Nike Flushed $14 Billion Down The Drain From A Costly Mistake They Made With Steph Curry

Basketball | 2/21/19

Outside of just reaching the professional level, any athlete’s dream is to be sponsored by one of the athletic brands. Nike is the leading sports brand in America and having them sign you to a brand can make you a star. They have contracts with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Tiger Woods, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Some of these players even signed lifetime deals with Nike.

But one of the top NBA players, Stephen Curry, chose not to sign with Nike and join the elite group of athletes. The reason why will make you wonder how Nike could be so stupid.

Signing Curry Should Have Been A No-Brainer

steph curry taking a break
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

For Nike, it shouldn’t have been a hard decision to sign Steph Curry for a shoe deal. He already had many ties with the brand, including his godfather Greg Brink, who worked for Nike. Curry also wore Nike shoes during his entire college career.

Upon being drafted 7th overall, it made all the sense in the world to lock up Curry with a deal. In fact, no one doubted that Curry would be wearing swooshes on his shoe to start his NBA career.

They Managed To Snag Curry, But Only For Four Years

Nike isn’t the leading sports apparel in America for no reason, they know talent when they see it. The brand ended up signing Stephen Curry to a four-year deal that would last until 2013. Coincidently, 2013 was the year Curry set the NBA on fire.

Curry scored a career-high 54 points at Madison Square Garden in 2013. He also set the single-season record for 3-pointers that year. You could say it was his breakout year and he did it all while wearing Nike’s.

Curry Began Hearing Pitches From Other Brands

Steph Curry
Getty Images
Getty Images

Once his contract with Nike was up, Curry was free to hear pitches from other brands. But Nike still had the rights to match any offer that became available to Curry.

They set up a meeting with Curry and his father, former NBA player Dell Curry, at the Oakland Marriott. That’s the same building that the Warriors practice in. Curry admitted it was a bit awkward to hear a pitch from someone he was already signed to.

Nike Has An Interesting Way Of Ranking Athletes Athletes

Olympics 2012 - Basketball
Mark Makela/Corbis via Getty Images
Mark Makela/Corbis via Getty Images

Nike’s structuring is unique. They have what you call a tier of athletes, with the top tiered players receiving special treatment. These athletes included Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James.

Right from the start of the presentation, even Dell Curry understood that his son wasn’t in the top tier of players for Nike. In fact, he wasn’t even close. That was already an interesting sign for Curry even though he had been with the brand for years.

The Person Pitching Curry Mis-Pronounced His Name

Albert Pena/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images
Albert Pena/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images

Sadly, Nike’s presentation was poorly given. They made it seem like Curry was only an afterthought in their plans as they already had three major stars on board. Then they did something Curry and his father couldn’t forget.

Curry’s father said the first sign of disrespect was when Nike “accidentally” mispronounced Curry’s first name. Instead of calling him Steph-En, they referred to him as Steph-On. And then to make things worse, no one in the room corrected the man who did it!

They Fatally Undervalued Steph

NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images
NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

As the meeting continued, it became crystal clear that Nike didn’t value Curry as much as their other athletes. Nike had given younger, unproven players like Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving youth development camps instead of Curry. That hurt for Curry.

Having the chance to help younger players develop meant a great deal to him because he could see his younger self in a lot of the players who attended those camps. He went to camps when he was younger and wanted the chance to give back to the kids and community.

Not Enough Room At Nike?

Steph Curry
  • BRAD PENNER, BRAD PENNER-USA TODAY SPORTS
  • BRAD PENNER, BRAD PENNER-USA TODAY SPORTS

Perhaps Nike just didn’t have any more room for Curry. Kyrie Irving was an up and coming player who played the same position and he carried a different type of swag that Nike might have liked more. It could have just been an “out with the old, in with the new” situation.

Whatever the reasoning may have been, nothing excused Nike from the other blunder they made at the pitch. It was possibly the biggest mistake in sports marketing history.

Nike Dropped The Ball…

Lukas Schulze/picture alliance via Getty Images
Lukas Schulze/picture alliance via Getty Images

When you’re giving a presentation, its a good idea to double check the information you’re going to be showing. Nike obviously didn’t do that with Curry. On one of the Powerpoint slides, Kevin Durant’s name was still on it because it was the same slide they presented to him and they forgot to change it.

At that point, Curry and his father just stopped listening all together. And still, after all of this disrespect, Nike had the audacity to offer Curry a $2.5 million contract. Curry decided he was worth way more than that.

Time To Move On?

Albert Pena/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images
Albert Pena/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images

Once the Nike presentation was over, it was clear as day that Nike had no plans to convert Steph Curry into one of their top-tier athletes. That’s when Curry’s father suggested for Curry not to be afraid to step outside the box.

You have to remember, Curry is no stranger to being overlooked. He wasn’t recruited and analysts didn’t put much respect on his name when he came out of college, but he loves to prove people wrong.

Under Armour To The Rescue

Orange County Register Archive
Kevin Sullivan/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Kevin Sullivan/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

And like that, Under Armour showed up at the perfect time to make a pitch at Curry that would boost him to one of the most well-known athletes in the world. They put $4 million on the table, but Nike still had the rights to match.

Rewind a little and remember that Under Armour was taking a huge risk with Curry. Until then, Curry had failed to reach the playoffs for three years in a row and he only played 26 games the year before because of injury. Many thought he was too injury-prone.

Goodbye Nike

In a smart move, Curry confidently turned down the $2.5 million Nike deal. Nike also decided to not match the $4 million offer from Under Armour. It seems as if the Curry’s were right in thinking Nike didn’t value the worldly shooter.

This ended up becoming one of the biggest marketing mistakes ever made in sports history. Curry ended up becoming an NBA champion and one of, if not the most liked player in the NBA.

The Curry Effect

Upon signing the deal with Under Armour, you won’t believe how much their stock went up. Under Armour shot up from $47 a share to a whopping $120! The legendary shooter single-handedly doubled the brand’s worth from $14 billion to $28 billion in a few years.

Under Armour understood the value of Curry, unlike Nike, and figured $4 million wasn’t going to cut it anymore. In order to keep Curry, they had to offer him a deal he couldn’t refuse.

A New Beginning

Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images
Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images

Once Curry signed with Under Armour, the flood gates opened. Under Armour became the second biggest athletic sportswear in the industry. Bigger athletes began signing with the brand, such as Jordan Spieth and Bryce Harper from MLB.

To make things even better, Under Armour signed a ten-year deal that will begin in 2020 to be the sole supplier of the on-field uniforms for the MLB. Under Armour knew how much Curry was worth at this point and they prepared a mighty deal for him…

All In With Curry

Sport Clothing Company Under Armour Reports Quarterly Earnings Of Over A Billion Dollars
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It took only two years for Under Armour to decide to put all their efforts into re-signing the Golden State Warrior. Their efforts were good enough to land a deal that would keep Curry with them up until 2024!

That’s not the best part, Curry received a lot of incentives too. He became a part owner of the company, something Nike nor Adidas have offered any of their athletes. And thanks to the MLB deal recently signed, Curry’s deal could leap to over a billion dollars if all goes well.

Curry, Now The Big Man On Campus

Stephen Curry Visits Chengdu
VCG/VCG via Getty Images
VCG/VCG via Getty Images

After all that he’s been through, Curry’s signature shoe is now the 2nd best selling shoe only behind Jordan’s. That means it’s more popular than Kobe’s, LeBron’s, and Durant’s! Even though LeBron James recently signed a lifetime contract with Nike.

You have to imagine that Nike is regretting their mistake of not taking Curry seriously in their pitch and not considering him a top tier player. The $14 billion man could have been theirs if they matched the $4 million Under Armour dished out.

Thank You, Riley

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Something many people might not be aware of is Riley Curry played a part in Curry’s decision to leave Nike for Under Armour. The story is Curry gave his daughter three different shoes to choose from, Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour.

She picked up one shoe and threw it over her shoulder. She then picked up another and did the same with that one. On the last shoe, she picked it up and brought it to her dad. It was a the Under Armour one, of course.

I Can Do All Things…

John McDonnell / The Washington Post via Getty Images
John McDonnell / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Steph Curry is a religious man. One of the other reasons he left Nike was because they refused to incorporate his favorite bible verse into the shoe’s design. Bad move on their part.

Once he signed with Under Armour, they did not wait to include his favorite verse, Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The script, “I can do all things” is found on the inside of the tongue.

Don’t Mess With Curry’s Beliefs

Yes, Curry is religious. He even met his popular wife, Ayesha Curry at the church his family attended when they were teenagers. Both of them were in the same youth group and eventually got married there as well!

If you watch him play, he always taps his chest and points up to the sky after every shot he makes. He said that means, “have a heart for God.” It also keeps him grounded and reminds him where he gets his strength from.

“Nothing But Nets”

Several years ago, Steph Curry teamed up with a campaign under the United Nations called Nothing But Nets. Their aim is to stop the malaria epidemic that affects thousands of families in Africa. Good for you, Curry!

Did you know that every 60 seconds, a child is killed by malaria? Nothing But Nets gives mosquito nets treated with insecticide to help save the lives in Sub-Saharan Africa. Curry was thrilled to be able to help these families and also bring awareness to the issue.

Keeping His Word

Stephen Curry Visits Chengdu
VCG/VCG via Getty Images
VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Curry made a vow that every three point shot he makes, he would personally donate three of the special nets to the foundation. In one year alone, he made 272 three-pointers. Then in another year, he broke his record and made 286 threes!

To push it even further, for the 2017 season, he ended up splashing in 402 three-pointers! Within a span of four years, he personally saved the lives of 3,663 families. The Golden State Warriors even jumped in the cause and agreed to match whatever donation Curry contributes.

Facts About “His Airness” Michael Jordan To Get Your Competitive Pulse Racing

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Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Michael Jordan was not handed an easy path to the NBA. When he was in high school, he originally wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and play baseball. Then he fell in love with basketball. As a sophomore, Jordan tried out for his high school team and was told he was too short.

Being the man he is, Jordan refused to quit. He began practicing obsessively to hone his skills. A sudden growth spurt of four inches that summer helped. The next time Jordan tried out, magic happened.

All-American Jordan

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Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

As a junior and senior in high school, Michael Jordan averaged 25 points a game. His final season he was chosen to be on McDonald’s All-American Team. Colleges lined up to recruit him, and he ended up accepting a scholarship offer from North Carolina.

In his first year at UNC, the school won the National Championship. Can you guess who made the game-winning shot? Michael Jordan. He played for the school for three seasons, choosing to enter the NBA in 1984. The Chicago Bulls took him with the third overall pick and never looked back.

Adidas Refused To Sponsor Him

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Brendan Esposito/Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Brendan Esposito/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

These days, it unfathomable to think any clothing or lifestyle brand would have said no to Michael Jordan. The Jordan Brand, thanks to Nike, has become a multi-billion dollar company. In hindsight, Adidas might regret rejecting a possible branding partnership with him early in his career.

At the time Adidas rejected Jordan, they were only looking to sponsor NBA stars who were over seven feet tall. Jordan was half a foot too short for their liking, and they said no in a decision that has not aged well.

Sports Illustrated Is On His Naughty List

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EUGENE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images
EUGENE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

When Michael Jordan switched careers to play for the Chicago White Sox, not every sports publication was on board. In a scathing piece, Sports Illustrated wrote, “Michael Jordan has no more business patrolling rightfield in Comiskey Park than Minnie Minoso has bringing the ball upcourt for the Chicago Bulls.”

Jordan wasn’t a fan of the piece, and has refused to speak with Sports Illustrated since. To be fair, Jordan’s transition to MLB was not stellar. He spent one season in the White Sox minor league system and never cracked the major league roster.

The Reason He Tried Baseball

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Jonathan Daniel/Stringer/Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel/Stringer/Getty Images

In 1993, Michael Jordan retired from the NBA for the first time. He cited a lack of desire to keep playing, but the truth was more rooted in his father’s death. Jordan’s father had always wanted his son to play baseball, so after his passing, Jordan tried to bring that dream to life.

The owner of the White Sox, Jerry Reinsdorf, was also the owner of the Bulls, making the initial transition easy. For his minor league career, Jordan hit .202 with three home runs and 51 runs batted in. In 1995, he returned to the NBA, rejuvenated and ready to win more titles.

His “Love Of The Game” Clause

michael-jordan-love-of-the-game-95227
Twitter
Twitter

While most athletes have clauses in the in their contracts prohibiting them from playing sports outside of their profession, Michael Jordan was special. He had what was called a “love of the game” clause that allowed him to play pick-up basketball games at any time, against whoever he wanted.

In comparison, Patrick Mahomes was told by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019 that he could no longer play basketball in the offseason because there was too much risk of injury.

Space Jam Was Inspired By A Commercial

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Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

In 1996, Space Jam was released, pairing Michael Jordan with Bugs Bunny as they tried to beat the Monstars at a basketball game to save the planet. The movie was a massive hit, but it wasn’t the first time Jordan has been paired with the cartoon rabbit.

Warner Brothers decided to make Space Jame after the popularity of a 1993 Nike commercial. The shoe brand put the odd couple together in a Super Bowl ad. Three years later they re-teamed with a host of comedic greats to star in the highest grossing basketball film of all-time.

He Donated His Entire 2001 Salary To 9/11 Relief

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Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Michael Jordan was playing for the Washington Wizards in 2001 when tragedy struck on September 11. After the attacks, Jordan pledged to donate his entire year’s salary to victims of the incident. The first $100,000 went directly to children who lost parents, and the rest was donated to relief efforts.

Jordan wasn’t the first athlete to donate a year’s salary to a good cause, and he won’t be the last. In 2017, Eagles defensive player Chris Long donated his entire salary to educational equality efforts.

He Donates Money He Wins From Lawsuits, Too

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Alexander Tamargo/WireImage
Alexander Tamargo/WireImage

Michael Jordan knows that part of protecting his brand is suing other companies when they try to profit off of his likeness. For every lawsuit he has won to maintain control, he’s taken the money and donated it to charities; 23 different charities to be exact.

About the organizations he has blessed with money, Jordan said, “The 23 charities I’ve chosen to make donations to all support the health, education and well-being of the kids of Chicago. Chicago has given me so much and I want to give back to its kids—the city’s future.”

Rookie Sensation

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Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Michael Jordan’s first year in the league was incredible. He averaged 28 points per games, was named an All-Star, and won the Rookie of the Year. He also scored 40 or more points in six games! Most players take a year or two to develop, but Jordan proved he was ready from the get-go.

Of course, Jordan wasn’t satisfied being a rookie sensation who dropped out of college to join the NBA. Two years into his career, the superstar returned to school to finish his geography degree.

Trailing Wilt Chamberlain

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Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The biggest reason Michael Jordan is considered the greatest basketball player of all time is because of his six NBA titles. Jordan was a perfect 6-0 in finals series appearances. From a purely statistical standpoint, however, he’s second best to Wilt Chamberlain.

That doesn’t mean Jordan didn’t try. He was the second player to ever score 3,000 points in a season in 1986. Two decades earlier, however, Chamberlain scored over 4,000. There is one category Jordan can claim dominance in; his 30.12 career points per game average bests Chamberlain’s by .05 points!

Slam Dunk Legend

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JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images
JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Jordan knew how to put on a show. He wasn’t the tallest NBA player, but he knew fans of the era loved a good slam dunk. In one particular game, he accepted a fan’s challenge to dunk on “somebody your own size” after posterizing 6’1″ John Stockton.

Jordan took on Melvin Turpin next. Turpin was 6’11” and should have blocked him easily. It’s safe to say the arena went bonkers when Jordan showed up the big man.

Magic Johnson Was His Idol

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Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Growing up, Michael Jordan idolized Magic Johnson. He was such a big fan that at one point early in his career, he wanted to be known as “Magic” Jordan. Luckily the moniker didn’t last. “His Airness” has a better ring to it, don’t you think?

Jordan still found a way to honor Magic, putting the name on a personalized license plate for his first car, a 1976 Grand Prix. These days, he doesn’t need to idolize Magic, he works with him as an owner. Johnson is a co-owner of the Dodgers while Jordan owns the Hornets.

The Jumpman Ballet

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Don Juan Moore/Getty Images
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

To promote their Air Jordan brand of shoes, Nike uses the “Jumpman” logo, a picture of Michael Jordan performing a slam dunk in mid-air. At least that’s what Nike wants you to think it is. The logo actually came into being during a photo shoot for Life magazine in 1984.

Life staged Jordan performing a ballet move called the “grand jete” to imitate the movement of him going airborne. If you look at the logo, then watch a clip of Jordan dunking, you will see the two actually have very little in common.

Third Retirement’s The Charm

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Jonathan Daniel /Allsport
Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

It took Michael Jordan three retirements to leave the NBA. As you already know, his first retirement came in 1994 when turned to MLB to continue his sports career. His MLB detour didn’t last, and he returned to the Bulls in 1995.

After winning three more titles with Chicago, Jordan again retired, promising he wouldn’t return. Two tears later he broke his promise, joining the Washington Wizards. Jordan suffered through two injury-riddled seasons before retiring for a third, and final, time.

He’s Loyal To Nike

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Dimitri Iundt/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Dimitri Iundt/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

When an athlete signs a sponsorship deal, that means they cannot be photographed wearing another brand. Sometimes, as in the case of the 1992 Olympics, this proved nearly impossible. Team USA had its clothing made by Reebok, which was a clear conflict of interest for the Nike-sponsored Jordan.

To satisfy Nike, Jordan made sure whenever he was going to be on television that he draped the American flag over his shoulder hiding the Reebok logo. In his defense, he said, “the American flag cannot deface anything.”

His Flu Shoes Sold For Over $100,000

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JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images
JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

One of Michael Jordan’s most famous games is “The Flu Game.” Jordan was battling the flu during game five the 1997 NBA Finals and scored 38 points, leading his team to victory. After the game, he gave his shoes to Utah Jazz ball boy Preston Truman.

Years later, Truman put the signed shoes up for auction and the winning bid was $104,765! The large sum doesn’t compare to the most money anyone has ever paid for sports memorabilia, though. A 1920 Babe Ruth jersey sold at auction for an insane $4.415 million in 2012.

He Wore Three Numbers During His Career

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Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT
Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT

Michael Jordan is most famous for wearing the number 23, but it’s not the only number he ever wore. Sometimes he wore the number 45 in honor of his brother, Larry. And then there was that one time he wore the number 12.

Jordan was forced to wear a backup jersey during a game in 1990 when an arena employee in Orlando stole his gamer. The nameless jersey was embroidered with the number 12 and didn’t prove to be a problem; Jordan scored 49 points.

He Loves To Gamble

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Steven Lawton/FilmMagic
Steven Lawton/FilmMagic

It’s no secret that Michael Jordon loves to gamble. The night before a playoff game against the New York Knicks in 1993 he was caught at an Atlantic City Casino. He admitted he lost nearly $60,000 that night. Then again, that kind of money is pocket change to a man worth millions.

In 2005, Jordan opened up about his gambling during an interview on 60 Minutes, “I’ve gotten myself into situations where I would not walk away and I’ve pushed the envelope. Is that compulsive? Yeah, it depends on how you look at it. If you’re willing to jeopardize your livelihood and your family, then yeah.”

He Wore Double Layers During Games

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Brian Bahr /Allsport
Brian Bahr /Allsport

Here’s one rumor about Michael Jordan we can confirm is true. In Space Jam he says he always wore his UNC shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts for good luck. The line wasn’t made up for the movie. Jordan’s Bulls shorts were so baggy because it was the only way he could wear both.

Eventually, Jordan was so popular that other players started wearing baggier basketball shorts, too. He wasn’t trying to start a fashion trend, but that’s exactly what ended up happening.

There’s A Reason He Sticks His Tongue Out

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JOHN RUTHROFF/AFP/Getty Images
JOHN RUTHROFF/AFP/Getty Images

If you’ve ever watched Michael Jordan then you probably know he has a propensity to stick out his tongue when he needs to focus. It turns out the move runs in the family.

Growing up, Jordan’s father and grandfather both did the same thing. When they needed to reach back and find that extra gear to get the job done, nothing worked better then sticking out their tongue. Did we mention that Jordan’s first basketball trainer was his father?

He’s Scared Of Water

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MATT CAMPBELL/AFP/Getty Images
MATT CAMPBELL/AFP/Getty Images

Something you might not know about Michael Jordan is that he’s scared of water. As a child he was playing with a friend in the ocean when an undertow took hold. Jordan’s friend was unable to free himself and drowned.

The trauma has stuck with Jordan his entire life, leading to a fear of water. Later, when he was 11-years-old, Jordan almost drowned himself at a baseball camp. Today, he finds it hard to be on the water, even on the safety of a boat.

He Almost Wore A Replica Jersey Once

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Mike Powelll/Allsport
Mike Powelll/Allsport

Michael Jordan’s name is synonymous with the number 23. Athletes is every major sport wear the number in tribute to one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. Let’s revisit that day Jordan wore the number 12. If you remember his jersey was stolen.

Before taking an unassigned jersey with the number 12 on it, Jordan tried on a fan’s replica jersey. Unfortunately, the jersey didn’t fit, so Jordan had to settle. It doesn’t hurt that he ended up scoring 49 points!

One Incredible Year Span

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JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images
JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

Starting in 1990, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls did something that no one thought was possible. For eight years, the team never lost more than three games in a row, including in the playoffs.

That span included 500 games and 126 playoff games. Ben Blatt of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective did the math to figure out the odds of the run happening and came up with one in 140. Will it ever happen again?

Another Untouchable Record

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JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images
JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Jordan holds many records. One of his records that is considered untouchable is one he didn’t achieve until he was in his 40s. To this day, Jordan is the only player over 40 to average 20 points per game and score over 40 in a game.

In 1996, even before his career was over, Jordan was listed as one of the top 50 NBA players of all-time. After setting his “old age” record, he’s easily top five, if not alone at the top.