'His Airness': Fun facts about Michael Jordan

23 of Michael Jordan's greatest moments (3:29)

Michael Jordan produced some breathtaking memories throughout his illustrious NBA career, so we've picked out 23 of his highlight moments. (3:29)

NBA legend and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan's story on how he signed with Nike hits the big screen on Wednesday. "Air," the sports drama film directed by actor Ben Affleck, chronicles how shoe salesman Sonny Vaccaro helped the sports apparel brand sign Jordan to an endorsement deal. Affleck also stars in the film along with Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Viola Davis, Chris Tucker and more.

On the court, Jordan played in the NBA for 15 seasons, winning six championships with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan finished his career with the Washington Wizards, but those seasons were less memorable. Jordan's basketball accolades include six NBA Finals MVPs, five MVP awards and 14 All-Star nods.

Jordan's career on the hardwood is well documented, but so is his life off the court. From his business endeavors to his love for cigars, there's a lot more to Jordan than fadeaway jumpers and high-flying dunks. And no, we aren't just talking about his minor league baseball stint or his role in the 1996 film "Space Jam" -- stories that have been told repeatedly.

Here are some less talked about facts and stories about "His Airness":

'Air Adidas'?

Jordan loved Adidas from when he was a child, and his loyalty to the company almost prevented him from signing an endorsement deal with Nike.

"I have no interest in going there," Jordan told David Falk, his agent at the time, in 1984 about meeting with Nike. "Just do what you need to do to get me with Adidas."

Falk insisted Jordan meet with Nike, however. The sports apparel brand offered Jordan $500,000 a year for five years -- and the rest is history. In 2022, the Jordan Brand crossed $5 billion in annual revenue for the first time.

"Would the brand have been as strong if it was Adidas?" Jordan asked back in 2013. "We'll never know."

Read more: How Nike landed Jordan

A record-setting donation

In honor of his 60th birthday, Jordan made a $10 million donation to Make-A-Wish America, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children with critical illnesses. According to the company, Jordan's contribution is the largest from an individual in the history of Make-A-Wish.

MJ in motorsports

In 2020, Jordan teamed up with NASCAR racer Denny Hamlin to create 23XI Racing. Full-time NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was selected as the squad's first driver and former full-time driver Kurt Busch joined before the 2022 season. Since 23XI's inception, the team has won three races, the latest during a NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in September 2022.

Read more: Jordan's road to NASCAR

Even before 23XI Racing, Jordan was active in motorsports. From 2003 to 2013, he owned Michael Jordan Motorsports and ran an AMA Superbike team.

'Catch 23'

In 2018, yacht manufacturer Viking Yachts created an eye-catching vessel for Jordan. According to SuperYachtFan, the yacht's exterior features a print inspired by the Air Jordan 3 sneaker. Additionally, the boat's name is "Catch 23," a nod to Jordan's jersey number.

Jordan made a big catch in his custom yacht during the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in 2021. He and his team reeled in a 25-pound dolphinfish on the first day of the event. The catch doesn't outdo the 442-pound marlin the crew caught the year before, however.

A high school myth

One of the many stories told about Jordan is when he was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. He has referenced that as motivation countless times in his career, but what if we told you the story isn't true?

Well, Jordan wasn't cut from his high school team. According to his former high school coach, Clifton "Pop" Herring, he just missed out on the varsity squad.

"Michael -- well, Mike -- Jordan was placed on the junior varsity level. Uh-huh? He was placed on the junior varsity level. He wasn't cut away from the game that made him," Herring said during a 2012 interview with Sports Illustrated.

Watch 'The Last Dance' on ESPN+

Omega Psi Phi

In June 1987, Jordan joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity through the Omicron Alpha chapter in Wilmington, North Carolina. The initiation came on the heels of the 1986-87 NBA season in which Jordan averaged 37.1 points per game. In February 2022, the Jordan Brand dropped an Air Jordan 1 shoe in an Omega Psi Phi colorway.

Jordan's pregame ritual

In 1991, Jordan smoked his first cigar after winning the NBA title. In 1993, he included a smoke as a part of his pregame routine.

"Each and every day for a home game, I smoked a cigar. I wanted that feeling of success, and relaxation. It's the most relaxing thing," Jordan said in a 2005 interview with Cigar Aficionado.

Tough love

Jordan was loyal to his brand, even if it meant his kids couldn't wear their choice of sneakers.

"I was rocking a lot of Skechers, which was not OK in my father's eyes. I used to beg him, 'Please, let me get the light-up Skechers!' Or the shoes with the wheels," Jasmine Jordan, MJ's daughter, told Andscape in 2020. "He would let me wear them for a day, then the next day they would end up in the trash."


Jordan's role in the 1996 film "Space Jam" is arguably his most notable acting gig, so people might not recall him alongside multisport star Bo Jackson and NHL legend Wayne Gretzky in the 1991 cartoon "ProStars." The show featured the trio defeating enemies and saving people in distress using sports-related technology.

Jordan, Jackson and Gretzky didn't voice their characters in the show, however, and "ProStars" was canceled after 13 episodes.

Salmonella mjordan

In 1993, Dr. Stanford Shulman, who at the time was the chief of infectious diseases at what was then called Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, named a newly discovered salmonella strain after Jordan, calling it "Salmonella mjordan."

According to The Associated Press, Shulman's discovered strain of salmonella causes diarrhea, severe headaches and other unpleasant symptoms.

β€³Looking at this from the perspective of medicine and microbiology, this is a traditional way that people have been honored,β€³ Shulman said.

The Grove XXIII

Jordan has golfed since his NBA days, and now he has a personal course. Bobby Weed Golf Designs created "The Grove XXIII," a course for the six-time NBA champion, in Hobe Sound, Florida. According to the company's website, the course features a practice facility with "state of the art technology," a double-sided 400-yard driving range and terrain that creates a firm and fast playing style. The course officially opened in 2019, but it is an invite-only club, per golfer Phil Mickelson.

"Fortunately, I know a number of members there, and my wife and I just bought a lot fairly close, about 10 to 15 minutes away. So it'll be a great place to play and practice," Mickelson said in 2020.

'Magic Jordan'

Jordan was a huge fan of NBA legend Magic Johnson growing up. He even received the nickname "Magic Jordan" because of his adoration for the five-time NBA champ.

"They used to call me Magic Jordan. My first car had a license plate with Magic Jordan on it. It was a 1976 Grand Prix," Jordan said during a 1992 interview with Playboy magazine.

A kind gesture

Jordan didn't play a minute for the Miami Heat in his NBA career, but the team retired the No. 23 out of respect for the Hall of Famer. It was the first number retired by the Heat in franchise history.

"No one will ever wear No. 23 on the Miami Heat. You're the best," Heat president Pat Riley said to Jordan in 2003.

32,292 holes, one table

What's one way to commemorate 32,292 career points in the NBA? Get a table with the same amount of holes.

That's what Jordan did, tapping contemporary sculptor and multidisciplinary artist Michael Enn Sirvet to create a 9-by-4-foot aluminum table with 32,292 holes in honor of Jordan's career points total.

Michael Jordan: The weather forecaster?

Jordan left the University of North Carolina in 1984 to pursue his NBA dreams but returned and received his bachelor's degree in cultural geography in 1986. According to The Washington Post, Jordan had aspirations of becoming a meteorologist.

"I always wanted to be the weatherman. ... So if I wasn't playing basketball or baseball, I was gonna tell you what the weather's going to be like tomorrow," Jordan said in 2015.

The highest honor

In 2016, then-president Barack Obama awarded Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. Obama noted how Jordan and the other recipients in 2016 helped push America forward, which is why they received the award.

"There is a reason you call somebody 'the Michael Jordan of,'" Obama said. "The Michael Jordan of neurosurgery or the Michael Jordan of rabbis or the Michael Jordan of outrigger canoeing. Everyone knows what you're talking about."

Win at all costs

Jordan always tried to get the winning advantage, no matter the opponent. Per Chuck Klosterman, Jordan once tried cheating during a card game with former teammate Buzz Peterson's mother.

"Jordan attempted to cheat while the old woman was using the bathroom," Klosterman said.

He also tried to beat his teammates in Yahtzee games during road trips while on the Chicago White Sox's Double-A affiliate, the Birmingham Barons.

"He's the richest man in America, the best basketball player ever, and I'm making $29,000 a year. And he's cheating at Yahtzee to take my money because he just can't bear to lose,'' Jordan's manager and two-time World Series champion Terry Francona said.

Pickup Jordan

Francona also recalled Jordan's competitive fire during a pickup game after a road trip with the Barons.

"So the first time down the court, I set a pick for him. He screams at me, 'Get the hell out of the way! I don't need a pick!' Then he goes and dunks on this guy," Francona said. "Another guy starts chirping. Michael dunks on him too and literally bends the rim. Then he stands over the top of him, screaming at him. I jumped in. 'OK, that's it, this game is over!'"

Dream Team pingpong

Jordan's disdain for losing was evident during a pingpong tournament among players on the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team." Christian Laettner said he got the best of Jordan, and the six-time champ took it personally.

"I played everyone, and Jordan and I finally played. I beat him that first night, and I've heard over the last 25 years that he had a pingpong table brought into his hotel room so he could practice a little bit," Laettner said during an interview with "The Layup Line" podcast in 2019.

In 2017, former NBA photographer Nathaniel Butler, who covered the 1992 Dream Team, said in an interview with Slam's "Respect the Game" podcast that Jordan bought a pingpong table.

"He had a pingpong table delivered up to his room. No one knew about it. And he was practicing for the rematch. They had a rematch two days later, three days later. It was [something like] 21-4. He [Jordan] destroyed him," Butler said.

Historic ownership

In 2010, Jordan purchased the then-Charlotte Bobcats for $275 million, becoming the first former player to own a majority stake in a franchise. He is also the only Black majority owner of an NBA franchise. In 2014, Jordan changed Charlotte's nickname back to the Hornets after it had been the Bobcats since 2004.

Cigar-friendly confines

In 2012, Jordan paid $12.4 million for an 11-bedroom, 28,000-square-foot mansion in Jupiter, Florida. The property's features include a workout facility, a basketball court and a pool house. According to Echo Fine Properties, Jordan's home also has a media room designed to handle large amounts of cigar smoke.

Jordan is into esports

In 2018, Jordan was part of a $26 million Series C investment fund into esports and gaming company aXiomatic.

Jordan's venture in esports comes after he refused to opt in to the NBA's shared license agreement for video games during his basketball career.

Two clinics in Charlotte

Among Jordan's charitable contributions are two medical clinics he helped fund in Charlotte, North Carolina. The first Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic opened in 2019 and the second in 2020. Both are set up to serve communities with little or no health care.

"To see how this has evolved over the last year is gratifying. It makes me want to continue doing more so that we can keep answering the bell when the bell is ringing," Jordan said in a video for the opening of his second clinic, according to CNN.