Jordan cited some wise words from his father: “My father used to say that it’s never too late to do anything you wanted to do. And he said you never know what you can accomplish until you try.” By the 1994-1995 season, with Michael playing professional baseball in the minor leagues, the Bulls deteriorated. The team lost in the second round of the playoffs. In March 1995, he announced that he would be leaving baseball and returning to the NBA. The sports world cheered, especially the Bulls.
Michael was back on the court the very next day. He scored the highest television rating of any basketball game in two decades. Even though he had been gone for a year and a half, he continued to play well. Furthermore, he took his team back to being a powerhouse. MJ was averaging 31 points per game.
Jordan focused on motivating and inspiring others as well, saying, “I hope the millions of people I’ve touched have the optimism and desire to share their goals and hard work and perseverance with a positive attitude.” Brand endorsements fueled Michael’s popularity off the court. Jordan set the standard for athlete celebrities when he signed with Hanes. He also signed contracts with Gatorade. Most famously, though, he signed on with Nike and promoted the Air Jordan basketball shoes.
If anyone is wondering whether celebrity endorsements are beneficial for a company, Jordan’s contract with Nike proves they do. During the 1980s, the athletic shoe market was dominated by Adidas and Converse, not Nike like it is today. Michael’s Air Jordans helped turn Nike into the global company that it is today. Nike repaid the favor by giving Michael a handsome endorsement salary. As of 2020, he has made over a billion dollars just from Nike.
“How many times have your parents told you not to do things, and the next thing you know, you go do it? And you realized you shouldn’t have done it,” was a stance Jordan once took. After coming back to the game in 1995, Michael was determined to show that he was a real comeback kid. His aggressive training for the upcoming season mirrored how he trained to be on his high school varsity basketball team.
In the NBA Finals of that year, Michael broke Magic Johnson’s record by being named Finals MVP four times. When the Bulls won the championship, Michael became overly emotional and cried on the locker room floor. The win was not his first, but it was the first since his father’s murder.
Jordan was also thankful for the huge opportunities the game lent him. He said, “In college, I never realized 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.” In 1996, following the Bulls’ win at the NBA Finals, Michael starred in the animated Looney Toons movie Space Jam.
Underwhelmed by the small size of the aliens, the toons challenge them to a game of basketball. The aliens then grow in size to become the Monstars; the toons know that there is only one person who can help them win the game: Jordan. Jordan joins “the toon squad” to teach them how to play basketball. More importantly, he teaches them how to work together as a team and play with heart. The movie featured several other basketball stars and remains popular to this day.
Jordan is an avid golfer, stating his love for the game with, “For a competitive junkie like me, golf is a great solution because it smacks you in the face every time you think you’ve accomplished something. That, to me, has taken over a lot of the energy and competitiveness for basketball.” Michael retired for the second time in 1999. It was mainly due to changes within the league and the contract of the Bulls’ coach. However, he had not left basketball for good. In 2000, he was president and part-owner of the Washington Wizards.
Michael’s skills as an executive drew less than enthusiastic reviews. He got rid of some of the more unpopular players he thought were getting paid too much. Furthermore, MJ also drafted players who did not perform as well as expected. However, Michael also did what he does best, which is play the game. He held training camps for select NBA players and hired his former head coach, Doug Collins, to be the coach of the Washington Wizards.
Jordan opened up about his return to basketball with the Washington Wizards. He said, “My challenge when I came back was to face the young talent, to dissect their games, and show them maybe that they needed to learn more about the game than just the money aspect.” Michael did return and began playing for the Washington Wizards in September 2001. Furthermore, at this time, MJ announced that he would donate his entire salary to September 11 relief efforts.
However, he scored an average of fewer than 23 points per game and was plagued with injuries. During his first season, he played only 60 games due to torn cartilage in his knee. He played his final NBA All-Star game in 2003. During the game, he broke the record that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had set as the leading scorer in the history of the All-Stars.
Jordan also made it clear he didn’t want to be just a player known for scoring, saying, “I want to be perceived as a guy who played his best in all facets, not just scoring. A guy who loves challenges.” There was little surprise that the 2002-2003 season would be Michael’s last. In his fourth decade of life, he had sustained too many injuries. Therefore, he could not return to his former glory on the court. The NBA spent the season paying tribute to him until the last game he played at Chicago’s United Center.
Michael’s final NBA game was in Philadelphia on April 16, 2003. He only scored 13 points and spent much of his time on the bench, but the crowd kept shouting, “We want Mike!” At the end of the game, he received a standing ovation for three minutes straight.
Jordan also gave credit to others, saying, “I built my talents on the shoulders of someone else’s talent.” Michael’s personal life had its ups and downs but was not more tumultuous than other superstar celebrities. He admitted to some gambling problems, but they did not destroy his life the way that gambling has destroyed others.
In September 1989, he married Juanita Vanoy, and they had three children. Nevertheless, the marriage was not always pleasant, and 13 years later, in 2002, they filed for divorce. They soon reconciled with each other but officially divorced in 2006. Michael later married his girlfriend, Yvette Prieto, in December 2011. They had two children together, identical twin daughters, and Michael soon became a grandfather from his other daughter.
Jordan acknowledged that things often don’t go your way, but you can’t let that change your effort. “Sometimes, things may not go your way, but the effort should be there every single night.” Jordan’s legacy is one of excellence. He had raw talent as a kid, but he had to develop that talent into the skills that would take him to the NBA. His incredible height did not hurt, but his prowess in the basketball court did not come naturally. He had to earn it through hours and hours of practice.
Perhaps most importantly, Michael lived out the values he learned from his parents, especially his father. He wanted to honor his father, especially after the brutal murder in 1993. Beyond his basketball career, he set an example for boys and girls. MJ helped them find success through his charitable giving and encouraging youth to attend college.