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Commentary: Michael Jordan Makes It to the Billionaire Big Leagues

Commentary: Michael Jordan Makes It to the Billionaire Big Leagues

Retired NBA great plays in the same financial league as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

Published March 4, 2015

I read about Michael Jordan’s ascent to Forbes“Billionaires' Club” in a Tuesday edition of The Buenos Aires Herald, an English-language newspaper in, well, Buenos Aires.

But The Herald didn’t actually mention Jordan’s name. It referred to a former superstar athlete who’s now a team owner as a new billionaire. Figuring it was Jordan, I wanted to make certain, so I headed to the ’Net for some research.

And there it was: Jordan, the billionaire.

His rise to the fiscal stratosphere of men like, oh, Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Warren Buffett and the Koch brothers reminds me of what Blacks should have learned a long time ago: The returns are bigger when you own a company than when you work for it.

For that reminder, I offer my praise to Jordan, 52, who has the kind of wealth that makes him the envy of people Black and white. I suspect he earned his billions as a lot of titans of industry have: He worked hard for the money.

Forget now what people say about Jordan’s athletic gifts. While they might have been otherworldly, he could have misused those gifts as too many men have. He could have become a footnote in the economics of sports, another sad tale about a Black athlete, had he squandered the money his athleticism earned him.

In my mind, that’s the real story we ought to be telling about Jordan. Yeah, his public arrogance offends us, just as his athleticism once wowed us. We would like him more if he could put his smugness in cold storage and play the public ambassador that he should be.

But since he retired from the NBA, Jordan, the sneaker mogul, has isolated himself from having to play ambassador. He’s remained in the public’s eye, though only on his terms. He has found his place in corporate America, and he looks good there.

Who can be sure what having a Black owner of a sports franchise will do for those who work hard below the owner? Athletes can’t count on Jordan to give them more than another owner will. Yet they have to hope he’ll understand their plight a bit.

It might be a waste of a worry to spend one on athletes. It might be more helpful in a larger sense to consider what Jordan’s wealth means to Black youngsters who have grand dreams to chase. He can show them that success isn’t found just on the arena floor; it’s possible to find it in places where the real money is.

For a decade after he hung up his Air Jordans, Michael Jordan cashes bigger paychecks then he ever did as a basketball player. BusinessInsider.com called him an $80 million-a-year man, and that kind of regular bank can speed a man to a billion fast.

Now that he’s there, what does that mean?

Who’s to say?

Nobody should be crass or bold enough to interfere with how a man spends his money. Jordan made his billions his way; he did it legally, too, even if overpricing his Nike sneakers wasn’t the socially responsible thing to do.

But he ought to have some social consciousness about him these days. He’s rich – “white man rich” is how Denzel Washington put it in American Gangster – so Jordan has enough money to do civic good with his.   

Even if he doesn’t, he has left a plan for another Black youth to follow: take your attention off backboards and focus it on the boardrooms.

That’s where the billions are.

 The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

Written by Justice B. Hill

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