The NBA icon and mogul show once again that real leaders are moving forward and creating opportunities that change culture.
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4 min read
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For most people, being a billionaire, hall of famer, best gamer ever, NBA franchise owner, brand owner, and at some point an actor would be enough to fill a day. Not for Michael Jordan.
Last Monday it was announced that MJ has teamed up with NASCAR stars Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace to form a new NASCAR team. It's not a headline that you might expect. But in 2020 it actually fits perfectly.
"In the past, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and black owners have been few … the timing seemed perfect," Jordan said in a press release announcing the partnership. With the news, he becomes the first black major owner of a NASCAR roster since Wendell Scott in the early 1970s.
Jordan – worth $ 2.1 billion according to Forbes – has enough money to live a lifetime. However, his willingness to open up new target groups is remarkable. Maybe because everything is an opportunity (or a competition) for him. And this latest challenge will help him reach new audiences, change culture, and disrupt established norms.
See also: Michael Jordan gets into the NASCAR game
In fact, the University of Saint Louis Marketing Professor Dr. Brett Boyle that this moment has the potential to change NASCAR in the way Tiger Woods changed the game of golf when he got on the scene. In an interview with CNBC, reflecting on Wood's career, he said, “You've seen younger people become interested in golf… (and) when someone sees someone like them in a sport, they think about how they like the sport play … this could increase the minority stake in NASCAR. "
Strong leaders know how to push boundaries and use leadership skills to bring about change. Prior to his death, Jordan's NBA heir Kobe Bryant appeared to be author of children's books and teach valuable lessons of character in his writings. Danny Trejo did this in Hollywood, using his tough mentality and previous prison experience to find a path not previously seen for returned citizens. Jay-Z did so in the corporate world by showing off his street smarts and submitting the business world to his acumen. Jordan knows all this and his mission is to move forward like true leaders.
"NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more," Jordan stated in his statement. "In addition to the recent commitment and donations I made to combat systemic racism, I see this as an opportunity to educate a new audience and give blacks more opportunities in racing."
It would be difficult to bet against Jordan and its society on this matter. For the past 20 years since retiring as a professional basketball player, he has:
Become the majority owner of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets.
Ranked 20th Most Powerful Celebrity in the World by Forbes.
Was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Appointed Chief Wish Ambassador by the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom 2016.
Published a book, majority owner of a golf course and restaurant, and co-owner of an automotive company.
This is part of a number of other successful endeavors. Still, Jordan's decision to step into NASCAR is another powerful example of a leader pioneering in finding new audiences and transforming the culture of an established sport – something that many are likely to follow.
One of Jordan's most impressive skills is attracting notable sponsors (e.g. its newly established relationship with online sports betting Draft Kings). Surely Jordan has sponsorships in mind for his NASCAR team, telling an anonymous source to CNBC, "If you're a company, don't you want to support Michael Jordan and Bubba Wallace trying to encourage positive change?"
Related: 4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Be Relentless Like Michael Jordan
Jordan's M.O. is breaking new ground and fostering unique partnerships, and there is a lot to learn from that – especially today. Mining the same source will not produce results forever. Therefore, it is imperative for entrepreneurs and companies to follow Jordan’s lead and work to improve themselves, their business and everyone around them, including society at large.