Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan was arguably the most popular celebrity in the world during the ’90s. The shooting guard was so recognizable that he couldn’t fill his car with gas without getting bombarded by fans.
Jordan couldn’t do normal things like go to the mall or watch a movie with his family since fans would swarm him and ask for autographs and pictures. It also turns out that the six-time champion couldn’t even use the bathroom in peace.
Fan asked Michael Jordan for autograph in airport bathroom
According to former Bulls big man Will Perdue, Jordan was once asked to sign an autograph while using the bathroom at an airport. A fan slipped a piece of paper and a pen under the bathroom stall and asked His Airness for his signature, and Perdue and his teammates couldn’t believe it.
“One of the funniest things was we’re flying somewhere, get to wherever we’re going, we get off the plane. As all men know, you get off the plane, first thing you do is you just beeline it to the bathroom,” Perdue said in 2021 on the Bulls Talk Podcast. “We all come running in and everybody is standing at the urinals and Michael walks in and (sighs). So then he’s gotta go into a stall, right. Closes the door. So obviously, this guy (fan) thinks that well, he’s going to be in there for a while, takes a piece of paper and a pen and sticks it up underneath the door, and goes, ‘Hey, man, you’re gonna be in there for a while. Do you mind signing this?’ And of course, now we’re all sitting there with our heads turned. We’re like, ‘You gotta be kidding me.'”
This story from Perdue summarizes how larger than life Jordan was in the ’90s. The All-Star couldn’t even use the bathroom without someone bothering him for an autograph, which is precisely why MJ admitted it’s not fun being him.
Michael Jordan on his fame: “I don’t think they quite understand it’s no fun”
The beginning of Episode 6 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries shows an old Jordan commercial where the MVP talks about his life not being as fun as everybody thinks it is. If you value your privacy, being Superman would be a nightmare.
“It’s funny, a lot of people say they’d like to be Michael Jordan for a day or for a week, but let them try to be Michael Jordan for a year, see if they like it,” Jordan said in the commercial. “I don’t think you can see the true Michael Jordan for just a day. I don’t think they quite understand it’s no fun.”
The only time Jordan experienced peace and quiet was when he was at home with his family or in his hotel room on the road. Other than those two venues, the six-time Finals MVP was under pressure to be on all the time with people, and Bulls senior director of public and media relations, Tim Hallam, saw it first-hand in the ’90s.
Tim Hallam: “I wouldn’t want to be like Mike. It’s an impossible task”
Almost everyone wanted to be like Jordan, which is why Gatorade came out with the “Be like Mike” commercial. However, Hallam was one of the select few people who knew being Air Jordan was an “impossible task.”
“I think what people don’t realize is that from the moment Michael Jordan leaves his hotel room, the spotlight is on him,” Hallam said in The Last Dance. “Everybody in the world wanted to either see him, talk to him. They all wanted a piece of him in some way or another. He was under pressure to be on all the time with people. I wouldn’t want to be like Mike. It’s an impossible task.”
From signing autographs in bathrooms to wearing disguises at malls, Jordan was forced to do many outlandish things during his playing career. It’s actually remarkable how he managed his fame so well and never got in trouble with the law while being the best basketball player in the world.