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Michael Jordan on Overcoming the Grief after His Father’s Murder: ‘I’m a Very Optimistic Person’

Aby Rivas
Feb 15, 2020
10:00 A.M.
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Michael Jordan was at the height of his career in the NBA when his father, James R. Jordan Sr. was murdered in cold blood. His death shocked the world and the Jordan family, but the now-retired basketball star once said he chose to grieve with an optimistic outlook.


Michael Jordan’s life was turned upside down on July 23, 1993, when his father went missing, and only two weeks later, James Jordan’s body was found at a swamp in South Carolina.

Michael Jordan attends a press conference before the NBA Paris Game match between Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks on January 24, 2020 | Photo: GettyImages



The elder Jordan was murdered by two teens who were trying to rob his Lexus car and who later claimed the didn’t know the man in the vehicle was Michael Jordan’s father.

At the time, Michael stayed away from the spotlight for a few weeks, and on his first appearance after the tragedy, he remained calm and collected and assured the press he was doing fine as he was mentally and physically strong.

However, he never mentioned his father and requested not to be asked directly about it. Instead, Jordan brushed over the subject by mentioning “difficulties you face in life” and thanking his friends for being there for him in the darkest times.


Michael Jordan #23 of the Eastern Conference All Stars stands on the court with his father James Jordan after recieving the MVP award in 1988 at Chicago Stadium in Chicago | Photo: GettyImages


Three months later, Michael sat down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey and, known for her raw approach to sensitive subjects, Winfrey didn’t think twice before bringing up James’ passing.


Oprah explained that she wanted to confront the boys who murdered James Jordan, and she wanted to know if Michael felt the same.

In response, the baller explained that he hadn’t gotten to that stage yet, adding:

“It’s been a very tough time for me to deal with it, and I don’t really have any feelings against them yet. I guess because it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Michael Jordan takes part in a ceremony honoring the 2020 NBA All-Star game on Feb. 17, 2019 in North Carolina | Photo: Getty Images


Winfrey then mentioned how in the rare instances she had heard Michael talk about his father, he often said James “passed away” instead of “he was murdered.”

“Have you accepted the fact that he was murdered?” Oprah asked Michael, to which he said:

“No, because I’m a very optimistic person to the sense that I don’t look at the real bad part of it. I look at the fact that, no matter what happened to my father, he’s not here. So, he’s passed to me. I want to look at it in a good sense.”



For years before he was murdered, James Jordan had been encouraging his son to give baseball a try. James believed Michael had the potential to be great in the sports, and he had suggested the idea right after Michael won his first NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls.

Two months after James’ death, Michael announced his retirement from basketball and signed a Minor League Baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox.

"My father used to say that it's never too late to do anything you wanted to do," said Jordan at the time. "And he said, 'You never know what you can accomplish until you try.'”


Michael Jordan walks onto the 18th green during Aria Resort & Casino's 13th Annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational at Shadow Creek on April 6, 2014 | Photo: GettyImages

Jordan had a hard time adjusting to baseball. The same man that moved with effortless grace on the basketball court, was often criticized when his turn at the bat came up.


To deal with the pressure, Michael started every morning back then having a conversation with his late father, as he explained to the New York Times that he envisioned the older Jordan encouraging him and giving him all his support as he did in life.

"'Keep doing what you're doing,' he'd tell me," said Jordan. " 'Keep trying to make it happen. You can't be afraid to fail. Don't give a damn about the media.' Then he'd say something funny—or recall something about when I was a boy when we'd be in the backyard playing catch together like we did all the time.”

Michael Jordan walks off the court during the NBA All-Star Game 2016 at the Air Canada Centre on February 14, 2016 | Photo: GettyImages



Jordan is the fourth of five children born to James Jordan and Deloris Peoples.  He has two older brothers, Larry Jordan and James R. Jordan Jr., one older sister, Deloris, and one younger sister, Roslyn.

Michael is also the father of five children, three are from his marriage to Juanita Vanoy, whom he married in 1989 and divorced in 2006.

Michael Jordan and fiancee Yvette Prieto attend the 11th annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational gala at the Aria Resort & Casino at CityCenter March 30, 2011 | Photo: GettyImages


His sons Marcus and Jeffrey also pursued careers in basketball but never reached the professional league; his daughter, Jasmine, has worked with Jordan in several endeavors and is now the mother of an adorable boy with fiancé Rakeem Christmas.

Michael Jordan’s wife now is the Cuban-American model Yvette Prieto, whom he married in 2013. The couple shares twin daughters Victoria and Ysabel, born in 2014.

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