In its 12th year, the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational is one of the finest golf tournaments of its kind, luring stars of sports (Aaron Rodgers, Michael Phelps) and screen (Chevy Chase, Wayne Brady) to Las Vegas’ gorgeous Shadow Creek Golf Course from April 4 to 7 for four days of fun, food and fierce action on the greens. Though the tournament namesake’s schedule is as packed now as it was during his basketball career — he’s still in the game as owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats — His Airness still found time for a down-to-earth chat about golf courses, charities and fueling his competitive urges.
Your competitive spirit was one of your strongest traits during your playing days. Have things calmed down now, or are you out there still trying to win?
It’s no secret that I’m very competitive. I play to win, no matter what the game. As always, we have a lot of former and current athletes among our participants. They’re all competitive, too, and always bring their A-games. It makes it a lot of fun. I just hope my partner is as competitive as me and is out to win.
This is the tournament’s third year in Las Vegas. What do you like most about the event happening around ARIA Resort & Casino as opposed to previous sessions in the Caribbean?
Las Vegas was just a natural fit when we were looking for a new home for the tournament. It’s fun, it’s exciting and there’s something for everyone. Shadow Creek is incredible and definitely one of my favorite golf courses. You’d never guess you were out in the desert. Plus, the hospitality at ARIA is phenomenal. They take great care of me, as well as all of our celebrity guests.
Proceeds from the tournament benefit a number of non-profit organizations, like Make-A-Wish and Cats Care. Why are those groups so near to your heart?
The most important part of MJCI, and what I’m most proud of, is how much we’ve been able to give back. We’ve donated more than $6 million over the years to many worthy causes, including Make-A-Wish, Cats Care and the James R. Jordan Foundation. I’ve served as Make-A-Wish’s chief wish ambassador for the past few years and have been granting wishes for kids for more than 20 years. As we have in the past, we’ll be hosting a wish child and his family at this year’s MJCI. Cats Care is the charity arm of my team, the Charlotte Bobcats. When I became majority owner of the Bobcats three years ago, one of my goals was to reconnect the team to the community. Cats Care focuses on three areas of need in Charlotte and the region — education, hunger and wellness. The entire team, from staff to coaches and players, and I have been getting out into the community and trying to make a difference. The James R. Jordan Foundation was founded by my mother, in honor of my dad. It’s dedicated to strengthening families, motivating youth and ensuring high-quality academic opportunities for children in underserved communities. My drive to give back was instilled in me by my mother, and I’m very supportive of her efforts on behalf of kids and families.
Photos Courtesy of Getty Images and MGM Resorts International