This Sunday, the NASCAR final, the North American stock-car championship (8:15 p.m., Auto Moto La Chaîne) will have an attentive viewer like every year: Michael Jordan. But from February 14 at the 500 miles of Daytona under the colors of the 23XI Racing team, we will find the former NBA glory in the paddocks. Before shining on the floors of his University of Chapell Hill, the legend of US sport was immersed like all North Carolina kids in the culture of this ultra-popular discipline in the United States that he was going to see with his family. His father, passionate about engines that he rebuilt without saving his hours, transmitted the virus to all his offspring.
This mechanical sport very popular with the white population consists of turning on an oval circuit at more than 300 km / h. The winner is the pilot capable of sustaining this infernal rhythm while preserving his mount from multiple and spectacular accidents. A tradition inherited from alcohol smugglers which fascinated the young Jordan to the point that at 57 years old, the basketball legend decided to start a career as a Nascar team manager and to reconnect with his childhood.
“Jordan is also a biker! “
“Little is known about it, but he is first and foremost a motorsport enthusiast in general,” announces Philippe Chéreau, who will comment on the final this Sunday on the Phoenix oval in Arizona. He owned a Superbike team for a long time because Jordan is also a biker! Nothing can stop someone who already owns a basketball team, the Charlotte Hornets’ NBA franchise. “Historically, very few blacks were present in NASCAR. In fact, we have the opportunity to amplify this phenomenon and to give a different perspective to the discipline. For a very long time, it was considered in a negative aspect ”, he pointed out in an interview with NBC Sports, distancing himself from the mainstream image that he often wanted to convey.
Long above or outside the political fray, MJ has decided to put one foot or rather both. Last spring, just after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement across the Atlantic, the first sportsman in history to become a billionaire announced to pay nearly $ 100 million (84.54 million dollars). euros) to fight racism. A shattering entry into a racial debate which he had hitherto carefully avoided espousing the cause. In The Last Dance on Netflix, the series that has done a lot to popularize the six-time NBA champion with a young audience naturally turned today to LeBron James or Stephen Curry, an episode evokes his distancing from politics.
“Republicans also buy sneakers,” Jordan launched in 1990 to justify his refusal to take one candidate’s side over another in North Carolina. A phrase that has long stuck to his sneakers. And which he had trouble getting rid of. In the documentary, the mythical number 23 of the Bulls is justified years later on what could have been akin to a distance with the suffering of African-Americans, as from boxer Muhammad Ali to American football player Colin Kaepernick via LeBron James, the examples of committed athletes in the United States are legion. It seems that the racial cause and the will to live a childhood dream came together to the delight of the Nascar.
“The competition had its heyday in the 2000s and has been losing ground ever since,” analyzes Philippe Chéreau, commentator of the Auto Moto Channel. Jordan’s arrival is a godsend to rekindle his interest and conquer a more diverse audience. The planets are aligned. When business and sport go hand in hand, the American success story is never far away.
Jordan enlisted the services of black pilot Bubba Wallace
Jordan’s investment in NASCAR is a continuation of his record donation of 100 million. To shine on the circuits, MJ has teamed up with a reference driver Denny Hamlin. The two men crossed paths on the NBA courts before making friends on the greens of golf, Jordan’s other sport of choice, to the point of becoming best friends in the world.
Jordan’s involvement was first part of a joke before His Airness – one of his nicknames – got caught up in the game. The duo, who injected tens of millions of dollars into the adventure, got involved. also deputy the services of the black pilot Bubba Wallace, 26, by whom the revolution arrived last June. In the midst of the Black Live Matter movement, he had succeeded in removing from the stands of the NASCAR circuits the Confederate flag, a symbol of the partition of the United States and of slavery.
Before being at the heart of an incredible affair following the discovery of a noose at the back of the garage of his stable recalling the sad hours of lynchings in the South. The FBI will eventually close the case when it finds out that the subject matter of the grievances was present long before and had not been deliberately filed recently. Henning and Jordan assured their pilot of their support. “Outside the circuits, Bubba has been a spokesperson for change in our sport and in society. We support him in all these efforts and will always be by his side. “
“I don’t want to participate just to do tricks. I want to win “
The icon of the Nike firm, which has developed a special collection with the PSG, arrives in a sport with southern accents with the desire to shake up the codes while respecting the authenticity that made him dream. By benefiting from the help and advice of Hamlin, three-time winner at Daytona and by entering into a partnership with the engine manufacturer Toyota, the NBA legend does not wish just to make a childhood dream come true.
“It’s anything but a light-hearted adventure,” says commentator and pilot Adrien Paviot. We are not talking about a title but his team can certainly win races. “” I don’t want to participate just to do laps and finish 18th, 19th, 20th, 30th. I want to win, ”the person recently confirmed to NBC Sports. Between the NBA results, the rounds of golf not far from Lake Normand where he had his magnificent home built and the Nascar races, Jordan’s weeks were going to be busy.
Article original de: www.leparisien.fr