Episode 5 begins at the 1998 All-Star game where a young Kobe Bryant was making his All-Star Game debut, and for Jordan, it was speculated to be his last. Bryant wasn’t a true star yet, in the 1998 season, he was still coming off the bench for the Lakers. But, he was still dubbed to be the “next Jordan” and he didn’t disappoint.
Jordan had taken note of the young Bryant and made comments about him in the locker room pregame saying, “That little Laker boy’s gonna take everybody one on one… He doesn’t let the game come to him. he just goes out there and takes it.”
It’s a sweet taste of irony for Jordan, of all people, to be messing with Bryant for taking the game into his own hands rather than relying on his teammates, which is something Jordan routinely did and led to him hitting countless game-winning shots en-route to winning six championships. Bryant kept the same mentality throughout his hall-of-fame career which ultimately ended with five championships. RIP Kobe
Michael Jordan almost didn’t sign with Nike. As hard as that is to believe now because of the multi-billion dollar Jordan brand, Jordan was sold on signing with Addidas after college. In the late 1980s, Converse was the shoe of the NBA wand had stars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Julius Erving signed with them. Converse wasn’t willing to sign Jordan because they thought there the no way he could ever be on their level (they were wrong), and Addidas wasn’t willing to give Jordan his own shoe. That left Nike, an upstart company that mostly made track and running shoes at the time. Initially, Jodan didn’t want to sign with Nike at all, his agent at the time, David Falk couldn’t convince Jordan to get on the plane to go visit Nike. Falk had to call Deloris Jordon, Michael’s mother to convince him to visit Nike.
“My mother said, ‘you’re going to go listen. You may not like it, but you’re going to go listen,'” Jordan recalls. She made me get on that plane and go listen.”
Nike proceeded to make Jordan an offer that he couldn’t turn down, giving him an estimated $250,000 – more than double what any other established star player was making from their shoe deal, as well as his own signature shoe, the “Air Jordan[s]”.
His signature show took off in year one, earning an estimated $126 million dollars. Now there is the Jordan brand as we know it today. Over a 12-month period ending May 2019, Nike’s Jordan Brand generated $3.14 billion. That’s only ONE year and Jordans estimated cut was $130 million dollars, per Forbes.
That’s how Jordan, who made less than $90 million in salary in his NBA career, now is worth over $2 billion. It was his shoes. And there is only one person to thank, his mom.
In 1992, the “Dream Team” was assembled. The “Dream Team” was comprised of the 12 best basketball players at the time and were led by Jodan, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Chris Mullin. They traveled to Barcelona for the Olympic games and held a practice just a few days before their first game. It was a scrimmage. But it was way more than just that, it was about pride. Magic Johnson was trying to prove that he was still “top-dog” and Jordan wasn’t the face of the NBA just yet. Johnson and Jordan were on different teams and early, Jordan was down by eight, and Johnson started talking trash. He unleashed a beast.
Warriors forward Chris Mullin was in the scrimmage and said, “It all kind of culminated in that session where Magic and Michael, it was basically a 1-on-1 competition and the other four players were kind of participating with them, Magic was not relinquishing the mantle of the man in the NBA until after that scrimmage.”
Jordan went on to score eight points in a row to tie the game and his team ended up winning easily.
Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird was watching from the sidelines while nursing an injury. He and Johnson have had their battles throughout the eighties, winning two titles each. Bird said to Johnson, “It’s over dude. This is his league.”
Episodes 7 and 8 air on ESPN Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. They will be going over Jordan’s first retirement for the NBA and the start of his baseball career and how Scottie Pippen emerged as one of the league’s best players during that time. Also, it will continue to document the Bull’s quest to win their sixth championship in 1998.