How the World’s Richest Athlete Is Dancing All the Way to the Bank

If you thought that the world’s richest athlete ever went away, Michael Jordan is firmly back front and centre with his hit show “The Last Dance”, and with that, so too is the famous Air Jordan brand and his long-term commercial partners. 

Sports first Billionaire athlete, Jordan was way ahead of the curve when it came to building his brand during his playing days with the Chicago Bulls, and if this new show (co-produced by Jordan’s production company Jordan 23) is anything to go by, that focus has not eased since he hung up those famous sneakers in 1998. 

World's Richest Athlete
Michael Jordan is back in The Last Dance

With little to no sport on TV due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Last Dance has timed it’s run to perfection and the docuseries is raking in over 6 million viewers per episode in the US and proving just as much of a hit oversees on platforms such as Netflix. 

Though some have criticised the shows journalistic credibility, even calling into question why Jordan’s production company has not been listed in the show’s credits. The show has clearly captured many sport lovers’ imaginations and is a great example of how to keep an athlete’s legacy burning bright, and with that maintain, if not grow the value of the star, even after their career has long ended. 

So, what’s the show worth?

For Jordan’s brand partners, each episode is said to providing roughly a $1.1 million nod, just in logo placements. Episode 5 for example, took a look back at the days when Michael first started working with Gatorade and McDonalds, and during that episode those brands along with Nike and Air Jordan, raked up 138 logo placements, a total of 12.5 minutes airtime. 

According to analytics company GumGum Sports, that episode provided Nike with an estimate brand exposure value of $487,000, with a further $283,000 of value provided to Nike subsidiary Jordan Brand. McDonalds was shown the least of Jordan’s commercial partners but still benefited from an estimated $33,000 boost.

But, that’s just the start and with no other sport on TV, the show’s numbers continue to grow, as does the increasing exposure it’s getting on other platforms such as social media. This all ahead of the show presumably taking a closer look at the last few years of Michael Jordan’s career, the years where he really started to position himself as a brand and business figure. 

It would be fair to expect that the shows final episodes will continue to reap hefty rewards for brand Jordan and those who are aligned with him. 

How did Michael Jordan become the World’s Richest Athlete?

Well, he of course started by being an unbelievable basketball player:

  • 5-time league MVP
  • Perfect 6-0 NBA Finals Series record
  • NBA top point scorer in all 11 (full) seasons he played

Those great years of service to the NBA and Chicago Bulls (plus two later years at the Washington Wizards) earned Jordan a net sum of $94 million, plus he was paid $4 million by the Bulls for the season he sat out to play minor league baseball. 

Interestingly, Jordan was only the league’s highest paid player in his last two seasons, by which time he was already a 4-time MVP and 4-time league champion. 

Michael Jordan - AthleteMktg
The World’s Richest Athlete, Michael Jordan

Further, and showing the growth in the sports value, Michael’s first four year contract, signed in 1984 and worth a four year total of $2.8 million, would today with inflation be worth $7 million ($1.75 million per year), an amount that hardly gets noticed alongside 2019 Top Draft Pick, Zion Williamson’s $44 million four year deal.So, given Michael Jordan has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion (Forbes) you can clearly see the value of endorsements! 

Over the years Michael has aligned himself with brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Weaties, Chevrolet, Gatorade, Hanes and Upper Deck, but the standout is Nike and his post-career purchase of NBA franchise the Charlotte Hornets, who he took a majority ownership of in 2010. 

With the state of the world economy right now, it’s fair to say most billionaires are seeing a drop in their fortunes, however the same can’t be said for MJ, whose net worth has risen by $300 million in the last year, mostly due to the success of Nike and the increasing value of the Hornets.  

Given Nike’s reported 10% wholesale revenue growth from the previous year (fiscal year ending May 2019), and the company coming off the back of its first ever billion-dollar quarter at the end of 2019, you’d have to say that Michael Jordan has many more dancers left to look forward to.   

I know that as I sit back ready to enjoy the final episodes of The Last Dance, I’m also simultaneously having a scroll online to see what the latest Air Jordan’s look like and how long delivery will be…


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