brand transcended basketball and became a cultural phenomenon. It influenced streetwear and hip-hop fashion, making Air Jordans a symbol of style and status. The iconic Jumpman Logo, featuring Michael Jordan's silhouette in mid-dunk, has become a worldwide status brand.


Michael Jordan's basketball career was punctuated by two significant retirements and subsequent comebacks, each with its unique circumstances and motivations. In a shocking turn of events, he retired from professional basketball for the first time in October 1993, at the age of 30, despite being at the peak of his career. Several factors contributed to his decision, starting from a family tragedy: Jordan's father, who had been a constant presence in his life, was tragically murdered in July 1993.

- While returning home after spending the day playing golf, Jordan Sr., allegedly tired from being on the road so late, pulled his car over to rest about an hour into his drive. He stopped in the parking lot of a Quality Inn, south of Lumberton. Larry Martin Demery and Daniel Andre Green spotted the car Michael had recently purchased for him (a red Lexus SC400), shot Jordan Sr. to death while he slept in his car, and then stole the vehicle. His body was found many days later inside a swamp in South Carolina. As his body was in a state of extreme decomposition, Jordan Sr. was not identified until August 13 with the help of dental records provided by the family dentist. Green and Demery took items from the car, including two NBA championship rings given to his father by Michael. Both were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. -

The loss of his father deeply affected Jordan, and he cited it as a major reason for his retirement. Career, also, was taking its toll on him. After leading the Chicago Bulls to three consecutive NBA championships, Jordan felt mentally and physically exhausted. The intense scrutiny, constant pressure to perform, and non-stop media attention led him to burn out. During his time away from basketball, Jordan signed a baseball contract with the Birmingham Barons, a Chicago White Sox affiliate, and played in the minor leagues. His baseball career, while short-lived, allowed him to honor his father's memory.

Only 2 years after his retirement, Jordan made a surprising announcement: he was returning to the NBA and the Chicago Bulls. Despite his success with baseball, Jordan's passion for basketball never waned. He realized that he missed the game and the competition. He was driven by a desire to prove himself once again and to help the Bulls win more championships. His competitive nature pushed him to return to the sport he loved. Jordan's family and close friends, including former Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen, encouraged him to return to basketball. He quickly regained his form and led the Bulls to three more NBA championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998, solidifying his status as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.


After winning his sixth NBA championship with the Bulls in 1998, Jordan left the sport once again. Despite their championship success, the Bulls were undergoing significant changes. Key players were leaving, and the team's future was uncertain. Jordan had conflicts with then general manager Jerry Krause. Most of all, at the age of 35, Jordan recognized that the physical toll of the game was catching up to him. He wanted to leave the game while still at the top of his abilities. Only diamonds are forever, though. Let 3 years pass and in September 2001, while America was under shock over the 9/11 attacks, Michael announced his second comeback. He would play for a minor team, the Washington Wizards. Jordan had acquired a minority ownership stake in the club, which piqued his interest in playing for the team. Jordan played two seasons with the Wizards before retiring for the final time in 2003: the second coming, though, was relevant not for the sport results, but because it paved the way for Jordan’s new life: investor and entrepreneur.


In a decades-long career Jordan earned a fortune, starting from million-dollar sponsorship contracts with Nike, Gatorade and Hanes. While Nike remains the most prominent and lucrative sponsor associated with him, his various business ventures and investments, such as ownership of the Charlotte Hornets, the NBA basketball club from North Carolina, his childhood state, have solidified his status. In 2023 the king became emperor. After the title of GOAT (Greatest of All Time) in basketball, Jordan also conquered the title of richest athlete of all time, so much so that he entered the Forbes US ranking. The sale of his stake in the Charlotte Hornets gained him some 3 billion Dollars. The amount is the second largest in the history of the NBA and is equal to almost 17 times the value of the amount paid by Jordan in 2010, at the time of purchase. A Warren Buffett of sport investments is born.





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AQA Capital

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