If you asked 10 people who the greatest basketball player of all time is, you might get a few answers: LeBron James and Steph Curry would probably come up. But I'd be willing to bet that most people would say the greatest basketball player of all time is Michael Jordan. Did you know that he didn't make as much playing basketball during his 15 seasons with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards as he made off the court with endorsements? Over his NBA career, Jordan earned $93 million. Today he brings home more than $100 million a year from his endorsement deal with Nike alone. We'd all like to be like Mike and have a net worth of $1.7 billion. When it comes to the question of how Michael Jordan earned his $1.7 billion net worth, the simple answer is: Nike and the Hornets.
Today the Nike-owned Jordan brand accounts for about 50% of the basketball sneaker market and makes an average of $3 billion in revenue for Nike annually (give or take). Nike expects the Jordan brand to bring in $4.5 billion in revenue by 2020. Michael Jordan collects a royalty on every shoe, hoodie, short, etc. sold by Nike. Sales of the Jordan brand for Nike rose 14% last year and has about 30 current NBA players under contract to wear the product on the court.
In a given year, Michael earns $80 – $100 million off Nike royalties.
While the Nike royalties bring in the bulk of Jordan's annual earnings, it is far from the only check he receives. He has been in a partnership with Gatorade since 1991. Gatorade's famous "Be Like Mike" ad initially ran after the Bulls won their first of six titles. Jordan originally signed a 10-year, $13.5 million deal with Gatorade that continues to this day. Jordan also maintains deals with Hanes, Upper Deck, 2K Sports, and Five Star Fragrances. He also has a car dealership and seven restaurants that contribute to his income.
The Charlotte Hornets NBA team is far and away Jordan's biggest asset. He was a minority investor in the team starting in 2006 and took control of the team in 2010. Jordan's timing in buying majority control of the Hornets could not have been better. When he was approved for the deal in March 2010, the franchise was valued at $175 million. Since that time, NBA values have skyrocketed. He owns about 90% of the franchise, which was most-recently valued at a minimum of $1.1 billion, including $150 million in debt. Jordan's stake in the Hornets is worth roughly $1 billion alone.
Michael Jordan retired for good in 2003, but his name still resonates more than almost anyone else on the planet. The only other athlete with similar name recognition across the globe is David Beckham. Basically, this means that even 16 years after he retired, MJ is still a very attractive product pitchman.
Here's how powerful Michael Jordan's name is – in 2010, Jordan filed a lawsuit against the grocery store chain Dominick's. He sued the now defunct chain for unauthorized use of his name in a steak coupon that the store put out to commemorate his induction into the NBA Hall of Fame. The trial went to court in August 2015 and the jury found Dominick's liable for $8.9 million.
You might be wondering how many people cashed in the $2 coupons? Two people. Jordan's name is that powerful in a court house. Jordan donated the award to 23 different Chicago charities in December 2015.