290 people have been added to the Forbes list of billionaires, but perhaps the most recognizable new name on the list belongs to the legendary basketball player, Michael Jordan. There are now over 1,700 people on the billionaire list, but nobody quite has the childhood mystique of the great former basketball player and Hall of Fame member. Jordan has always been rich since becoming one of the greatest of all-time, but how did he get into the prestigious billionaire club?
The start of something big
Jordan was making a decent (decent meaning 10’s of million’s) salary with the Chicago Bulls before he famously left the team to chase his dreams of playing Major League Baseball. There are a lot of theories surrounding the move that involve avoiding a suspension for a gambling addiction that Jordan had, but nobody has ever been able to confirm that suspicion.
The baseball career didn’t work out too well for Jordan, as he spent two years in the minor leagues for the Chicago White Sox Double-A affiliate and struggled to become a star at the plate. Before heading down to Alabama to play on the diamond, Jordan’s salary was maxed out at $4 million per year from the Bulls, but that was nothing compared to what Jordan was making from Nike as a spokesperson, and peanuts compared to what was awaiting for him upon his return to the NBA.
Michael Jordan came back to the Bulls to help the team re-establish their dominance over the NBA and he made a grand total of $63.2 million for his final two seasons with the Bulls, both ending in NBA Championships. When it was all said and done, Jordan racked up six titles with Chicago in his final six seasons with the team; a feat that would live on in NBA history.
Jordan was even the star of the smash-hit film “Space Jam” during his resurgence as an NBA superstar, and the additional appeal to children attributed to massively increased sales of Jordan and Nike’s world famous Air Jordans. At this point, Jordan was a multi-millionaire, but still not even close to becoming a billionaire. Jordan came back to basketball after three years in retirement with the Washington Wizards, but it was more of a passion project in which he only earned a $1 million salary.
Getting away from the court
Between his second retirement and short playing career with the Wizards, Jordan was named the Director of Basketball Operations in Washington. After his time with the Wizards wrapped up in 2003 (a very forgettable part of Jordan’s career), Jordan was fired from his previous job as the Director of Basketball Operations after not being able to build the Wizards into a championship team. One of the biggest mistakes that Jordan made during his tenure was trading away young point guard Rip Hamilton to the Pistons for an aging Jerry Stackhouse.
The Wizards were left with Stackhouse’s huge contract and dwindling future while the Pistons turned into a perennial contender with Hamilton, even winning the 2004 NBA Championship. Jordan took a couple of years off to spend personal time, which included hitting the gym and playing a lot of golf. People thought that might open the door for yet another comeback, but it never materialized.
Heading down the East coast
In 2006, Jordan had decided that three years away from basketball was enough and wanted to get back into the front office so he purchased a minority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Charlotte Hornets) to become second in charge behind Robert L. Johnson; Jordan held the position for four years until he was named the majority shareholder in 2010 and was in charge of basketball operations again, even becoming the first African American majority owner in NBA history.
When Jordan first became the majority owner, it was estimated that the Bobcats were only worth $275 million which sounds like an enormous amount of money, but that is minuscule in terms of a sports franchise. Ever since the Bobcats acquisition, Jordan’s stake has swelled to almost 90 percent over the past two years, and that value has more than doubled to a current $700 million. NBA is a big business now with franchises being valued at over $2 billion, such as the Los Angeles Clippers during their sale in 2014.
Jordan is still in charge of the Hornets, and in his first year as a majority owner, the team set an NBA record for the worst winning percentage at .106. It seemed like times were bleak in Charlotte, but their fortune is taking a turn for the better as the team no longer sits firmly at the bottom of the standings.
Where the money comes from
Michael Jordan is still pulling in an insane amount of money from endorsement deals. Since his name is on the Air Jordan line, Michael is still making $100 million each year from sales of his shoes and clothing alone. Jordan doesn’t even have to design the shoes himself or market them heavily, but having his name on the product makes it a “must have” item and that makes both him and Nike a ton of money.
Since having Michael Jordan’s name or face attached to a product usually translates into instant sales, many other companies have paid him a small fortune to appear in advertisements. Jordan has been a spokesman for Gatorade for several years and has helped the company grow tremendously into a mainstream drink instead of a sports drink just sitting on the sidelines of sporting events.
Jordan also has endorsement deals with the Hanes clothing line, Upper Deck trading cards, and Five Star Fragrances (including his own cologne). Jordan also took a hefty sum to appear on the cover of NBA 2k11 and 2k12 video games, to record-breaking sales. Jordan was rarely a playable character in video games before signing the deal, and many people were antsy to get their hands on a controller to move the virtual legend himself around.
A special thanks to Steve Ballmer
While Jordan did have hundreds of millions sitting in his overall net worth, it was the domino effect of the historic Los Angeles Clippers sale in 2014 (that we mentioned earlier) that really made Jordan a true billionaire. Donald Sterling was forced to sell the Clippers when racist and sexist remarks he made were recorded in private. The NBA owners decided to ban Sterling from the league and Sterling’s stake went up for sale.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stepped in to buy the team, and spent a lot more than anyone could have anticipated. Ballmer purchased the Clippers for $2 billion in a record breaking sale; as a result, the valuations for other teams around the league immediately skyrocketed, which is how Jordan’s net worth finally broke over the $1 billion hump.
The future for Jordan
The Hornets are not quite a championship contender, and haven’t been for some time, but with Jordan at the helm, there is a chance that some of the league’s best free agents might come to the city in hopes of playing for one of the all-time greats. Jordan’s on-court presence was a lot more illustrious than the personnel moves he has made lately, but the Hornets aren’t a complete laughing stock anymore and are starting to generate a buzz in the league
Even if the Hornets never make the NBA Finals, you can bet that Jordan is still going to make major bank. NBA franchises are increasing in worth year after year, and the Jordan brand is still going strong after nearly three decades. Michael Jordan overcame many obstacles in his career and shot for the stars to become the man he is today, and he’s a safe bet to remain on the billionaire list as long as he owns the team.