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Amidst Living a Billion Dollar Lifestyle, Michael Jordan Made Time To Obsess Over Ping-Pong With Nike Executive, Howard White

Akash Murty

Amidst Living a Billion Dollar Lifestyle, Michael Jordan Made Time To Obsess Over Ping-Pong With Nike Executive, Howard White

Michael Jordan is one of the most competitive people to walk the planet. That’s how the Chicago Bulls’ 6x NBA champ won everything there is to win in basketball. After his retirement, he became one of the richest athletes in the world amassing a net worth of over $2 billion. It all comes down to his basic competitive nature, which has brought him so much success both on and off the court. The man was so obsessed with winning, that he wouldn’t let Nike executive, Howard H White, win against him in ping-pong.

His journey in the NBA was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. After coming into the NBA as the 3rd pick in 1984, it took Jordan 3 years to get past the first round of the Playoffs.

Another 3 years of beating at the hands of the Bad Boy Pistons. It wasn’t until 1991, he got past Isiah Thomas and Co to face Magic Johnson’s Lakers in the NBA Finals. It became his first taste of silverware, and he never looked back.

His first 6 years of failure made him the fiercest competitor he became. ‘His Airness’ rode with that character through and through. And whether it was golf, poker, ping-pong, or even a drinking game, he would never let anybody win.

Michael Jordan developed a ping-pong addiction after Howard White beat him

With the release of ‘Air’ recently, some more stories of Michael Jordan’s second-to-none competitiveness came out. And one of them came from a then-Nike executive, Howard H White, who is now VP of the Jordan Brand for Nike Inc.

“We used to play ping pong at my house. I would beat Michael,” Howard told Nick DePaula in a 2016 interview.

“But when he went back home to Chicago, he bought a ping pong table, and he set it up in his basement. Everybody that came over had to play ping pong. He played ping pong every day after practice at the facility too, with the media and with the team. Michael Jordan got pretty good at ping pong.”

It was actually White who was dealing with Nike’s Eastern NBA clients in 1984 as a Field Representative. Giving Sonny Vaccaro the idea on how to rope in MJ, White was the one who suggested that Nike’s marketing genius talk to his mother, as Jordan was more inclined towards Adidas.

That helped all the parties involved in making hundreds of millions and even billions over the years starting with year 0(1984).

Howard White was like a father figure to Jordan and Charles Barkley

Played by Chris Tucker in the movie Air, Howard White was a like a father figure to both Barkley and Jordan in certain ways, as he would call them up anytime they screw up.

In his appearance on the Steam Room podcast with Ernie Johnson, Charles elaborated on his and White’s relationship with Hollywood actor Ben Affleck, who played the role of Nike owner, Phil Knight.

“[Howard] White is like the uncle, the older brother, father figure to me and Michael. Every time you screw up, he’ll call you. He’s always got your back,” Barkley said.

“Every time you do something stupid, which, I did more stupid stuff than Michael, he’s [Howard White] coming to visit, and he’ll break your balls, but he’s always positive when he does it.”

About the author

Akash Murty

Akash Murty


An Electrical and Electronics Engineer by degree, Akash Murty is an NBA Editor at The SportsRush. Previously a Software Engineer, Murty couldn’t keep himself away from sports, and his knack for writing and putting his opinion forward brought him to the TSR. A big Soccer enthusiast, his interest in basketball developed late, as he got access to a hoop for the first time at 17. Following this, he started watching basketball at the 2012 Olympics, which transitioned to NBA, and he became a fan of the game as he watched LeBron James dominate the league. Him being an avid learner of the game and ritually following the league for around a decade, he now writes articles ranging from throwbacks, and live game reports, to gossip. LA Lakers are his favourite basketball team, while Chelsea has his heart in football. He also likes travelling, reading fiction, and sometimes cooking.

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