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Friday, February 13, 2004
Transition Game: Michael Jordan

By Dr. Jack Ramsay
Special to

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Dr. Jack Ramsay's new book "Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned from a Lifetime in Basketball." Ramsay interviewed many former NBA superstars who have used their athletic leadership capabilities to achieve success in the business world.

Air Apparent: Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan's off-court success is almost as well documented as his extraordinary achievements as a player. It was estimated that he made $40 million a year in endorsements and auxiliary income when the Bulls were in their championship run. He was able to do that by budgeting his time efficiently and giving the same attention to detail that he did as a player.

Michael moves quickly through his many daily activities, but he never seems to be in a hurry and never fails to give consideration to anyone who has his attention at the moment; he makes everyone feel that he's glad to see them. He has hired good people to take care of minutiae and that allows him to be himself. It is fascinating to watch him.

How to find Dr. Jack's book
You can get a copy of Dr. Jack Ramsay's book: "Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned from a Lifetime in Basketball" at your neighborhood bookstore or online @
Now that his playing days are over, Jordan has more time to attend to his impressive business empire. He is associated with the following corporations and products: Electric Arts, Gatorade, Hidden Beach Records, MCI WorldCom, Michael Jordan Automotive Group, Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament, Michael Jordan Flight Schools, NBA Videos, Jordan Brand (a clothing line), Jordan Cologne, Oakley Sunglasses, Sara Lee Corporation, SportsLine, The Upper Deck Company, Wilson Sporting Goods, Nike, and four Michael Jordan restaurants.

Michael is a great spokesman. He is articulate, displays an easy sense of humor, and the camera loves him. Whether he's making a commercial pitch on television or talking to a group, he appears completely at ease and delivers his message clearly and succinctly.

Michael also runs the Jordan Senior Flight School, an annual three-day basketball "camp" for men, 35 years and older, held at one of the plush casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada (he runs two sessions of a camp for young players, both boys and girls, at the University of California-Santa Barbara).

Typically, there are about 100 participants, most of whom have played at the high school or small-college level, but there are also some who have never played any organized ball. All the activities are conducted in a large conference hall - big enough to accommodate five full-length, portable basketball courts.

After being drafted into teams, the players receive two instructional sessions (one by MJ) and play two team games each day. On the final day, playoffs are held and a championship team is determined. Expensive rings, watches, and trophies go to team and individual winners of competitions. Top college and NBA officials referee the games, and the camp staff consists of the best college coaches in the country, plus several - myself among them - with NBA connections. We give teaching sessions each day and coach the teams, so that by the end of camp, every player has contact with every coach, and, of course, with Michael Jordan.

Michael is wonderful. He is at the camp every day, gives a half-hour lecture/demonstration each morning on some phase of the game, then invites "campers" to come on the court to challenge him one-on-one. The players love it, and MJ makes it fun for them - but ever the competitor, he doesn't ease up on anyone.

As Jordan works through his day - whether as a player, at one of his camps, at a media session, or filming a television commercial - he gives the impression that he is doing it because he enjoys it and that the money he earns is a secondary priority. He is generous with his money, too, contributing to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, UNCF (United Negro College Fund), Special Olympics, and various other private causes.

In 1996, the University of North Carolina, MJ's alma mater, opened the Jordan Institute, as part of its School of Social Work, to which Michael contributed $1 million. The purpose of the institute is to strengthen family relationships, something Michael feels strongly about. (He says his own family structure is now solid.) In the same year, the James R. Jordan Boys & Girls Club and Family Life Center (named for Michael's late father) opened on Chicago's West side for inner-city youngsters and their families. The Chicago Bulls contributed $5 million and Michael $2 million to this project, which attracts more than a thousand participants a week.

Jordan's commercial value may have dimmed a bit, but Michael hasn't lost his touch with the soft jumper, and his knack for business success continues unabated.

Dr. Jack Ramsay coached the Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship. A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he is a regular contributor to Click here to send a question for Dr. Jack for possible use on ESPNEWS.