All About Michael Jordan’s Parents, Deloris and James R. Jordan, Sr.
Michael Jordan’s parents, Deloris and James R. Jordan, Sr., helped their son build his legacy.
Michael Jordan has his parents, Deloris and James R. Jordan, Sr., to thank for getting him started in sports.
Considered the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls. They made history as the only team at the time to complete two “three-peats,” winning three consecutive championships from 1991 to 1993 and 1996 to 1998. Michael’s parents supported him through all of his milestone moments and were the ones who insisted that he sign up for local sports as a child.
In his 2020 ESPN docuseries The Last Dance, Michael recalled in the first episode how his parents were always “trying to keep me busy” and encouraged all their children to play organized sports to teach them “more about life.”
“We had five kids, and both the wife and I both worked, and we would worry at times about the kids being home,” James said in archival footage in the series. “So, we thought one of the things that we could do was get them involved in sports. Drop them off at the little league field or the gym and keep them involved in the community.”
Michael said the lessons he learned in those early days of playing sports led to his success in the NBA. “As you get older, you look back, and you understand how you became the person you are. I don’t think I would be here without the lessons that I learned at a very young age. That competitiveness within me started when I was a kid,” he explained on The Last Dance.
The athlete’s parents also played a significant role in securing their son’s legacy. In 1984, Deloris helped the basketball player negotiate a deal with Nike, which resulted in the now iconic Air Jordan shoe and is the basis for the 2023 film Air.
From meeting at a high school basketball game to helping Michael navigate his career in the NBA, here’s everything to know about Michael Jordan’s mother Deloris and late father James R. Jordan, Sr.
They met in high school
James and Deloris attended Charity High School in Rose Hill, North Carolina, per the National Women’s History Museum. They first met in 1954 while attending a basketball game — James was on the team — and went on to date for the rest of their high school years.
After they graduated, James joined the Air Force and relocated to San Antonio, Texas, while Deloris attended a trade school in Alabama. In 1956, the couple moved to Virginia after James was transferred to a base there and wed that same year.
They lived in Virginia for several years before temporarily relocating to Brooklyn, New York, in 1962 so James could complete mechanic’s training on the GI Bill, per the Chicago Tribune. Michael’s parents spent 18 months in New York before moving back to North Carolina to raise their family.
James and Deloris share five children
Michael is James and Deloris’ youngest son. The pair also have four other children: James Ronald “Ronnie” Jordan Jr., Deloris Jordan, Larry Jordan and Roslyn Jordan.
In 2009, ESPN reported that Ronnie served in the Army for 31 years, Rosyln co-authored several children’s books with her mother and Larry was previously the regional sales manager for Upper Deck, a sports memorabilia company.
“I always told my children, ‘Each one of you has special gifts, it’s how you use them,’ ” Deloris told ESPN. “Each one had a talent, but how they approached it was different from the others. Michael might have skills for basketball, but Larry built things with his hands, and our oldest son was in ROTC and such a leader.”
James and Deloris are also grandparents. Their eldest son Ronnie has three kids, and Larry has two children. Michael is a father of five — he welcomed three children with his ex-wife Juanita Vanoy, Jeffrey, Marcus and Jasmine, as well as identical twin daughters Victoria and Ysabel with his current wife, Yvette Prieto.
James was killed in July 1993
In July 1993, James was shot and killed while sleeping in his car at a highway rest stop in Robeson County, North Carolina. 11 days later, his body was found after being dumped off a bridge in South Carolina.
The two teenagers responsible, Larry Demery and Daniel Andre Green, were convicted of first-degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison. Demery was granted parole in 2020, with an initial release date of August 2023, but the North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission canceled the agreement in 2021 for an undisclosed reason.
In The Last Dance, Michael opened up about losing his father and how his family “had to support each other” through such a difficult time. He said his mother, Deloris, remained “strong” and helped him overcome his grief.
“The first thing she says, ‘You know, you got to be thankful,’ and I started looking at the positive,” Jordan recalled. “One of the things that [my dad] always taught me is that you have to take a negative and turn it into a positive, so I started looking to the other side of it, and that helped me get through it.”
Speaking with Oprah Winfrey in 1993, Michael explained that while he was grieving his father, he had no desire to learn the motive behind the crime.
“No, because I don’t want to know,” he said when asked if he would want to question Demery and Green. “Because it probably would hurt me even more just to know their reasons. Because if it is, it’s going to be totally meaningless for the reasons. It’s better that I don’t know.”
Deloris does a lot of charity work
Deloris co-founded The Michael Jordan Foundation in 1989 and the James R. Jordan Boys & Girls Club and Family Life Center in 1997 to provide underprivileged youth with academic opportunities and recreational, after-school programs.
She also acts as the founder and president of the James R. Jordan Foundation, which she created in 2000 to honor her late husband and provide even more academic support for low-income children through various mentorship programs.
“I founded the James R. Jordan Foundation to demonstrate to the children that, with education, anything is possible. Our students are bright and eager to learn; they simply need direction and a strong support system,” Deloris said in a letter on the foundation’s website. “Our role is to come alongside the schools, the families and the communities, and ultimately help them learn to help themselves.”
Additionally, Deloris has worked to expand healthcare services in Nairobi, Kenya, where she built the Kenya Women and Children’s Wellness Centre. In 2005, she was awarded the Clinton Global Initiative Award for her ongoing efforts there.
James inspired Michael to pursue baseball
In the seventh episode of The Last Dance, Michael revealed one of the last conversations he had with James was regarding his retirement from basketball.
“We were debating, me and him, we were debating about me playing baseball,” Jordan said. ” ‘I wanna go play baseball. I’m thinking about retiring, and I wanna go play baseball.’ And … he was saying, ‘Do it, do it’ because he got me started in baseball.”
After his father’s death in 1993, Michael retired from basketball for the first time. His family and the leaders of the Bulls supported his decision, understanding his need for change.
“It was always his father’s dream that he be a baseball player, and so I didn’t try to talk him out of it,” Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of the Bulls, said in the series. “But I said to him, ‘playing baseball is a lot harder than you think it is.’ “
Michael signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox in 1994, where he played with their affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, until he returned to the NBA in March 1995.
James and Michael had an extremely close relationship
Michael has been very open about his close relationship with his father. He called him “my rock” on The Last Dance and said they “were very close.”
“He constantly gave me advice,” the NBA icon said. “I remember in ninth grade, I got suspended three times in one year, and my father pulled me aside that summer and said: ‘Look, you don’t look like you’re heading in the right direction. You know, if you want to go about doing all this mischievous stuff, you can forget sports.’ “
He continued, “That’s all I needed to hear. From that point on, it was like tunnel vision, and I never got in trouble from that point on.”
James was present for his son’s three consecutive NBA championship wins in 1991, 1992 and 1993. The last championship occurred just a few weeks before James’ death. When Michael returned to basketball in 1995, he said in the eighth episode of The Last Dance that he “felt naked” at his first game because his father “just wasn’t there.”
The loss of his father even prompted Michael to change his jersey number initially. “I didn’t want to go to 23 because I knew my father wasn’t there to watch me,” he said in the series. “And I felt it was a new beginning, and 45 was my first number when I played in high school.”
On Father’s Day in 1996, Michael played in the NBA Finals for the fourth time, and the significance of the day really affected him. George Kohler, his driver and friend, explained on The Last Dance that “a piece of Michael’s heart was missing” at that game because his father was “always right next to him.”
After Jordan secured the Bulls another championship title, he dedicated the win to his father, breaking down on the floor in an emotional moment in the locker room.
“I can’t even put it in words, on Father’s Day, what it means to me. I know he’s watching,” he said in a post-game interview featured in the series. “To my wife, to my kids, to my mother, to my brothers and sisters, this is for daddy.”
Deloris has written several books
In addition to her charity work, Deloris is also a bestselling author. She has written many children’s books — on her own and with daughter Rosyln — including Salt in His Shoes and Michael’s Golden Rules.
During an interview with ESPN in September 2009, Deloris shared the inspiration behind her first children’s book, Salt in His Shoes. She recalled a moment from Michael’s childhood when he expressed his desire to be taller, and she told him to “go put salt in your shoes and pray.”
“He would tell me I was being silly, but I had to pacify him so I could finish dinner,” she said. “Then his dad would walk in and he’d tell him he wanted to be tall. We’d say, ‘You have it in your heart. The tallness is within you. You can be as tall as you want to be in your thinking.’ “
When it comes to her ability to write engaging and informative material for children, Deloris told NPR in April 2007 that she attributes that skill to her charity work in schools and her role as a mother of five.
“For me, because I worked with the school to the James Jordan Foundation, we have adopted four schools here in Chicago. They’re elementary up through high school. So we work in the school. I see the need of the children. When I begin to write, it flows out. It comes out easy, because, again, I work with them,” she said.
They convinced Michael to sign with Nike
While Michael is now synonymous with Nike, he almost didn’t sign a deal with the brand in 1984. In The Last Dance, the basketball player explained how he initially wanted to sign with Adidas, but his parents convinced him to attend a meeting with Nike.
“My mother said, ‘You’re gonna go listen. You may not like it, but you’re gonna go listen.’ She made me get on that plane and go listen,” he said in the series. “[I] go into that meeting not wanting to be there, and Nike made this big pitch. My father said, ‘You’d have to be a fool not taking this deal. This is the best deal.’ “
Michael’s initial contract with Nike gave him a signature shoe, the now iconic Air Jordan sneaker, and a $250,000 paycheck.
In 2021, Michael honored his mother’s role in his success with the Dear Deloris shoe, a part of his Jordan Series that pays tribute to those who have helped shape his legacy.
Viola Davis and Julius Tennon portray Deloris and James in the 2023 film Air
The 2023 film Air is based on how Deloris helped her then-rookie son broker this deal with Nike, leading to a multi-billion dollar legacy with the Jordan brand. Real-life husband and wife Julius Tennon and Viola Davis play Michael’s father and mother in the Ben Affleck-directed film.
The NBA champion personally cast the EGOT winner as his mom in the movie. Davis later told PEOPLE that she was “flattered” after hearing that.
“It’s pretty awesome that he wanted her to play his mom,” Tennon added.