The game of basketball is simple when you take everything into account; it's a game most of us fell in love with as kids when we first picked up a basketball in our hands. That is usually the process for everyone, those who play basketball recreationally and those who later become professionals. However, when you become a professional, things drastically change, especially if you are an NBA player earning millions of dollars, also becoming a celebrity to a certain degree. That leads to a shift in the focus for some players from basketball to other activities, which sometimes can affect their performance.
Michael Jordan had the biggest impact on the NBA's popularity and is still the richest basketball player who transcended the sport he was playing and is perhaps the most prominent athlete of the 20th century. One of the things that everyone remembers about Jordan is the enormous passion and love for basketball which was one reason for his success apart from the pure talent and hard work he put into his craft.
In the book, 'The Michael Jordan Nobody Knows', Jordan talks about his relationship with basketball as business and how he dealt with that throughout his career. For him, the game itself was never a business but a real pleasure he loved doing. However, when you step out of the basketball arena, that is when his job would start. That involves speaking with the media, fans, being the ambassador of the Bulls and the NBA, while at the same time promoting various products from different brands.
Basketball isn't my job. For me, my job begins the moment I walk off the floor. It's everything that surrounds the actual playing of the games. My job is being a product endorser, an employee of the Chicago Bulls, trying to live up to the expectations of others, dealing with the media. That's my job. The media part of that has never been very difficult for me, though. I like people. That's just my personality. I just believe that if you treat them with respect, then they will respect you. That's not always true, as I've found out. But for the most part, I try to do that because I genuinely like some of the reporters I deal with. Some of them are very honest. So I don't want to deprive them of something they might need to perform their jobs. I think I owe that respect to them.
Michael Jordan, via The Michael Jordan Nobody Knows
Unlike some other NBA superstars who kept to themselves as much as possible and never liked the publicity, Jordan was quite the opposite. He loved interacting with fans and the press, and his personality was one of the key reasons why so many brands and sponsorships came his way. On top of his impeccable basketball skill, his charisma turned him into a product that people wanted to consume, especially when it came to the Air Jordan brand. Other star players never liked the limelight, and for valid reasons, but Jordan had this special way of being a true professional both on and off the court that eventually turned him into a true legend.