Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever step on an NBA floor. It’s one thing to compare His Airness to LeBron James, or even other great NBA players of the past, but no one impacted the game of basketball like No. 23.
Hailing from Wilmington, North Carolina, MJ played 15 seasons in the NBA, led the Chicago Bulls to two stints as three-peat NBA Champions, was named NBA Finals MVP in each of those title runs, and he won basically every award imaginable along the way. Despite all of that, and even after he hung up his jersey for the final time, how much money has Air Jordan racked up over the years?
From the time he entered the National Basketball Association as the No. 3 overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, Jordan dominated every single night. I mean, his list of career achievements on a basketball court would be hard to accumulate if you were playing a video game.
University of North Carolina Tar Heels
— ACC Rookie if the Year
— NCAA Champion
— 2-time Consensus All-American and First-Team All-ACC
— Consensus National College Player of the Year
Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards
— 6-time NBA Champion and Finals MVP
— 5-time NBA Most Valuable Player
— 14-time NBA All-Star
— 10-time All-NBA First Team
— 10-time NBA Scoring Champion
— 9-time NBA All-Defensive First Team
— NBA Rookie of the Year
— 2-time Slam Dunk Contest Champion
Oh, yeah. You can tack two Olympic gold medals with the United States National Team on that list, too.
Through all of that time, and even after Jordan retired (for the third time) following the 2003 NBA season, MJ’s wealth has grown exponentially as the owner of the Charlotte Hornets basketball team. According to Forbes, Jordan is the highest paid athlete of all time, and here is how he built his fortune:
Compared to other players during his time, Michael Jordan was only the highest-paid player in the NBA for two of his 15 professional seasons. During his rookie year in 1984-85, Jordan took home an NBA salary of $550,000. In his final season with the Bulls, that number rose to $33.14 million. MJ was also the first player in NBA history to make more than $30 million in one season, and the only other players to reach that number in one season during their NBA careers are Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
Even during his “lost years” with the Wizards, Jordan made an additional $2.03 million in those final two seasons. All told, Jordan’s career earnings on the court totaled $93.7 million.
However, a whopping salary wasn’t the only thing His Airness was bringing home.
The biggest Jordan sponsor, not surprisingly, is Nike. Coming out of college, the company signed the young scorer from UNC to a five-year, $2.5 million deal, which included royalties and stock options that brought his total compensation to $7 million over that stretch, but that didn’t last long. In 2016, Nike reportedly paid Jordan more than $100 million in that year alone.
Nike’s Jordan Brand collaboration created the basketball shoe market as we know it today, evidenced by the $3.1 billion in revenue in 2017.
Other endorsement deals with Hanes, Gatorade, Upper Deck, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Wheaties, and more than a dozen others have come and gone over the years, which certainly hasn’t created any shortage of cash for the NBA’s G.O.A.T.
And of course, who could forget when MJ saved Bugs Bunny and the Looney Toons in the iconic 1996 film Space Jam?
MJ’s Gambling Habit
It was no secret that Jordan loved to gamble on everything from craps tables at Las Vegas’ premier casinos to betting on the golf course.
In a book co-authored by Richard Esquinas and Dave Distel, it was revealed that Jordan regularly bet upwards of $100,000 on a single hole. In one outing, Jordan’s debt rose to around $1.2 million, which he whittled down to only a $300,000 loss on the day. The book is titled Michael & Me: Our Gambling Addiction… My Cry for Help.
Hands of poker against teammates and wagers on whose bag appeared first after getting off a plane were commonplace, according to Last Word on Pro Basketball.
Some conspiracy theorists believe his brief and abrupt retirement from pro basketball was due to massive gambling debts he incurred, too. The theory goes that Jordan may have bet on NBA games, which forced commissioner David Stern to ask him to “retire” and pursue a minor league baseball career rather than suspend the league’s most famous player ever during the investigation.
These are just rumors, but Jordan is still a recreational gambler and loves throwing some chips down when he can today.
In 2010, Jordan took a majority ownership stake in the Charlotte Hornets franchise (formerly the Bobcats) when he paid $175 million to take control of the team. Since then, and thanks to talent over the years like Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lamb, and Malik Monk, the Hornets have climbed in value to around $1.5 billion as of the 2019-20 season.
Not bad for a team that hasn’t won a playoff series in the two playoff appearances under Jordan’s leadership. Comparatively, they’re the 25th-most valuable NBA franchise.
Michael Jordan’s Net Worth
When you tally up NBA contracts, endorsements, and owning an NBA team, (then take into account the $168 million divorce check he wrote to his now ex-wife, Juanita Jordan) you still have a huge bottom line to consider.
NBA legend Michael Jordan built an estimated net worth around $2.1 billion, according to Forbes, which ranks him 1,001st among the world’s billionaires in 2020. He is by far the richest NBA player in history.
That makes 32,292 points, 5,633 assists, 6,672 rebounds, 2,514 steals, a Carolina Blue private jet, several real estate investments, his own Florida golf course, and 1.65 billion dollar bills for the greatest basketball player of all time. Not too shabby considering the Hall of Fame professional basketball icon hasn’t even turned 60 years old, huh?