Why is Michael Jordan considered a major sports figure?

Michael Jeffrey Jordan (1963–) earned $30.1 million in endorsements of commercial products, becoming the highest paid athlete, in 1994. Jordan, whose exploits on the basketball court have made him a household name throughout the world, was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina. He played Little League baseball as a child and, at first, participated in almost every sport—except basketball—when he was in high school. He was cut from the basketball team during his sophomore year but emerged as a promising player as a junior, after growing four inches over the summer. When he entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1981, Jordan was six-feet six-inches tall. He was named Atlantic Coast Rookie of the Year for the 1981–1982 season and was a unanimous All-American choice the following season. He was named College Player of the Year twice and was a member of the U.S. Olympic gold medal men’s basketball team in 1984. Jordan joined the Chicago Bulls after his junior year in college and continued along the route to superstardom in the pros. The Bulls won three consecutive NBA titles (1991, 1992, and 1993) during the first Jordan years. Jordan himself was piling up statistics and individual championships and awards. He was also on the U.S. Olympic teams that won gold medals in basketball in 1992 and 1996. He took a brief respite from basketball in 1993, to try his hand at professional baseball. He announced his retirement shortly after his father was murdered in 1993. Jordan returned to the Bulls in 1995 and won his fourth NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award; a fifth such award followed in 1998. In 1997, during the All-Star Weekend, he became the first NBA player to make a triple-double in points, assists, and rebounds. It would be difficult to find a basketball honor that Jordan has not received. His sparkling play gave rise to a variety of nicknames: “Superman,” “Last Shot,” “Air Jordan.” He retired again in 1998 after the Bulls won its sixth championship in eight years, but retirement did not signify departure from the world of basketball. In 2000 he became president and a minority owner of the Washington Wizards NBA team. He also became CEO of the special Nike branch that carries Air Jordan shoes. He returned to the NBA in the 2001–2002 season, playing with the Wizards, but donated his salary to charities associated with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks relief efforts.


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