President Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996, when Michael Jordan was still a member of the Chicago Bulls. Jordan retired in 1998 and moved on to become the general manager and then un-retired shooting guard for the Washington Wizards from 2000-03, but he kept up residence in a Chicago suburb through that spell. Jordan would remain in the area until becoming a general manager, then part-owner, and eventually majority owner of the then-Charlotte Bobcats midway through 2006.
By then Obama had made a stirring, nationally-televised keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, prior to winning a seat in the U.S. Senate during the fall of 2004. Obama quickly shifted into a very public presidential candidate mode, winning a historic election in 2008 and becoming his nation’s first African-American president along the way.
Throughout all that time, that very public time, his first name was always spelled “Barack.” To everyone but Michael Jordan, we guess.
On the occasion of Obama’s 50th birthday in the summer of 2011, former top advisor David Axelrod decided to reach out to Jordan in the hopes that the legend would sign a birthday greeting for the president. Axelrod, a longtime Chicago Bulls season ticket holder, was able to secure a signature from Jordan, although MJ’s approach to the POTUS was a little off.
“When the president turned 50, I wanted to get him something special … so I sent it to Jordan to have him sign it for me.” In black Sharpie, Jordan scrawled, “To Barrack: you still owe me dinner. Wishing you well, Michael Jordan.”
“I gave it to the president, and he said, ‘I can’t put this up, he misspelled my name!’ So I said, ‘Fine, I’ll take it.’ ”
For those that are counting, Obama’s 50th birthday took place a good 15 years after he rose to prominence on the Chicago political scene, almost seven years to the date of his famous DNC speech, and nearly three years after he was elected the 44th President of the United States.
Because it’s Michael Jordan, though, we’re going to add an extra “R.” And the Prez still owes MJ dinner.
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I should point out that during Jordan’s rookie year in Chicago, my Aunt Pat went to a Bulls game and was able to get Jordan to sign a card for my upcoming fifth birthday. The inside of the card read “To Kelly, best of luck, Michael Jordan.”
He got my name right, Mr. President. You owe me dinner.
(Hat tip: SB Nation.)
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