CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Jordan is showing he still has the ability to score big – even though he hasn’t played in nearly 15 years.
The Hornets owner’s latest slam dunk off the court might come by way of the NBA’s new uniform contract with Nike.
Since the Jordan Brand is a Nike subsidiary and the namesake of the six-time NBA champion, the Hornets will be the only NBA team to wear the Jordan Brand “Jumpman” logo on their uniforms this season. That would appear to be a merchandising windfall.
After the switch from Adidas, the other 29 NBA teams will wear the Nike “swoosh” on their uniforms.
Charlotte’s All-Star point guard Kemba Walker loves the idea of the Hornets being unique – and knows it’s because of Jordan.
“I mean, he’s the GOAT (Greatest of All Time),” Walker said. “Everybody loves MJ. Everybody loves the way he competed and the way he carries himself.”
Especially off the court.
There isn’t a player in the league who doesn’t want to emulate the NBA’s greatest pitchman.
Though Jordan was not made available to be interviewed for this story, others praised his savvy and longevity.
Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbook is a representative for the Jordan Brand, which sponsors 21 active NBA players. Westbrook is soaking up as much knowledge as he can working with Jordan.
The reigning league MVP said he’s tried to use what Jordan has done with marketing skills as a model for his own success.
“He set himself up, not just on the basketball court, but in business,” Westbrook said. “…. He set himself up tremendously – his kids, his family – by doing the right things on and off the court.”
Jordan last soared through the air in the NBA in 2003. But even now, at 54, his marketability doesn’t seem to be tapering off.
Forbes Magazine estimated last December that Jordan has made $1.7 billion since leaving the University of North Carolina in 1984 – more than any athlete ever.
The vast majority of his wealth has come from marketing, since Jordan earned $93 million during his playing career.
It’s all led to Jordan being able to call his own shots – like exclusive use of the Jumpman logo.
“Well, he does own the team,” Westbook quipped. “He gets to pick that for sure.”
Hornets forward Marvin Williams, who like Jordan played college basketball at North Carolina, said he knows the uniforms will be popular with NBA fans simply because of the “international symbol” Jumpman has become. The logo features a silhouette of Jordan leaping through the air, his legs scissored and one outstretched hand holding a basketball.
“That symbol – I have seen people have it on their clothes, their cars, tattoos,” Williams said.
Larry Miller, president of Jordan Brand, said the logo represents greatness “so it’s a natural fit to have it on the uniforms of MJ’s team.”
“Aligning his team and his brand brings everyone in the Jordan family closer together,” Miller said in an email to The Associated Press, “and it’s a win for both organizations.”
The Hornets recently opened an expanded team store at their downtown arena and are still receiving new Jumpman merchandise, but it’s not staying on the shelves very long.
Hornets executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer Pete Guelli said the team is expecting a “substantial increase” in merchandise sales.
“Being the only Jordan Brand team has a number of inherent advantages,” Guelli said. “It is also our first formal connection to our owner and allows us to explore additional extensions around that unique alignment.”
History indicates it should be a profitable connection.
“Obviously people knew who he was when he played, but when you see a 5- or 6-year-old kid walking around with Jordans on, and know who Michael Jordan is, but have never seen him play,” Williams said. “I have teammates that have never seen him play but know about everything he has done. It speaks volumes not only to what he has done as a player in his career, but it speaks a ton to what he has done post-basketball as well.”
AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.