Michael Jordan isn’t just one of the greatest athletes of all time — he’s also one of the richest. And, unlike a lot of basketball players, Jordan’s net worth has only increased since he stepped off the court, which is the result of his numerous business deals. However, that’s not to say that his basketball career didn’t pay off. Not only did Jordan lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championship titles and become a five-time league MVP — in addition to holding the record for the highest scoring average of all time — but he also became the first ever billionaire athlete in retirement, per CNBC.
While still playing ball, Jordan earned $93.7 million total in salary, according to Celebrity Net Worth. He was the first athlete ever to earn more than $30 million a year, which he first did during the 1996-1997 NBA season. After that, he would earn $33.14 million a year, which is just over $53 million in 2020, adjusted for inflation. That’s a lot of dough, but Jordan’s money doesn’t just come from basketball.
Michael Jordan made his money off of the court
Michael Jordan is considered the richest player in NBA history, according to Business Insider, still out-earning “Lebron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, or any other active player” to this day — it’s in large part due to his business deals.
The outlet reports that the NBA legend not only out earned all of his peers before retiring in 2003, but that most of his net worth was acquired since then. Jordan owns a majority stake — 97%— of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and even though the team ranks almost last in the league, Fox Business reports that it’s still worth $1.5 billion. Although it’s making him a billionaire, Jordan reportedly said that winning a seventh championship ring as an owner would be “much more gratifying than the other six” that he won as a player (via Business Insider).
In addition to his earnings from playing with the Bulls and his stake in the Hornets, Jordan also makes a large portion of his income through his sneaker deal with Nike. Jordan’s sneaker deal was so lucrative that Nike broke it off into its own brand — Air Jordans. The brand now “brings in roughly $3 billion in revenue each year.”
Additionally, Jordan has deals with Hanes, Gatorade, and Upper Deck, per Forbes, which all contribute to his overall net worth.
Michael Jordan didn't like Nike's at first
Michael Jordan signed the Nike deal when he was still a kid just out of University of North Carolina in 1984. Amazingly, Jordan almost didn’t sign the deal according to Business Insider. Nike was still somewhat of an unknown in the sportswear world and, as Jordan’s agent, David Falk, said in an interview on Kevin Durant’s interview series, The Boardroom, “He didn’t want to go. He didn’t know anything about it, didn’t like the shoes, didn’t want to go.”
Falk added that he first suggested that the brand call the line “Michael Jordan,” but Nike reps “felt that Michael had no credibility as a 21-year-old basketball player to suggest that he was the designer of his own line (via Market Insider).” Instead, they named them Air Jordans, and they might be even more iconic than the NBA great himself.
Jordan’s cut of the Nike line is an estimated $130 million a year, which is four times what Lebron James makes off of his sneaker deal, coming in with the second most lucrative with $32 million a year, per Forbes.
Overall, Jordan isn’t just a legend on the basketball court, but also in business. — even if he almost didn’t sign the most important sneaker deal ever.
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