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Why Michael Jordan rejected Idris Elba's pitch to play him in a movie

Elba offered an unexpected angle, and didn't get a straight no...but he didn't get a yes either.
Actor Idris Elba and NBA great Michael Jordan

Idris Elba pitched Michael Jordan a movie idea

A movie about Michael Jordan will surely be a blockbuster. He remains one of the greatest icons across all sports. Award-winning actor Idris Elba wants to play MJ in a movie and wasted no time saying that to The GOAT himself. Jordan’s response surprised him.

“I’m not ready yet”

There will be no shortage of storylines in a Michael Jordan biopic. His whole life, NBA years, and even after playing professional basketball could be told in a movie. The plots don’t even matter: just a movie poster with Michael Jordan’s name on it would surely attract people's curiosity, basketball fans or not. 

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Playing him has been a dream for actor Idris Elba. He had a chance to say it to MJ, but the 6-time NBA champion isn’t ready yet to make a movie about his life. Elba shared the story with Joe La Puma in one of Complex’s Sneaker Shopping episodes.

I even said to him one time, ‘I want to play you.’ He was like, ‘Hm, I’m not ready yet.’ That’s what he said, ‘I’m not ready yet.’ … I was dead serious. In my head, playing Jordan wouldn’t be about playing the basketball player; it was about the businessman. He is a very astute businessman, really smart. And his work as a philanthropist is unspoken, but people don’t understand the work. He cares; he does a lot of work. So that’s where I was hinting at. I wanna play Jordan—I’m doing that. He was like, ‘Ah, I’m not ready for that story yet.'”

MJ might have felt there’s still so much in store for him that a movie may fail to encapsulate the grandness of everything. But sooner or later, he could say yes. 

A movie about MJ: Who says no?

Based on The Last Dance's reception in 2020, the people are still craving the untold stories about the Chicago Bulls and its main protagonist Michael Jordan. What made Elba want to portray MJ was his success as a businessman outside the basketball court. Jordan built an empire with his brand and became a billionaire; Idris is more interested in how MJ is as a businessman, an NBA team owner, and a boss.

However, like The Last Dance, any production about MJ and his life would have to get his approval before it gets released. Maybe that’s why Jordan claimed he wasn’t ready yet. He has his hands tied to different ventures, activities, and engagements he’s involved in. Making a biopic requires time and focus, which he may not have at the moment. For sure, a movie about MJ will be made in the future. His life is too big and lucrative for producers to turn down. The only question is whether Idris Elba is still up for the role. 

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