Michael Jordan watched a $173 million investment pay off in the CFP Championship

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh famously called “Michael Jordan” in 2015, unsure whether he was talking to one of the greatest basketball players in history or a teenage offensive lineman with the same nickname.

Harbaugh passed on the offensive lineman, and to add salt to the wound, the lineman ended up at Michigan’s bitter rival, Ohio State. But Harbaugh made an apparel brand deal: Michigan and Jordan Brand agreed to an 11-year deal worth up to $173 million.

“When we first took the job here, there was a shoe contract,” Harbaugh told Dan Patrick in 2018. “There’s a lot of good shoes and stuff. My son, Jay, came up with the idea. He’s like, “There’s no Jordan football school. That would be great.”

That’s why the Wolverines wore Jordan Brand jerseys and football apparel as they faced Washington in Monday’s CFP National Championship game, giving Jordan a huge return on his investment. Nine years after Jordan’s name came up on Harbaugh’s phone, Michigan rolled to a 34-13 victory over Washington to win its first national title since 1997.

JJ McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines gestures before the 2024 CFP National Championship game against the Washington Huskies at NRG Stadium on January 8, 2024 in Houston, Texas. The Michigan Wolverines won 34-13. McCarthy and the Wolverines are wearing Jordan Brand gear, and Michael Jordan was in attendance to watch them win.
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Jordan Brand’s Instagram page got in on the action, posting a number of stories from the University of Michigan viewing party at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor. The day after Michigan’s win, the Jumpman logo in the profile picture was Michigan blue and maize.

Jordan, who was in the midst of his final championship campaign with the Chicago Bulls the last time Michigan won a title, was in attendance along with a team of Jordan Brand ambassadors.

Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter was in the skybox near Jordan, which made sense for two reasons. First, Jeter is a Kalamazoo, Michigan native who planned to play for the University of Michigan before the New York Yankees offered him an $800,000 deal that convinced him to leave college baseball.

Second, Jeter has been with Jordan Brand since 1999, and he received a signature baseball shoe—the Jumpman Turn 2s—in 2002. Jeter and Jordan struck up a friendship before entering into a partnership, and continued to work together after Jeter retired. of baseball in 2014.

Meanwhile, rapper Travis Scott didn’t have to travel far to attend the game: The event took place at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, which is Scott’s hometown. He also has a lucrative partnership with Jordan Brand, producing several lines of sneakers as part of a deal that earns him around $10 million a year. The Jordan Jumpman Jack Trainer, Scott’s first signature shoe, is slated for release later this year.

Steven A. Smith was also there, although it’s unclear what connection he has to Jordan Brand beyond just being a fun presence at any sporting event.

The star skybox embarked on a fun soccer match. Michigan and Washington went head-to-head for three quarters, and the Huskies didn’t have a chance to tie until the fourth quarter, trailing 20-13 with the ball at their own 33-yard line.

However, the Wolverines got a stop and a touchdown to take a two-score lead before Michigan defensive back Mike Sainristil picked off Washington star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and returned it 81 yards for the final touchdown that sealed the victory.