THROUGHOUT his legendary basketball career, Michael Jordan was defined by his intense (one beat reporter even described as “homicidal”) competitiveness.
It was practically taboo for opponents to talk trash against Mike for fear of ticking His Airness off. Opposing coaches would warn their players to lay easy on showing him up.
“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape,” they would say.
While Mike made a name for himself on the basketball court, the hardwood floor was just his launching pad, as it were, for bigger things.
In honor of the 23rd anniversary of the iconic 'Be Like Mike' campaign, here are 23 tidbits about Michael Jordan.
Did you know that…
1) … Gatorade is bringing back the “Be Like Mike” TV spot 23 years after its original airing in honor of Number 23 himself? A digitally remastered version was released to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the campaign which coincides with Gatorade’s 50th birthday. First released in 1992, “Be Like Mike” helped cement Mike’s niche as a global sports icon.
2) … Gatorade’s famous commercial theme song “Be Like Mike” was inspired by the song “I Want to Be Like You” from the Disney cartoon “Jungle Book?”
3) … Growing up, Mike was nicknamed “Magic Jordan” – after Mike’s early idol, Los Angeles Lakers’ Earvin “Magic” Johnson? There was some enmity from Johnson, who came to the NBA with more success than Mike and (along with Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird) became the face of pro basketball. Magic soured over how the league gushed over this flashy new kid, but the two ironed out their differences. When Mike’s Bulls won the NBA Finals over Magic’s Lakers in 1991, it marked the symbolic passing of the torch from the Johnson-Bird era to the Jordan era. (Incidentally, the three Hall of Famers teamed up in the fabled 1992 Olympic Dream Team. One evening, Mike went to Magic and Larry’s room and thanked them for all they’ve done for basketball. Then just before turning to leave, the hyper-competitive Mike tells them, “I just want you to know, there’s a new sheriff in town.”)
4) … Space Jam, starring Mike with some Looney Tunes pals, is the highest grossing basketball movie to date? When it came out in 1996, the movie earned more than US$230 million.
5) … In 1984, the shoe with the trefoil passed an opportunity when it thought that the 6’6” guard from North Carolina would not be well received? Trefoil distributors wanted Mike, but German company executives preferred taller players (the brand had the Lakers’ 7’2” center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as an endorser) and passed on Number 23.
6) … The NBA tried to ban the then-upstart shoe brand because it featured non-regulation colors, Nike knew it landed a winner in Mike so it paid for every fine he incurred? In retrospect, the fines were a bargain at US$5,000 per game, considering what His Airness gained them in worldwide appeal.
7)… On the strength of Jordan’s basketball heroics, the Air Jordan I, which debuted in 1985, launched the swoosh company into the stratosphere? While the first edition originally sold for a then-extravagant $65, vintage pairs now sell as much as $4,000 on Ebay.
8) … Since then, there have been 29 editions of Air Jordans, which cause massive shopping frenzies from sneakerheads (a person who collects, trades, and admires sneakers as a hobby), all willing to shell out as much as $170 per pair at every release date?
9) … That although every model of the Air Jordan is identified by a specific number, each also has a name? Here, in order: Air Jordan I (Notorious), AJ II (Italian Stallion), AJ III (Gotta Be the Shoes), AJ IV (Taking Flight), AJ V (The Fighter), AJ VI (Promised Land), AJ VII (Pure Gold), AJ VIII (Strap In), AJ IX (Perfect Harmony), AJ X (The Legacy Continues), AJ XI (Class Act), AJ XII (The Dynasty Continues), AJ XIII (Black Cat Pounces), AJ XIV (Race Ready), AJ XV (Speed of Sound), AJ XVI (Marching On), AJ XVII (Jazzed Up), AJ XVIII (Last Dance), AJ XIX (Full Flex), AJ XX (Living Greatness), AJ XX1 (Performance Luxury DNA), AJ XX2 (Hit the Afterburners), AJ XX3 (The Number of Greatness) AJ 2009 (Beyond), AJ 2010 (Full Speed Ahead), AJ 2011 (2011), AJ 2012 (Choose Your Flight), AJ XX8 (Dare to Fly), and AJ XX9 (2014).
10) … Mike was initially rejected at a high school varsity tryout? He used this rebuff as motivation to become the best player in the junior squad, eventually earning himself a spot on the varsity squad the following year.
11) … During home games, Mike maintained his own personal locker room/changing area away from the rest of his teammates? While the rest of the Bulls allowed themselves to be seen, filmed, and interviewed in various stages of undress, and despite the relentless public fixation, Mike would never appear in public (pre and post-game) until the brand was at its presentable best. Mike’s PR team called the marketing strategy “abundant scarcity.”
12) … Meanwhile, the Jordan Brand (the shoe and sports apparel subsidiary that emerged from the Swoosh), reportedly commands a whopping 58% global market share? So, while Mike’s exploits have helped Nike claim a leading share of the global sportswear market, his own namesake brand has even eclipsed the mother company since being spun off.
13) … Speaking of brands, did you know Mike is a fratman? As a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, he sports an “Omega” cattle brand on the left side of his chest. Omega Psi Phi is the first predominantly African-American fraternity founded at a historically black university.
14) … Mike is so recognizable that companies think it is enough to feature his silhouette to sell a product? Created by Bijan Fragrances, the Michael Jordan Cologne is packaged with Mike’s name in bold type, a basketball relief engraving, and a red box with a black silhouette of his head. Just half a year after it launched the cologne became a top- performing fragrance in the US with sales soaring over the $60 million mark. Wide success has led to branch outs, such as the 23 Cologne, the Legend Cologne, the Michael Jordan Aftershave, and of all things, particularly given that Mike is bald, the Michael Jordan Shampoo. (So, yes, a guy with no hair can endorse a shampoo.)
15) … One of Mike’s signature “clues” when he’s about to make a move – the tongue wag – while widely said to be picked up from his father, actually goes back further to his grandfather, who also stuck his tongue out while working on his car?
16) … Although globally recognized for his 23 jersey number, Mike’s original preference was for the Number 45? When Mike finally made it to his high school varsity team, his older brother already wore 45 on the team. So he decided to wear its “half number,” which he rounded out to 23.
17) … Mike did eventually get to wear Number 45 in NBA games. After his first retirement from the Chicago Bulls, NBA rules restricted him from wearing a number that was retired and hanging proudly from the United Center’s rafters. Number 23 was eventually “un-retired,” allowing Mike to wear his more famous Bull’s jersey once again.
18) … Mike’s jersey number in the two times he was an Olympian (first in 1984 and second with the 1992 Dream Team) was Number 9? As a result, Mike has donned and caused global jersey sales to spike for numbers 9, 23, and 45.
19) … But at a Valentine’s Day game in Florida against the Orlando Magic, a thief sneaked into the visiting player’s locker room and stole Mike’s road jersey from his locker. Mike tried to wear a fan’s replica 23 jersey but it didn’t fit, forcing him to wear a Chicago Bulls emergency/extra uniform with the Number 12 (with no last name) for that particular game.
20) … Mike is a creature of ritual and superstition. He always wore his UNC Tar Heels college shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts, believing that this brought him luck. Because the extra layer made for a tighter fit on his Bulls unis, Mike compensated by wearing looser and longer shorts. Since Mike was being copied not just in game but in style, the rest of the NBA soon picked up on the loose-long fashion statement. (The Michigan Wolverine’s Fab Five of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson took it to a whole new level with an even looser-longer fit, which has since become mainstream for ballers the world over.)
21) … While Mike is known to have starred in the 1996 live action/animated Looney Tunes movie with Bugs Bunny and friends, he also played a cartoon superhero as himself with two-sport (baseball/football) super-athlete Bo Jackson and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky? The cartoon series only lasted one season, with 13 episodes airing, and had the trio of Mike, Bo, and Wayne fighting crime, helping children, and yup, the obligatory “protecting the environment” cause as well.
22) … One of Mike’s more famous games, the legendary “Flu Game” (Game Five of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz where Mike played and won the game while stricken with the flu) may not have been about the flu at all? While everybody refers to it as the “Flu Game,” Mike’s affliction actually came from eating bad delivery pizza. Holed up in a room in Utah at a hotel that ended room service early, Mike’s trainer called for pizza delivery, but then smelled something fishy when five guys showed up to deliver it to the well-identified Bulls’ accommodations. Of all the people in the room, Mike was the only one who ate the pizza, making the Bulls suspect that the incident was, in fact, a deliberate attempt at food poisoning in order to improve Utah’s chances by knocking out the Bulls’ primary offensive and defensive weapon.
23. … There were four cassette tape versions of the “Be Like Mike” jingle passed out to radio stations. Three months after it came out, 100,000 copies were made available and sold to the public. Proceeds went to the Michael Jordan Foundation. For a time, the jingle was used as the Bulls’ entrance music during out-of-town games.