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One-on-One with Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan sits down for an exclusive interview with Marvin R. Shanken, Editor and Publisher of Cigar Aficionado.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Michael Jordan, July/August 2005

(continued from page 6)

MRS: The Dream Team has to have a coach.
JORDAN: I can't pick Coach Smith. I would take him because of my own preference. But Phil Jackson is by far the best professional coach, and that's a close call with Larry Brown and Pat Riley.

MRS: Where do you think Phil Jackson is going to go? You think he'll stay with the Lakers?
JORDAN: He loves L.A, and he has a great connection with L.A. I think he would consider that.

MRS: But he played for the Knicks.
JORDAN: I think it's between the Knicks and the Lakers.

MRS: The Harris Poll named you the most popular athlete in America for the past 13 years.
JORDAN: Why 13?

MRS: I don't know. [Laughter] Because they've been doing it for 13 years. Explain to me why you are the most popular athlete in all sports. That's an extraordinary achievement.
JORDAN: You ask me, and I wouldn't know. My personality is my personality. I'm very real when people see me. The way that I'm protected, I am as close to normal as anyone could be. In terms of my accolades and the way I played the game, those things had something to do with it, along with the marketability of Michael Jordan. And I don't quit. I'm a very competitive person. That could be taken in a lot of different ways. Some people take it in a negative way, and some people take it in a positive way.

MRS: You don't quit. You work hard. You don't speak out like a child. There have been players who have gone public with a lot of complaining that ends up hurting them, but you've been fairly pure and quiet.
JORDAN: I think things out well. When I speak, I speak with conviction. If I feel like it's something that best suits me and my person, I deal with it. I say it. I have no problem speaking out publicly about issues. But for personal things, and for things about personal selfishness, or wanting more money, I don't do that. Once I give my word, that's it. I don't go back to renegotiate. I don't renegotiate my contracts.

MRS: How did you get into endorsements? There have been other celebrities, but you took endorsements and ran with it in an unconventional way on a huge stage. How did this happen?
JORDAN: When I came into the pros, I never knew anything about the business aspect outside of basketball. All I focused on was basketball. The beauty was what my agents, David Falk and Donald Dell, did back in the Bulls days. They took what I did on the basketball court and attached a marketing value to it, and connected me to companies that had the same values that I had from the basketball standpoint. Coca-Cola, Gatorade, Hanes, Sara Lee. Those type of things. They built a connection from a puzzle that they pieced together because of what I portrayed on the basketball court.

I didn't go into the NBA thinking, "OK, now I'm going to capitalize on all these marketing dollars." It just happened. If you asked my agents how they created this mixture, they couldn't tell you. It was just one of those things. We entered the league in an era when the marketing of athletes became prevalent. It became one of the biggest things. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson should have been there first. Their reputations should have given them opportunity. But they didn't foresee it and they didn't capitalize on it. Initially, I think it became a sticking point in our relationships, because I was getting things that from a success standpoint they were entitled to or should have at least had the opportunity to obtain. But the timing was perfect for me.

MRS: It's been 20 years since Nike launched the first Air Jordan shoe, and today, it's turned into Brand Jordan, a significant business for Nike. How did the relationship happen, and what role do you play today?
JORDAN: I never wore a Nike shoe until I signed with Nike. I wore Converse in college, and I was a big Adidas fan. Then Nike came to me about creating my own shoe. They wanted to put my name on my shoe, and [let me] have input into the design of the shoe. I'd never heard of that before. It was a great pitch. It gave me an opportunity to learn more about the shoe industry, and they gave me an opportunity to create. I sat down with the designers and I talked to them about my personality and things that I like and things I feel people may like. We put all those thoughts into a brand, into the Jordan brand and into the shoe.

Things just started to progress. The public adapted to it and accepted it. We continued to create and lead, and the public kept following and following. It has continued for 20 years. We pride ourselves on putting certain values in the products. Determination.

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Comments   1 comment(s)

Ron Comrie — Lakewood Ranch, Florida, United States,  —  December 26, 2012 1:49pm ET

Can you please tell me the name/style of the Movado watch Michael Jordan is wearing on the cover photo? Thanks.

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