It pays to be the greatest of all time. Michael Jordan, with his six NBA titles and extensive list of accolades, earned millions over his 15-season basketball career. Today, the 57-year-old legend still has sponsorship deals with major brands, is the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets and is worth an estimated $2.1 billion.
But there was a time when Jordan had to write home and ask for spending money.
In “The Last Dance,” a Netflix-ESPN joint documentary series on Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty he helped create, Deloris Jordan shares a letter she received from her son in the early 80s, when he was a college student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In the letter, a teenage Jordan checks in on his family and asks for stamps and some extra cash, as his bank account balance was hovering at about $20. Here’s what he wrote:
How has life been treating you? Fine, I hope. I am doing just fine. I am sending you my account number so that you can deposit some money in my account. I have only $20 in there. Tell everyone I said hello and smile. God and I love you.
P.S. Sorry about the phone bill. Please also send me some stamps.
Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, with his four siblings. His dad, James, worked at General Electric and his mom was a bank teller. Since they both worked, they signed their kids up for organized sports to keep them busy after school.
Jordan famously didn’t make his high school’s varsity basketball team as a sophomore, but a strong work ethic and five-inch growth spurt helped him make the team his junior year.
When he arrived at UNC in 1981, he wasn’t immediately the best player. Jordan was “very inconsistent as a freshman,” Dean Smith, former head coach at Chapel Hill, said in one interview included in the documentary. But, “he wanted to get better — and then he had the ability to get better.”
By the end of his freshman year, Jordan was a household name, thanks to the game-winning shot he hit in the 1982 NCAA Championship game. His jumper sealed UNC’s victory over Georgetown, 63-62.