Over the years of this 21st century, it has become abundantly clear that Michael Jordan is not a particularly gregarious fellow. The legendary accomplishments of his NBA career may have covered up (or in some ways, excused) Michael’s less flattering character traits, but the further separated he gets from his playing career, the more he seems like a bitter, unforgiving, pathologically competitive misanthrope. There’s the stories of him in Washington berating former No. 1 draft pick Kwame Brown in his first few years with the Wizards, calling him a “faggot” and making him cry in front of teammates. There’s that video that circulated a few years back of Chamillionaire telling the “Michael Jordan Story,” when the rapper met MJ at a party and got furiously cursed out by him for requesting a picture. And then, of course, there’s the Hall of Fame speech, where Mike took an opportunity usually reserved for paying tribute to those who helped you reach the top and decided instead to deliver a vengeful diatribe against those who had the temerity to stand in his way. To Jordan, there might not even have been much of a difference between the two.

It’s all a rich tapestry of arrogance and disdain. However, nowhere is Michael Jordan’s current disregard for his peers, his followers, and most of all, his fans, more clear than in the series of Hanes commercials he’s filmed over the last half-decade.

Michael Jordan has been filming Hanes ads for a long-ass time, but in the ads of those early days, MJ was still coming off as youthful, smiling, even vaguely enthusiastic about his craft. The ads these days, however, feature a much less benevolent MJ, and one far less willing to indulge the contrivances of his directors and co-stars. In fact, MJ’s disinterest in the spots is so apparent now that the Hanes filmmakers decided to gear the entire Jordan campaign around how little he looks like he wants to be there, with the recurring theme of just about every single ad being some person, either fellow celebrity or outright commoner, trying desperately to capture Michael’s time and/or attention, and Mike wanting absolutely nothing to do with them.

In the first spot from this era of Jordan Hanes commercials, Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. is getting ready to meet Michael for some unspecified reason. Before he is allowed to do so, though, he is briefed by MJ’s handlers about the many things he is not to do when meeting the six-time champion, including asking him to stick his tongue out or touching his soft Hanes undershirt. Cuba plays it cool, pretending it won’t be a problem, but when he actually spots Jordan from across the room, he screams out “MICHAEL!!” and bolts towards him, embracing him as if magnetically attracted. MJ looks perturbed and slightly creeped out by Cuba’s reaction, but not all that surprised, as if this sort of thing happens to him all the time. Part of the attraction is the impossibly-soft undershirt, no doubt, but it’s still the first example of a Hanes ad portraying Jordan as some kind of galvanizing, almost Messianic-type figure, inspiring religious rapture even in famous actors (well, one-time famous actors), while all he can do in response is to look quizzical and act put out by this reception.

It gets worse. The next series of spots featured a pre-crazy — or at least in-between bouts — Charlie Sheen constantly haranguing Michael Jordan about various Hanes products. One saw Sheen take to stalking MJ on the links, bragging to him from his car about his new Hanes boxer briefs. But MJ refuses to slow down or stop his walking to talk to Sheen, who ends up inadvertently crashing his car trying to keep up with him. In that spot, Jordan at least puts up with Sheen, but in the other one starring the pair, Jordan quickly loses patience with Sheen, driving off on him as he tries to pitch him on Hanes undershirts and Korean barbecue, inadvertently stealing his cell phone in the process. Once again, Jordan is shown as being such a powerfully compelling figure that even a legitimate TV star like Sheen can’t help but try to forcibly insert himself into his life, while MJ remains perpetually unconcerned and increasingly bothered by Sheen’s manic attempts at broaching a friendship.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fv-Jd_GEtc

Most recently, Michael has been seen getting plagued on an airplane by a civilian who wants to impart his Hanes-related wisdom on Jordan — who, for the first time in the series, is unable to flee from the clinger’s grasp (or have it forcibly removed by security). Forced to listen to the obnoxious everyman’s blathering, all Mike can do is sneer “This is gonna be good” or refute the man’s insistence on being Hanes undershirt twins with Mike with a curt “No, we’re not.” (The implication is clear: “You think you’re on my level? Clyde Drexler and John Starks thought they were on my level, too, where the fuck they at now??“) Finally, MJ checks out of the ads altogether, leaving those remaining to discuss him (and the particulars of grammar and Bacon Neck) without him in actual attendance. It seems like just what he’s wanted in this campaign all along.

Of course, one has to wonder about all this — not only why does Michael Jordan seem to feel the obsessive need to constantly play out scenarios of fans demonstrating how much they love him and crave his time and attention (and to show how unmoved and weirded out he is in response), but why does he still do Hanes commercials at all? He can’t possibly need the money, and he clearly doesn’t need or seem to want the kind of added media exposure. The only logical explanation would be that MJ is actually using these ads to send a message to the general public: Leave Me. The Fuck. Alone.

Michael Jordan is absolutely not interested in your autograph requests, your fanboy gushing, your general thoughts and life philosophies. Let him preside over his mansion and basketball empire in undisturbed peace, quiet and solitude, like the NBA’s Daniel Plainview. Leave him be, or he may end up snapping and beating you to death with one of his Finals MVP trophies.

Comments (24)

  1. I feel like intelligent discussions of Michael Jordan’s worldview will never get old to me. Good post, Kerbs.

  2. Trey,

    Wonderful job here. Well written, well researched. Made sense of a series of ads that make no sense to anyone.

    I do wish you could’ve explained MJ’s prominent Hitler ‘stache. But alas, for another post.

    I. Smell. Pulitzer.

  3. good read… I was thinking that when I saw that “Bacon-Neck” ad. Aside from the inexplicable choice of rocking the Hitler-like stache, his personality was very off-putting. The message of the Ad was that even if you wear Hanes products, don’t even claim that you have anything in common with his Airness. But, isn’t that the whole point of getting someone famous to endorse your product? So that we can have something in common with the celebrity? These ads just make him look like a dick (with a Hitler stache).

    When people used to compare MJ and Kobe, i used to say that MJ was more liked by his teammates therefore having the better personality… now I just say MJ passed the ball more…

  4. lol fantastic work kerbs, classy avoidance of the hitler stache issue as referenced by mr stillman above.

  5. I’d say Kobe’s team mates like him more. When they’re winning he quits riding them and seems to be cool with them. Didn’t he get them some cool gift in the year he was MVP? MJ would’ve bought himself clones to ride them while he was living in the limelight.

    MJ = Better player

    Kobe = Somehow, impossibly, less of a dick. Last time I’ll say that about Bean Bryant…

  6. This seems bitter….

    Hell, everyone seems bitter that MJ doesn’t care about them, or isn’t a nice guy…Why?

    I mean: why the fuck would you go and talk to MJ about your T-Shirt? That’s the weird part, not the fact that he doesn’t want to listen something no-one wants to listen to…

    Plus the guy has to be, like, THE most famous individual in the world. Of course he has had enough of people asking him for autographs every goddamn day!
    I mean: the guy doesn’t owe you anything! He doesn’t have to be nice to every fucking person.

    I mean:
    “he actually spots Jordan from across the room, he screams out “MICHAEL!!” and bolts towards him, embracing him as if magnetically attracted. MJ looks perturbed and slightly creeped out by Cuba’s reaction, but not all that surprised, as if this sort of thing happens to him all the time.”

    I bet it kindoa does. I mean: Kim Fucking Jong Fucking Il wanted to meet the guy so much he made a museum for his goddamn autographed ball!

    I have a hard time believing that there’s ever been such a thing as “pre-crazy Charlie Sheen”… The guy’s always been nuts, just hid it better. I would love to be at a party with Charlie Sheen , but to actually have a conversation with this guy? I don’t know…

    “refute the man’s insistence on being Hanes undershirt twins with Mike with a curt “No, we’re not.” ”
    maybe because no-one would say “Hey, yeah! Let’s be underwear twins!”

    Finally, I live in the well-mannered country of switzerland, where people are known for not bothering rich and famous people… We know what business is…. And MJ on the streets would have a lot of people losing their shit…

    People with autograph requests, fanboy gushing, general thoughts and life philosophies must come talk to him all the time, like they know him or he owes them something because “hey! I nkow you! You’re famous!” (or, more famous than I am)

    Charlie Sheen? Cuba Gooding Jr.?
    Try to find someone in Togo or Laos who knows them…
    I’m pretty sure MJ is in the top 10 most famous people in the world
    That actually must get annoying after 20 years or so.

    I’m sorry, but I’m really annoyed at all the people taking shots at this guy like he’s supposed to be an example…

    MJ OWES YOU NOTHING

  7. “bitter, unforgiving, pathologically competitive misanthrope”

    Yup. I’m a huge Bulls fan, and a huge Jordan fan, but the guy is literally borderline insane. It’s that aspect to his personality (one could argue that it is his personality) that drove him to be the greatest of all time, and it’s something that can’t be turned off. IMO, if Jordan weren’t 6’6″ and supernaturally athletic, he’d have had a hard life. Especially when you consider his gambling habits.

    Also, I loved his HoF speech – it was absolutely perfect for Jordan. Anyone who was offended by it is too tightly wound or doesn’t know Jordan very well.

  8. This was Andrew Unterberger, actually. He hit it out of the park.

  9. How about this ad where MJ seemingly invades Kevin Bacon’s home to mercilessly swat away every object that leaves Bacon’s fingertips?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ogpXkoI2Hg

  10. That was easily the most absurd read on the internet this whole year! Did you really just “dissect” three underwear commercials to analyze a man’s character and further prove the “ass” that MJ is, was, and always will be?

    This is the worst piece of writing I have ever seen affiliated with theScore. Love this blog, love the show, and even though I know its influenced by the entertainment side of basketball, that wasn’t entertainment and sports. That was Perezhilton.com shit. The only thing missing were the cheap white illustrations of penis’ on MJ’s pictures.

  11. Thank you Josh F for pointing out the Kevin Bacon ads, those were always my favorite. It always made me wonder what situation would involve Kevin Bacon and Michael Jordan to hang out with eachother. And why is it in some weird all white interior place? Then I started thinking that maybe MJ was stuck there and had no other option other than to put up with Bacon’s shit and mess with him everytime he tried to toss and object into a receptacle, which is obviously a reference to MJ’s bball greatness. Then I started thinking that they should make a reality show called Living with Bacon where contestants were required to survive 30 days locked indoors with Kevin Bacon. If they could survive then they would win 1 million dollars. Most people would agree that this is impossible.

  12. This is a big stretch to say the ads reflect who is, some of the stuff that happens in the comercial I’d be annoyed too, the twins? Ya its like the jerk in school who thinks your friends just cause your got partenered up. The cuba ad I’d have a raise eyebrow being like calm down, he comes off like a bieber fan, and he’s a grown man,

    But Mj has made some funny ads in the last few years, like him and matthew perry, jackie chan or with kevin bacon, you just highlight some ads that happened to match his tell it like it is attitude, which he’s earned, his HOF speech was just a shout out to the haters saying bcuz of you I’m better, the attitude he has comes from people hating, you just make him better when you doubt him, but the man has friends and what not him and pip are friends and most of the bulls like him minus horace grant, he’s a warm guy but like anyone else if you hate and get in his space he’s won’t like it he just snaps faster than other people but if you were mobbed all the time wouldn’t you?

  13. Full disclosure…I am a Chicagoan. So, my thoughts will of course be relegated to the all-forgiving red & white fan goggles Bulls fans don on all topics concerning MJ. Fair enough. But, I think it was last week when one of you guys wrote something like, “God, can Michael Jordan ever just for a second NOT be Michael Jordan?” And the answer is, no of course not! He’s a cage fighter among basketball players. He’s the world’s most recognizable assassin. Maybe we’re foolish in our expectation that he’d ever be otherwise.

    Because Mike sure as hell has looked foolish in pretty much every attempt to be otherwise. Space Jam? Sucked. Baseball player? Can’t hit a curve. The jokes about his golf game are legendary. Which brings me to the ‘stache. Pretty sure he was going for a Charlie Chaplin thing. Look how well that turned out.

    I’m just gonna let Mike be Mike. You know, for his own good.

  14. You should also highlight the increasingly odd NBA “where amazing happens” when old footage of young NBA players in accompanied by people going back in time to tell them they will be in the NBA. The steph curry spot is really creepy

  15. very good read and you make a good point, especially with the stupid guys on the airplane recent ads. there just annoying. MJ is just being MJ thats his personality. when he was on the court it was all business and his success definitely helped over look his personality, which lets be honest hes not as bad as barkley.

  16. i think NBA 2k11 got to his head. but he really isent modest listen to the HOF speech all he keeps saying is how good he is. not saying he isent good. just saying he is kinda cocky

  17. The Hall of Fame speech wasn’t bad at all. I still do not understand the backlash and spin.

  18. The Hall of Fame speech wasn’t bad at all. I still do not understand the backlash and spin.

  19. You want to know what’s funny about Jordan’s post-playing life? That he’s so bad at it.

    Name one positive accomplishment of his post-playing career. If you can find one, I can rattle off about 10 counter-examples. He’s really one of the worst executives in the NBA. Ever.

    He’s managed to turn almost universal respect and admiration into a burgeoning disdain and sense that he’s really, at heart, an arrogant, sleazy a-hole. Do you know how much work it takes to personally, single-handedly, destroy almost unreserved praise and admiration? A lot. And yet, he’s doing it.

    Michael Jordan, the black Ty Cobb.

  20. All you michael haters fail to realize YOU made him whatever he is.
    NOT ONE of you know him ‘personally’, but yet based upon a MICROCOSM of spots and places that you see him, you think you know him.

    How about this. How many times would you like to be interrupted while doing ANYTHING just to satisfy your ego for ‘autographs’, and general fan MADNESS. Not monthly, NOT weekly, not daily, but there’s a good chance HOURLY for the last 30 years. It got old the first couple times back in the early 90′s…..

    You ‘fans’ are rude and have been rude to him for YEARS, and expect him NOT to be rude back?. He played a game he loved at a level that no one else has played (And probably would have done it whether he was paid or not-so that FAN idea-I pay your salary doesn’t hold water)…

    I like the statement someone above made.

    Michael Jordan doesn’t ‘owe’ you anything.

    it’s YOUR ego that wants to take a picture with him, your ego that wants his autograph, your ego that wants to be seen with him…

    So when you see the guy out and about, LEAVE him the HELL ALONE!!!

  21. MJ doesn´’t write the ads, so stop blaming him for its contents. Advertising works with stereoptypes and made-assumtions, and these portray the stereoptype of the admired and inacessible idol. But there’s an ad agency that made them, so blame the copywriters if you want.

  22. MJ doesn´’t write the ads, so stop blaming him for its contents. Advertising works with stereoptypes and made-assumtions, and these portray the stereoptype of the admired and inacessible idol. But there’s an ad agency that made them, so blame the copywriters if you want.

    SeteVinteCinco – the portuguese NBA blog

  23. Why does Jordan have a little Hitler mustache going on?

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