Skip to main content

Michael Jordan once officiated a game between NBA stars and Sumo Wrestlers

Michael Jordan vs Sumo Wrestlers

Michael Jordan vs Sumo Wrestlers

Michael Jordan once officiated a game between Jason Kidd, Charles Barkley, Michael Finley, Damon Stoudemire, and three sumo wrestlers during Nike's promotional campaign in Asia.

NBA players vs. Sumo Wrestlers

The game took place in the summer of 1996, right after MJ led the Bulls to their fourth NBA title in six years -- two of those Michael spent playing baseball. As a part of one of Nike's first overseas tours, the brands' biggest endorsers at the time were matched up against sumo wrestlers. The biggest of them all served as the ref.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

An AdAge article from 1996 offered more details on a game of 3-on-3 that took place in front of a sold-out crowd, opening the door for the company to enter the Asian market in the upcoming years.

Events are being created with key Nike athletes in mind. A template for what Nike has in mind was established with 'Hoop Heroes,' an event in Tokyo earlier this month. Held on two consecutive nights, each event was a slickly produced, 2-hour show headlined by Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and other Nike basketball endorsers. High on entertainment values like music and lighting, and heavy on athlete-spectator interaction, the show even had some NBA stars challenging a group of Japan’s best sumo wrestlers to a game of basketball. Tokyo Broadcasting System televised the events; Nike is now shopping for an international distributor. Nike also set up a retail space for its athletic footwear and apparel, and reported brisk sales and hefty profits.

AdAge

Promotional purposes

The game itself lacked any form of excitement. Besides marveling that NBA stars and sumo wrestlers are on the court together, fans got no real entertainment value from watching the game. Michael Finley's two-handed alley-oop slam, as generic as it can possibly get, ended up being the highlight of the night. Other than that, it was nothing more than a walk-fest intertwined with an occasional jump shot.

But let's face it -- NBA superstars have done even more embarrassing things for promotional purposes. Like Wilt Chamberlain's laxative commercial. Everything else looks great in comparison.

Shawn Bradley

“Those thoughts creep in” — Shawn Bradley contemplated the darkest thoughts amid paralysis due to a bike accident

Shawn Bradley has been paralyzed after a bike accident but he did not lack the support he needs. Still, the burden it gave his family sometimes prompt him to contemplate the worst.

Western Conference guard Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers talks to Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers

Gilbert Arenas revealed the untold part about Chris Paul's vetoed trade to the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe, CP3, Dwight and two max slots? This scenario would overtake The Decision and Durant to the Warriors as the craziest free agency period in NBA history.

Kevon Looney and the Golden State Warriors are going big to take down the Dallas Mavericks

Kevon Looney and the Golden State Warriors are going big to take down the Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs going small has allowed Looney to eat, and his success in the paint on both ends of the floor is a big reason the series stands at 2-0

Devin Booker suffered devastating losses in the finals and playoffs. Fortunately, he has more than enough reasons to try again

Can Devin Booker redeem himself and his reputation after another playoff meltdown?

Devin Booker suffered devastating losses in the finals and playoffs. Fortunately, he has more than enough reasons to try again.

Amare Stoudemire questions Tyler Herro’s focus: He wants all this entertainment stuff, but where is the focus on basketball?

Amare Stoudemire questions Tyler Herro’s focus: "He wants all this entertainment stuff, but where is the focus on basketball?

Herro won the 6th Man of the Year but he's struggling in these playoffs. Amare Stoudemire questions where his focus is right now.

Marcus Smart’s importance to the Boston Celtics is becoming hard to overlook

Marcus Smart’s importance to the Boston Celtics is becoming hard to overlook

Smart has always been a solid defensive player, but his offensive strides have allowed him to become the player the Celtics need