Jasmine Jordan, daughter of the GOAT, talks about her dad and being a new mom
‘I feel like I’m becoming a fan of his, even more than I already am’
During a team flight to Atlanta on Dec. 7, 1992, Michael Jordan passed out cigars to his teammates for a special midseason celebration as the Chicago Bulls chased a third straight NBA championship. Hours before boarding the plane, his wife, Juanita, gave birth to their third child, and first daughter, Jasmine Mickael Jordan.
“I’m very proud,” Jordan told the Chicago Sun-Times, while admitting he was hoping for a girl after having two sons, Marcus and Jeffrey. “I have three beautiful kids. Those are my trophies. The most important thing to me now is family.”
Jasmine was just a day old when she made her first newspaper headline in the Sun-Times. And within the first week of her life, papers across the country continued to share the news that the superstar hooper’s baby girl had arrived.
“She can’t dunk. And she needs to put on a little weight before she can tussle with NBA bad boy Bill Laimbeer. Give her time,” read a Dec. 11, 1992, brief in the Orlando Sentinel. “Jasmine Mickael Jordan, air apparent to Michael Jordan, was born early Monday. She weighs 9 pounds, 8 ounces.”
Now 27, Jasmine is Jordan’s oldest daughter, after his second wife, Yvette, gave birth to two twin girls, Victoria and Ysabel, in 2014. Fast forward five years to 2019, and Jasmine Jordan made her dad a grandfather, after she and her college sweetheart and now fiance Rakeem Christmas, who plays pro basketball in Europe, welcomed their son, Rakeem, into the world.
Before the final two episodes of The Last Dance — ESPN’s 10-part documentary that chronicles Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ quest for a sixth NBA title during the 1997-98 season — Jasmine Jordan spoke to The Undefeated about her journey from being raised by the greatest basketball player of all time, to balancing motherhood with her career working in sports marketing for the Jordan Brand as she strives to continue her father’s legacy.
What have the last five weeks been like for you, watching The Last Dance and taking in your father’s basketball journey as an adult after living it as a kid?
It’s been really eye-opening and exciting. I feel like I’m becoming a fan of his, even more than I already am and was born to be, essentially because of how young I was when everything was happening. Now I actually really get to see what was going on during that time, and understanding it from the lens that I’m able to view it now has definitely been incredible to just take it all in and enjoy it for its rare and raw moments.
You turned 5 years old during The Last Dance. What comes to mind when you think back to the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-98 season?
I think about the United Center just being so loud. And it was almost scary. I didn’t really understand why. I knew we were going to games and it was a family atmosphere, because I got to be with my brothers and my mom. I just never understood exactly why at the time. It was just so loud. I feel like I still have some ear damage, hearing issues because of it. That’s just something I’ll never forget — the atmosphere and how crazy it really was.
Growing up, what were your birthdays like — some of which would’ve fallen on game days for your father?
If my birthday fell on the day of a game, most likely we went to the game, with my family, my cousins, my aunts. We celebrated in that way. I remember there would be some games where he would be on the road, and it would fall on my birthday. He wouldn’t have been able to make it, but nonetheless either I got a phone call or a present would arrive. He’d be like, ‘Did you get my gift, boo?’ Even if he wasn’t physically able to celebrate a good amount of my birthdays, the ones that he did miss, I still felt his presence there, whether it was just a phone call or a gift.
Any memorable gifts?
It might’ve been my 7th or 8th birthday. I can’t remember what age, but it was a bracelet and it spelled out my name in diamonds. The band was red, and I remember telling my dad, ‘I don’t even like the color red! Why are you giving me this red bracelet?’ He was like, ‘No, you’ll like it. Don’t worry. It looks good on you.’ Now I realize Bulls red, he couldn’t shake it if he wanted to.
Overall, how would you describe MJ as a father during the ’90s, when he was the greatest athlete in the world chasing all these championships?
He was as normal as he could be. He was very involved during my childhood. He would pick me up from school, take me to my activities and be around as much as he could while still juggling practice and becoming the icon he became. But as I remember, he was there. He was as present as he could’ve been, and when he wasn’t I always felt his presence. He was very involved in my life and anything I had going on during those times. So I’m appreciative of the father he was then and how he is today.
Did your school ever have a “bring your dad to school” day? And if so, did your father come?
There were definitely parent-teacher conferences and career days. My dad used to show up for the conferences, but career day? No. He was like, ‘That’s OK. I’ll sit those out.’ But if it had to do with my grades and making sure I was excelling in my curriculars, oh, he was present.
What did your mother mean to you growing up? How important was she to you, your family and especially your father’s success during this era?
My mom was the rock for everything. Our foundation really began with her because with my father being on the road and doing everything he had to do, she had to be the head of the household and make sure myself and my brothers were taken care of, well-fed and everything along those lines. When you look at myself and my brothers, we really wouldn’t be who we are if it wasn’t for my mom. And I feel like my father would say the same. He wouldn’t be the man he is today or have had the career he had without the support and love that my mother gave him during that time. She’s the foundation for all of us and there’s no way of denying that.
You’ve probably told this story a million times, but when exactly did you realize that your father was Michael Jordan?
It’s OK! I have no problem sharing it because, I swear, no one believes me. I really did have to Google him. I did that when I was like 10, 11 years old. It was almost about just trying to figure out: Why is everybody so enamored, so obsessed with my family? And not Jim’s family, Billy’s family or whoever me and my brothers were hanging out with at the time. I Googled him and all this stuff started popping up. And it was like, ‘Wait, I didn’t realize this was going on to this magnitude or extent.’ It took a little while — not until my preteens, when I was like, ‘Now, I see why everybody is so in love with my family and especially my father.’
Was there anything you found in your research that you remembered experiencing? Or that surprised you?
Really just the highlight reels. Seeing him dunking and flying in the air — or at least it felt like he was flying in the air — and being like, ‘Oh, this is why we go to the arena!’ It started to come full circle, because going to the United Center, going to games, was just a family outing. It was like, ‘Dad will be here. Dad’s just late.’ Then I’m looking on the court and dad is on the court playing. It just never really made sense until I realized this was his career, this wasn’t a hobby, this was what made him happy. This was his passion. It took a minute. But if it wasn’t for the highlights and articles breaking down who that man really was, I’d probably still be a little confused. [Laughs.]
You once asked him, “Why do you think you’re the greatest?” What was that moment like and what was his response?
It was really just about understanding, ‘Why do you do what you do? What’s driving you? When did you know this was gonna happen?’ I felt like I was almost interviewing him and that’s probably why he found it to be a little comical. Everything was really just to understand who he was to other people in another light. Because I just viewed him as dad. So when I asked him the question, he was very candid. He was just like, ‘Look, this is something I love. The game is who I am. It’s a part of me. I’ve worked very hard to cultivate and create the story that I have and the legacy that I’m building upon. One day, you’ll reap the benefits. One day, you can do whatever you want to do within it.’
It was one of those inspirational conversations of knowing that he made a lot of sacrifices to become who he became. I just wanted to understand why. But once he broke down his love for the game, his passion and explained that the game is who he is, the game makes him whole, I understood this was what he was destined to do. It was an incredible conversation.
How would you describe your father’s competitiveness? Is there one moment or story that comes to mind that illustrates just how competitive he is?
If competitiveness was judged on a scale of 1 to 10, my dad would probably be a 50. He plays no games. He takes no prisoners. If you’re gonna challenge him, if you’re going to play him in a game, you better bring it. There’s no denying it. He knows when to turn it off, and I’m grateful for that. Like, if I didn’t want to battle him over who was going to finish dinner first, that was a wonderful feeling. But if the competition is there, he’s gonna go after it. We like to do puzzles together, whether it’s Word Cookies or Sudoku, and no joke, we’ll text, ‘What was your fastest time? How many moves did you make?’ Nonetheless, I have not beat him. I have yet to have a faster time than him in Sudoku, or beat him in solitaire or anything like that. He’s probably already beat me in every task that’s out there.
So, you’ve never beat your father in anything?
No … I have not. I’m still working on it! But thus far, the 27 years I’ve been living and competing, I’ve lost to him at everything.
You briefly gave basketball a try. How long did you play and how did you arrive at the conclusion that the game wasn’t necessarily a passion for you?
I’ve always loved basketball. I loved watching it and learning to understand the game. I played in grammar school, middle school, from fourth to eighth grade. The coach was really supportive of me, not because of who I was, but because I was the tallest girl at that time. In their mind, they’re thinking, ‘We got the best center. We’re just going to be winning championships.’ Don’t get me wrong, we did win a lot during my three to four years playing. But I knew I wasn’t good. I knew I was relying a lot on my height, and once I wasn’t willing to commit to the hours outside of practice, it wasn’t for me. I had that conversation with my dad, and he was like, ‘Hey, you tried it, boo, and that’s all that matters. Do what you want to do.’ There was no pressure to continue. He even knew as much as I did that it wasn’t meant for me and I could just love the game as a fan.
How tall are you?
6-foot-1 … I know, wasted height. Hopefully my son will get my genes and be able to play.
What were your dreams growing up? And how did you go about pursuing them, going to college and transitioning into real life?
When I was superyoung, I always loved fashion and wanted to be a designer. Once I started getting into basketball and trying it, I realized I loved the game, just not in the format of playing. I wanted to figure out how I could balance both of those passions in one way. When I went to college at Syracuse University, I studied sports management. I loved learning the business side of sports, obviously focusing on basketball. I knew there was gonna be a point in time where I was gonna bring my love for fashion, culture and sneakers back into the forefront. But at the time, I really wanted to focus just on basketball and the logistics of running organizations and teams. That’s what drove me to go to Syracuse and pursue sports management as a major. Once I started working for the Hornets, it was incredible. I loved it. But I still was missing that fashion element. And that’s essentially what brought me to the Jordan Brand in sports marketing. It’s that balance between sports, fashion and culture — mixing it in one big pot of everything I love.
Is there something you’re most proud of when it comes to the past three years working with Jordan Brand?
I’m most proud of the growth in our women’s division. We didn’t have women’s footwear or apparel for a few years. We started it years ago when I was a kid, and it just wasn’t the time. It’s coming full circle now that we have the Asia Durrs, Kia Nurses and Maya Moores on our brand. Now, how can we keep building? I’m grateful to be a part of our team with our women’s department, and a part of our sports marketing team. Seeing those develop, I’m excited to see how they continue to grow. Because women’s basketball and business is not going anywhere.
What do you think makes Asia Durr, Kia Nurse and Maya Moore good ambassadors for the Jordan Brand?
In my eyes, it has to do with their grit, hard work and mystique speaking for themselves. Like Maya has always been a champion. So you know her drive, you know her work ethic — it’s all in the sauce she carries. When you look at Kia, she’s up and coming, really making a name for herself in New York. She’s coming off one of her best seasons with the Liberty, and overseas in the NBL being their MVP and being the first import to do that. Asia, she was just a rookie. She’s so new, she’s young, but the power within her you wish you could bottle it up and sell it. She has a lot of dog in her, and her game itself is everything she eats, sleeps and breathes. It’s all about that their passions and any passions of any athlete that we sign are true to themselves, unique and something that you can’t really just say, ‘Everybody has it.’ You’re born with it before you create, cultivate and build upon it. Those ladies definitely stuck out for us and hopefully we’ll continue to add more as the game evolves.
Why do you think there’s a stigma that women aren’t or can’t be sneakerheads — and how important is it to you to have the opportunity to push women to the forefront of sneaker culture?
It’s a societal thing. Society never really allowed women to be anything other than typecast to be girly or housewives or constantly feeling like we have to wear makeup and heels 24/7. That was the depiction of women dating back to the 1920s. It’s crazy — this image that society created of what women are supposed to be. Now, when you look at 2020, there’s no way to say that no woman can’t wear sneakers. That we can’t wear hoodies and sweatpants and still be feminine. It’s been about trying to break those barriers and the molds that have been stigmas of society and what’s deemed ‘normal.’
Now is the time, more than ever, to be like, ‘Nah! I wanna be myself.’ There’s no rhyme or reason that says I can’t rock my sneakers like my brothers, or my uncles or my dad does. It’s about having society understand that there is no gender norm. There is no bias. Sneakers are sneakers. Culture is culture. Anyone can be a part of it, anyone can contribute to it. So why still have the stigmas, the regulations and rules that have already been established? I’m glad the mold is breaking and people are understanding that this lifestyle — and our product from the Jordan Brand — is for everybody.
Growing up, who would’ve been the first woman, or women, that you looked up to as a sneakerhead?
I definitely watched a lot of WNBA growing up. I was a huge Lisa Leslie fan. Her being so tall was definitely motivating for me, because I was always the tallest. But you also have to pay homage to Sheryl Swoopes. She was one of the only to really have her own sneaker, her own design. That’s something, when I was young, I could’ve never imagined happening. So I definitely look up to those women for paving the way for everything that we’re doing today.
What’s your favorite Air Jordan silhouette?
Oh, God. That’s so hard to pick! I go back and forth between 1s and 11s, just because of the 1s being the iconic origin of everything and the 11s having incredible stories behind them, whether it’s the ‘Breds’ or the ‘Concords.’ It’s so hard to pick one, but those two are ones that I go to almost every day when I’m looking for a sneaker to rock.
Looking back at your childhood, which Air Jordans did you wear the most as a kid?
The funny thing is, as a kid, I was rocking a lot of Skechers, which was not OK in my father’s eyes. I used to beg him, ‘Please, let me get the light-up Skechers!’ Or the shoes with the wheels. He would let me wear them for a day, then the next day they would end up in the trash. I have a good amount of photos of me rocking some shoes as a kid I probably shouldn’t have been rocking. But as I got older, I definitely was in 1s a lot. And a silhouette I didn’t realize I wore a lot was the 5s. I really enjoyed 5s when I was younger and the colors we did in those. I still love my 5s. But before those, I was loving Skechers.
Wait, so your dad actually threw away your Skechers?
Yes. He absolutely did. It didn’t matter what pair they were. It didn’t matter who bought them. If they were in his house and they were on my feet, by the next day, they were in the trash.
When you think of your father, what silhouette or pair of Air Jordans comes to mind?
I think of low-top 1s. He loves low tops and he loves 1s. Those are like his slip-on shoes, at this point. I’ve seen him rock his 1s the most — low tops or the deconstructed ones we’ve done. Those are definitely his favorites.
How would you describe your dad’s style back in the ’90s? And how have you seen it evolve over the years?
That’s one of the things I love most about the documentary, outside of the game, is seeing how he dressed. Back then, I loved it. It was fly. Whether it was the patterns, the quilted jackets, the windbreakers, it was just fire. I could totally see people rocking what he wore back then today. Now, his style today needs a little bit of help. But at the end of the day, you can’t tell him anything. I’ve told him several times that he needs to leave those wide jeans alone. Or some of the baggy items. He’s come around on his own terms. But at the end of the day, if he’s comfortable, that’s all he’s gonna care about. He has a unique style that truly fits himself. Back in the day, he wore some dope stuff and I loved seeing that.
You’ve really called him out about his current style?
Absolutely. I really have. He tells me, ‘Boo, I’m comfortable. That’s all that matters.’ I’m like, ‘You right! You got it. As long as you’re comfy, you do your thing.’
During the airing of The Last Dance, you got to celebrate your son Rakeem’s first birthday, as well as Mother’s Day. What has the past year been like for you as a mom?
It’s been definitely a journey, with its ups and downs. Obviously, a very new experience for me. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I love it. My son is incredible and he’s ready to take on the world. He’s already running. I’m just trying to keep up with him, make sure I raise him right and keep his head straight.
How exactly did you tell your dad that you were expecting a child? What was that conversation like?
The funny thing is, my father does not play. He has a father’s intuition. There’s never been a moment when I held anything from him that he didn’t already know was coming. It’s so weird. I see it as a superpower of his. The day I was planning on telling him, he had already texted me saying, ‘Hey, checking on you, how’s your day going?’ I literally was like, ‘Oh, I was just about to text you.’ He sent me the emoji and said, ‘You’re pregnant.’ I said, ‘Wait … what?’ I didn’t know what to say. He said, ‘I assume that’s why you’re texting me, or I’m totally off.’ I called him and said, ‘Did mom tell you?’ He was like, ‘Wait, you’re seriously pregnant!’ I’m like, ‘Yes, I’m pregnant!’ It was the craziest conversation. Till this day, my mom says she never told him. He had no clues or hints. He just felt it and he claims it’s his father’s intuition. So, he knew before I could even tell him. It’s freaky to this day, but it’s true. Even when I got engaged, he knew. He sensed it. I don’t know what it is, but he just always knows when myself or my brothers have something to let him know, and he beats us to the punch.
What is MJ like as a grandfather?
He’s so soft. He’s superinvolved. And my son has him wrapped around his finger. It took him a minute to actually understand like, ‘Dang, I’m a grandpa.’ He never wants to feel like he’s old, but he is a grandpa, and he loves it. He loves playing with his grandson and it’s something that I think he never knew he was gonna love as much as he does.
Has your fiance, Rakeem, learned anything from your dad about being a father?
My fiance is the best father I could’ve ever imagined him being. He’s very hands-on, and his bond with our son is something that I love to see and am grateful to witness every day. He definitely reaches out to my dad and lets him know, ‘Hey, this is what little Rak is doing … he dunked his first basketball today.’ The bond between my father and Rakeem is something I’m grateful for as well, because it’s hard to come into a family with Michael Jordan, while not having the stigma of ‘I’m here because of who you are.’ I’m grateful that my fiance has never been that way and doesn’t have a bone like that in his body. He has an incredible relationship with my dad, and they definitely bond over being fathers and parents. My fiance has taken on the challenge of entering my family very easily. He made it clear that he was always going to be myself, and either my family was going to welcome him with open arms or they weren’t. And they did. That’s what I love about him. I wanted him to be unapologetically himself. That’s what I fell in love with, and that’s what I knew my family was going to love about him. It definitely happened organically and beautifully, and he fits in perfect.
When are you planning on getting married?
Fingers crossed, we’re aiming for the fall this year. And hopefully corona won’t deter those plans. But you never know. If all goes well, the wedding will take place in September.
Have you thought about how you’ll tell your son who his grandfather is?
I’m gonna let it be organic. I don’t want to feel like I have to sit down and say, ‘Hey, this is your grandpa. Let’s watch his highlight reel.’ But I’m gonna let him know from the beginning that we’re a blessed and privileged family. It’s something that we don’t take for granted, and it’s because of everything we’ve been fortunate to benefit from because of your grandfather. When he wants to have a conversation and really dive into understanding that, that’s what myself and my fiance are here to do. Until then, I’m gonna let him think, ‘Grandpa is just grandpa,’ and let everything else fall into place when he’s ready.
How’s your son’s sneaker collection looking?
It’s starting to get massive, honestly. It’s crazy how many sneakers he already has. And he can’t even fit them! Because he’s growing so fast. But he already has well over a hundred pairs of sneakers. And he’s following in my footsteps. He really likes 1s. When we did his photo shoot for his birthday in quarantine, he went straight for his 1s. Those have been his go-to to rock right now.
Is your fiance a sneakerhead too?
When we first met, I think he might’ve been a bigger sneakerhead than me, and I don’t know if that’s possible given the circumstances. My fiance’s sneaker collection is out of this world. We both have sneaker rooms within the house, so that way we don’t ever have to take up one another’s space with our footwear. But his collection is up there with mine. He has some serious heat.
Between you, your fiance and your son, how many total pairs do your family have in the house right now?
Oh, my God. There’s no way we aren’t below 1,000 sneakers.
The Last Dance certainly resurfaced the conversation of your father’s legacy. In your mind, what exactly is that legacy when it comes to basketball and branding? And do you personally hope to continue that legacy?
It’s been a journey, and his legacy is one that I don’t think can be touched or deteriorated over time. What he did at that time, no one had ever done. And it’s something that can never be taken away. When you think about his accomplishments on the court, obviously I’m gonna be biased, but in my mind, undoubtedly, he’s the greatest to ever play the game. When you think about everything that he did and the game had to adjust because of what he was doing, there’s nobody else who had to endure those things. His legacy speaks for itself and he has every right to be deemed the greatest without him even telling you that he is the greatest. It happened naturally and organically, determined by the fans and his peers. That’s something that can’t be ignored. All the hard work he has done is right there in front of us, and there’s not a resume out there that could top it for sure.
As for me, I’m going with the flow. I’m loving everything that’s been happening with motherhood and working at the Jordan Brand. … It’s about seeing how far this can take me and how many lives I can impact. That’s what matters most. If I need to continue to educate the younger generation on my father’s legacy and the brand and the culture that he’s cultivated with Jordans and sneakers, I’m happy to do that. I definitely want to make sure his legacy lives beyond him and everything else that may come after him. It’s something that needs to be shared, because who knows when it’ll ever happen again, if it’ll ever happen again. I’d like to see where life takes me, but making sure that his legacy continues to evolve and my son can reap the benefits of understanding who his grandpa is and everything he’s done is definitely something I’m looking forward to.