February 11, 2013
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: