Basketball icon Michael Jordan has joined sports betting and daily fantasy sports powerhouse DraftKings as a “special advisor to the company’s board of directors,” the Boston-based gaming operator announced on Wednesday morning.
In the midst of the most high-profile year Jordan has enjoyed since his playing days ended in 2003, powered by the documentary series The Last Dance that drew record ratings for ESPN, the six-time NBA champion has taken an equity interest in DraftKings and will provide strategic advice as DK continues to expand its legal offerings into more states.
The DraftKings press release specified that Jordan “will provide strategic and creative input to the board of directors on company strategy, product development, diversity, equity and belonging, marketing activities, and other key initiatives.”
DraftKings stock rose 14% in early trading Wednesday off the news.
“Michael Jordan is among the most important figures in sports and culture, who forever redefined the modern athlete and entrepreneur,” said DraftKings co-founder and CEO Jason Robins. “The strategic counsel and business acumen Michael brings to our board is invaluable, and I am excited to have him join our team.”
Bullish on betting
This is not Jordan’s first formal connection to the gaming space, as he is also an investor in sports gambling data company Sportradar, which happens to work with DraftKings, among other sportsbooks.
On an informal level, MJ’s connections to gambling run much deeper. As was explored in The Last Dance, Jordan spent his share of time in casinos, loved to gamble on the golf course, and had to testify in federal court in 1992 about a $57,000 check he sent a convicted criminal to pay off gambling debts. Rumors have persisted — repeatedly refuted by Jordan and then-NBA Commissioner David Stern — that his first retirement in 1993 was actually a forced sabbatical from the league to punish him for his gambling habits.
Nearly three decades on, with sports betting much more culturally and socially acceptable in the U.S. than was the case in his physical prime, Jordan has decided to work directly with a company that operates sportsbooks legally in 10 states: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. DraftKings Casino is also available online in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Playing off Jordan’s reputation for motivating himself by finding — and often manufacturing — ways to feel slighted, one Twitter user had fun with the news on Wednesday morning:
Maybe they’re going to show him clips of people saying he doesn’t know anything about business and can’t make DraftKings the biggest brand in the world to see what happens
— Conor (@ConSkinn) September 2, 2020
Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA Today Sports