On Sunday, Michael Jordan turns 50 years old.
Recently, Lakers forward Antawn Jamison speculated that Jordan could still play about 15 minutes per game and score in double figures. With his will and determination, does anybody doubt that he could contribute mightily to a contender if he put his mind to it and were willing to embrace a role?
While LeBron James has been on a historic tear recently, there is little argument as of now that Michael Jordan has been the greatest of all-time. (LeBron does, however, have a chance to make it a legitimate discussion before it is all said and done.) Jordan’s Bulls won six NBA championships and likely would have won one or two more had he not retired in his prime, in between three-peats, to pursue a career in baseball. (And make Space Jam.)
MJ did not merely want to win. He had an insatiable desire to rip your heart out.
Much of this came from insecurity. He harbored grudges forever. His coach cut him in high school. Dean Smith didn’t play him as a freshman. He was still bitter about all of this in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, bringing every perceived slight that he could think of up on a night that was supposed to be a joyous celebration of all he had accomplished.
Although Jordan was ruthless on the court (and perhaps not so pleasant off of it), he cultivated a gracious and eminently marketable public persona. Since Nike debuted his Air Jordan I’s in 1985, Jordan has been the face of countless ad campaigns, appearing in commercials for Nike, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Rayovac, Hanes, Gatorade, MCI, Wheaties, Ballpark Franks, Chevrolet and many more.
Some of Jordan’s commercials show him accomplishing the impossible. In a Coca Cola ad from the early 90’s, he jumps over the moon to grab a Coke. In a Nike commercial, he dunks on a 100-foot rim. In the iconic McDonald’s commercial, he and Larry Bird try to outduel each other with impossible HORSE shots in an attempt to win a Big Mac.
Others portray MJ with a chip on his shoulder, on a burning conquest to silence the haters. “Disrespect me. Tell me I’m older. Tell me I’m slower. Tell me I can no longer fly,” he says before triumphing in an Air Jordan ad from the late 90’s.
Though Jordan retired from basketball for the final time in 2003 after a disappointing two-year stint with the Washington Wizards, Forbes estimated that he still pulled in $60 million in 2011, a vast majority of which came from his endorsement deals.
Even now, you’d be hard pressed to go a day without seeing a Michael Jordan commercial. Here are his 50 best:
50. Rayovac – Jordan tells CD players, who are having a wonderful time eating up batteries, that the party’s over.
49. Ballpark Franks – “It’s not really summer until you have your ballpark.”
48. MCI – BIG NEWS: MJ and the Looney Tunes crew reveal that America is going crazy for MCI’s ‘5 Cents Every Day’ plan.
47. Air Jordan – Bugs Bunny gets bullied at the gym, enlists the help of MJ to form team Hare Jordan/Air Jordan.
46. Air Jordan – “One day you might see me playing at 50…never say never.”
45. McDonald’s – Jordan takes a timeout for McDonald’s breakfast.
44. Air Jordan – Heart.
43. McDonald’s – The new McLean Deluxe is 99% fat free, 100% delicious.
42.Air Jordan – Spike Lee informs us that nobody can cover Michael Jordan.
41. Nike – Jordan dunks on a ~100-foot hoop.
40. Jordan makes a silent cameo at the end after a montage of young basketball players fulfill the commercial’s ethos: Let Your Game Speak.
39. Rayovac – MJ challenges handheld video games — which LOVE to eat your batteries — to a little one-on-one.
38. Air Jordan – MJ leaves Spike Lee hanging.
37. Food Lion/Coca Cola – Jordan announces that he shops at local supermarket Food Lion when he is home in North Carolina: “It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you save.”
36. Hanes tagless – No tag, no itch.
35. Air Jordan – MJ is CEO.
34. Ballpark Franks – After announcing that he wants to buy a ballpark, Jordan sets off a media frenzy.
33. Air Jordan – MJ plays Santa Claus one on one.
32. Coca Cola – When a group of boys forgets to bring Coca Cola to their treehouse retreat, Jordan comes to the rescue.
31. Rayovac renewables – “When you have something special, you don’t just throw it away.”
30. Nike – In which Jordan has a bad dream. It couldn’t be real, right?
29. Hanes – MJ’s father admires a red pair of Hanes, asks: “Think your mom would like me in these?”
28. Air Jordan – “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I’ll succeed.”
27. Air Jordan – “It’s not about the shoes. It’s about what you do in them. It’s about being who you were born to be.”
26. Presbyterian Healthcare – Jordan’s heart beats like a basketball.
25. Air Jordan – Spike Lee tells a story.
24. Chevrolet – Drive. That’s how you get where you’re going.
23. Air Jordan – Much respect to the dreamers.
22. Air Jordan – “I am not Michael Jordan. I am Carmelo Anthony…the student.”
21. Air Jordan – “Frozen Moment”
20. McDonald’s – “Is that who I think it is?!?!”
19. Gatorade – Win from within
18. MCI – 5 Cent Sundays help MJ keep up with his Space Jam buddies.
17. – Air Jordan – “Disrespect me. Tell me I’m older. Tell me I’m slower. Tell me I can no longer fly.”
16. Nike – Jordan and Charles Barkley embrace debate.
15. Michael Jordan Cologne – No words even need to be spoken.
14. Chevrolet – “For me, the most important part of any performance is confidence.”
13. Air Jordan – “Look me in the eye. It’s OK if you’re scared. So am I.”
12. Air Jordan – “Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I led you to believe it was easy when it wasn’t.”
11. McDonald’s – A sequel to the legendary commercial in which MJ and Bird duel each other with impossible shots. This one takes place in the desert and features a cameo from Charles Barkley.
10. Ballpark Franks – Jordan calls timeout to eat a hot dog.
9. Coca Cola – Michael Jordan jumps to the moon.
8. MCI – Daffy Duck directs Jordan through the commercial, demanding passion and intensity.
7. Wheaties – “You better eat your Wheaties.”
6. Gatorade – Be Like Mike
5. Air Jordan – Spike Lee tries to figure out exactly what makes Michael Jordan the best player in the universe.
4. Gatorade – Jordan plays basketball against himself in a commercial. Third, UNC self asks: “Who’s got next?”
3. Space Jam trailer!
2. Air Jordan – Like Jordan’s career and his sneaker brand would do in the ensuing years, the Air Jordan 1’s would take off.
1. McDonald’s – MJ and Larry Bird try to outduel each other with impossible shots.