Every so often there is a particular event that changes the landscape of a certain sport and the way it is viewed. Many times it occurs on the field of play. In other instances it takes place off of it. Such is the case in NASCAR when earlier this week it was announced that Michael Jordan – arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time and one of the most recognizable sports figures in the world – would start up his own race team, along with Denny Hamlin as a minority partner.
“Michael” or “Air Jordan” as he simply has become known will now be a part of our great sport and in a very significant way. Former athletes often get involved with sports or teams upon the conclusion of their careers. Sometimes they serve in a more honorary or unofficial role. Other times they get into a position where they are truly involved and can make a real difference. From the looks of things, it seems like Jordan’s involvement is the latter, as he will be the guiding force behind the yet-to-be-named team, which will feature Bubba Wallace as its driver.
Having Jordan involved in NASCAR is very cool and something you might not have ever thought could happen. But when you look back, he has been at races previously, including the 2014 and 2019 Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway when he was on hand to lend his support for his good friend, Hamlin, who was a part of the Championship 4 both years. Growing up in North Carolina, Jordan was taken by his parents to many races and developed a true passion for the sport.
As we look to grow our sport, it’s critical that we identify and develop additional bases of fans. Having Michael Jordan as a team owner opens all kinds of new doors to these potential fans. Conveying all of the positive aspects of a sport to a new group of people is one thing. When one of the world’s greatest athletes gets involved the way Jordan is, it tells everyone, “It’s alright to like the sport.” This is especially true when the phrase “Be Like Mike” was one of the most popular catch-phrases of the ‘90s as a result of his Gatorade commercials.
For a lot of people, that’s how they take their cue when deciding if something is worth following or an event is significant enough to attend. With Michael Jordan now leading a team, this could very well sway many people. And as a lot of you who have been to our events or other NASCAR weekends know, once you are there, very often you get hooked. And not just because the great racing but also due to all of the entertainment that takes place before and after the race.
Anyone who followed Michael Jordan as a player knows that he is ultra-competitive, and I would imagine he would be the same way as a NASCAR owner. As a fan of the sport, that is certainly what you want to see – putting your team in the best position to succeed. As a player he always demanded the best out of himself and his teammates, and there is no doubt he will do so from every member of his team, from the driver, to the pit crew to the engineer.
There are a lot of things that he will need to familiarize himself with, people he will need to hire, a shop to set up and many more things. However, any time you enter into a new profession, there is a learning curve of sorts. Being an NBA player is definitely different from being an NBA owner, and being an NBA owner is certainly unlike being a NASCAR team owner. And I have no doubt that Jordan will use his resources to learn the intricacies about the sport from the people close to him, Hamlin included.
It will not be the first time, though, that someone from another sport will be making this transition. You don’t need to look any further than Hamlin’s own team, Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs compiled a Hall of Fame career as an NFL Head Coach with the Washington Football Team, which included three Super Bowl championships. In 1992, a year before he retired as a head coach, he started Joe Gibbs Racing as a one-car team in the Cup Series with Dale Jarrett as his driver. It wasn’t until 1999 that they expanded to two cars before adding a third in 2005 and finally a fourth in 2015.
Like any transition, it takes time and patience, something which I’m sure Jordan has experienced as owner of the Hornets. When it’s your own money being invested, whether it’s a sports franchise or the stock market, you want immediate results. If it’s done the right way, you will eventually see the fruits of your labor, just as Joe Gibbs has, as that team has now produced four NASCAR Cup Series championships, including the first one at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Tony Stewart in 2002, and the most recent one in Kyle Busch last November.
That’s why I’m eager to see what Michael Jordan can do with his team and I will definitely look forward to having him here at Homestead-Miami Speedway as a team owner.
This Week’s Racing Schedule – Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Friday, Sept. 25 -
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 9:00 pm (FS1)*
World of Westgate 200
Saturday, Sept. 26 -
NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 7:30 pm (NBCSN)*
Sunday, Sept. 27 -
NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 7:00 pm (NBCSN)*
*Denotes Playoff race
All races will air on Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90