He's the greatest professional basketball player that ever lived, responsible for taking brands like Nike to the next level, and an athletic-ware marketing machine via his Jordan Brand. Michael Jordan is a name that even people who grew up after he retired from the game know far too well. He is the name brand of basketball, but you may not know that he's had a love for motorsports that goes back to his childhood.
Picture young Michael. Even then he was the tallest kid around and was never gonna fit inside of a race car. He sure did love to go fast as he got older. Jordan has purchased sleek, fast, and expensive sports cars throughout his life. Chris Webber told Dan Patrick this story about how he used a smoky cigar and a flashy car to intimidate others prior to a big game.
"...we get off the bus and Juwan (Howard) is from Chicago and used to workout there. I’ll never forget, Jordan was sitting on his Ferrari and Pippen was right there and they have a cigar lit. We get off the bus and we have to pass them with a lit cigar. You want to talk about posturing? Forget Phil Jackson. You got Michael Jordan there behind the scenes smoking a cigar before the game, letting us know that he’s the Red Auerbach before the game even started. It was almost like, ‘I lit the cigar. I’m celebrating already. This is just a formality, you guys getting on the court tonight.” (BleacherReport.com)
Over time we learned that MJ was more than just a devil on the court, he was competitive in all areas. As a businessman many are familiar with his ownership of the Bobcats and Wizards in the NBA, but you may not be familiar with his 10 year involvement in motorcycle racing as an owner. From 2004 to 2013, his AMA Motorscycle Circuit team ran Suzuki's and nearly competed in the famed MotoGP. The team has been wrongly identified as a failure by poorly educated fans of racing. During its tenure, they won championships in Superstock with racer Aaron Yates in 2008 and SuperSport with Corey Alexander, 2013. These feats included wins in the top tier of motorcycle racing, the Superbike class.
When Michael announced that he was going to start a NASCAR Cup Series team with longtime friend Denny Hamlin and Toyota Racing, the NASCAR media world was flipped upside-down. Some fans and press handled this as the next big feat in his one-in-a-million way of living, while others thought it was a publicity stunt. NASCAR was in an era of new owners purchasing and borrowing charters due to the development of the NASCAR NextGen car set to debut in 2022. Jordan and Hamlin reiterated to the press that their driver(s) would be expected to win.
Jordan's keen eye for business opportunities, exceptional wealth, and love for racing dates back to the 1970s when he went to Darlington Raceway with his father. It made him the ideal candidate to be a NASCAR owner. Too often, we see money come into the sport from men and women who know nothing about racing. His past success as an athlete in the NBA and owner in AMA Motorcycle Racing instantly allowed him to compete with the best racing has to offer.
There's something even more special that helps quantify him as an icon in the motorsports community, though. Behind the scenes, he has provided jobs, stable development opportunities through his racing institute, and helped elevate famed NASCAR young-gun Darrell Wallace Jr. to major success. In the fall of 2021, Wallace became the first black man to win at NASCAR's top level since Wendell Scott in 1964.
His legacy in motorsports is still being defined, but without Michael Jordan, quite literally, the history of NASCAR moving forward is altered, major headlines change, and NASCAR's continued efforts of diversity are slowed down. Michael Jordan is a true black racing icon.
To learn more about writer AJ Appeal, you can follow him at Twitter.com/RacingRefresh.