For those who have access to the online streaming platform, Netflix, chances are you've been watching the mini-series, The Last Dance. For those who don't, it's a documentary centered around Michael Jordan's career and the Chicago Bulls' famed 1997-1998 season.
Your social media posts are probably teaming with discussions about it. Being (arguably) the greatest of all time (GOAT) basketball player to have ever lived, fans from all over are reliving the Bulls' glory days as if it was yesterday. But did you know that Michael Jordan used to own a racing team? A motorcycle racing team.
While it's apparent that he collects exotic sports cars, MJ, as fans call him, is also into motorcycles. He was said to have started riding motorcycles at a very young age while growing up in Wilmington, North Carolina. When he signed his contract with the Bulls, he was prohibited from riding again due to safety concerns. After all, a motorcycle-related injury could potentially be career-ending, especially for a professional player like MJ.
So, after his second retirement in 2003, MJ was pretty much free to do whatever he wanted. This allowed him to reignite his passion for riding motorcycles. This happened when Jordan met Chicago-based motorcycle enthusiast, James Casmay. The two quickly hit it off, frequently riding togethr on the streets of Chicago at night. Unfortunately, Jordan's popularity grew a crowd to their riding group, growing from just a handful to 30 or 40.
To avoid the crowds, the two decided to secretly go out, and ride more in the racetrack. The track days led to Michael meeting veteran superbike racing team manager, Pete Mauhar. Being a lifelong NASCAR fan, MJ had always fancied the idea of owning his very own racing team and in 2004, the Michael Jordan Motorsports Racing Team was born.
Aiming to participate in that year's American Motorcyclist Association (AMA, the US's FIM) Pro Superbike racing season, the team had a lot of ground to cover. Nonetheless, with Jordan's connections and sponsor-friendly appeal, they were able to assemble a team, complete with bikes, riders, and sponsors, in just five weeks.
Jordan's long-time sponsors, the Jordan Brand, Gatorade, Hanes, and Upper Deck came onboard. They even secured the US National Guard as a title sponsor. The bike was painted in a Carolina Blue color scheme to honor Jordan’s old college team. Their chosen steed was the Yamaha YZF-R1 AMA Superbike.
With very little preparation, the team finished the 2004 AMA racing season 35th in the Supersport class and 23rd in Superstock class, with their Yamaha-supplied superbikes.
With more time to prepare for the following 2005 AMA racing season, the team was a bit more successful. They swapped their R1s for Suzuki GSX-R1000 superbikes and finished the season in 3rd in the Superstock class and 8th in the Superbike class.
Air Jordan 4 "Motorsports"
With more success, Jordan thought to commemorate it with some special shoes to be worn by the entire team. He tapped Mark Smith and longtime collaborator Tinker Hatfield to design a number of Air Jordan retro colorways exclusively for the team. One of the most famous is the coveted Air Jordan 6 “Motorsports.” Another one of the most legendary shoes designed for the team was the Air Jordan 4 in white, black, and royal blue.
Like with any motorsport, the AMA series was also dominated by Factory Teams, giving Team Jordan a bit of a struggle. Despite riding Suzukis, Suzuki's Yoshimura factory team dominated for sport until 2010. The Jordan team's best finish came in 2010 when they finished the season in 3rd overall.
Michael Jordan onboard a Suzuki GSX-R1000
In 2013, the team announced their plans to compete internationally in the premier motorcycle sport, MotoGP. Unfortunately for the team, even with Michael Jordan's involvement, the financial requirements of participating in MotoGP were just too much. A financial commitment of US$1 million annually (and US$5 million operating cost) and the loss of key sponsors like the National Guard made it impossible for the team to continue. By 2014, Michael Jordan Motorsports Racing Team was disbanded.