Michael Jordan teared up Thursday in Charlotte as he spoke about his $7.2 million donation for two Novant Health clinics — the latest local philanthropic gift from the Hornets owner and NBA legend.
“I’ve gone off and made my life in Illinois and other places,” Jordan said, referring to his NBA Hall of Fame years with the Chicago Bulls.
“But I know where it all begins.”
“And I don’t need my mother to constantly remind me about that,” Jordan said as the crowd laughed.
“I can only give in gratitude for what I can never repay.”
The Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Clinic on Freedom Drive, and a second facility expected to open on Statesville Avenue, are expected to serve at least 35,000 children and adults over the next five years. The clinic provides both primary health care services as well as access to social workers, behavioral health experts, oral health practitioners, and physical therapy.
Jordan’s financial gift to partner with Novant Health is the latest in his philanthropic giving in Charlotte and his home state of North Carolina. The former Tar Heels star has significantly ramped up his charitable giving since he became majority owner of the Hornets in 2010.
Three years ago, Inside Philanthropy wrote that “Jordan was just entering his philanthropic prime,” and cited the Novant Health partnership as evidence of the basketball legend’s interest in giving toward causes that address poverty.
Jordan’s philanthropic history includes a 13-year run of the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational charity golf tournament and the Jordan Institute for Families at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work, founded in 1996. As a player, Jordan also once donated his entire salary in the 2001-02 season to 9/11-related charitable groups.
But his latest gift, to bring health care services to some of Charlotte’s poorest neighborhoods, is one of his largest single donations locally ever.
‘Part of this community’
At Thursday’s grand opening of the health clinic in west Charlotte, Jordan said he sees his giving as a way to make a difference in the community he and his family call home.
He called it a way to thank Charlotte and give back to a community “that’s supported me over the years, when I was playing the game of basketball to now where I’m a part of this community.”
Over the years, Jordan and the Hornets also have contributed nearly $750,000 to Novant Health Community Care Cruiser, which provides immunizations to under-served youth, according the team’s site. Other donations have gone to literacy efforts in low-income Charlotte neighborhoods.
Jordan, two years ago, was named the world’s highest-paid athlete of all time by Forbes magazine. Just this month, Business Insider reported Jordan makes more money now retired than any active NBA player and has an estimated net worth of about $1.9 billion.
“It’s not the financials but (it’s) from the heart — a passion from what this city, this state has given back to me,” Jordan said Thursday. “I can never repay what you have given to me. But this is a start.”
The Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic opened just over three weeks ago, and has already cared for more than 300 people.
One woman said the clinic serves multiple neighborhoods where people have no insurance or limited access to health care services.
“It’s meant the world to me,” Sharelle Blake, 54, said. “When you have no health care, it’s a horrible situation.”
‘Caring for other people’
Besides Jordan’s name on the building, 38 aluminum strips form an image of Jordan soaring toward a slam dunk.
At Thursday’s ceremonial ribbon-cutting, Jordan said, “I stand here before you as a proud parent, son, obviously a member of this community. My mother, my brothers, my daughter, my grandson, we all represent the name Michael Jordan.
“You see my name, but yet you see a lot of people behind me and the commitment, especially from my mom, about caring for other people and being a part of a community that matters.”
Jordan cited a 2014 study by Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley that poor children in Charlotte have the worst odds of those in any large U.S. city to lift themselves from poverty. The report led to the creation of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg task force to address the city’s economic-mobility challenges.
Jordan shed a tear as he spoke, saying that “as you can see, it’s a very emotional thing for me.”
“This is just the start of a battle, of being able to touch as many as we can, and grow this project.”