Michael Jordan gives $5 million to African American museum

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan warms up before play against the Miami Heat in 1992. (Al Messerschmidt Archive/Associated Press)

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan warms up before play against the Miami Heat in 1992. (Al Messerschmidt Archive/Associated Press)

By Peggy McGlone August 8 at 4:23 PM 

Basketball icon Michael Jordan has donated $5 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, museum officials announced Monday.

The gift, the largest from a sports figure to the 19th Smithsonian museum, pushes private donations to the museum to $278 million. Including federal aid, the museum, which President Obama will open Sept. 24, has raised more than $548 million.

The Chicago Bulls star also gave a jersey that he wore during the 1996 NBA Finals to the museum’spermanent collection. In recognition of the gifts, the museum will name a section of its sports gallery the Michael Jordan Hall.

The inaugural exhibition in that space will feature artifacts associated with 17 “game-changing” athletes, including tennis player Althea Gibson and track-and-field great Jesse Owens. Jordan is among those spotlighted.

Jordan played 15 seasons in the National Basketball Association, and won six championships with the Chicago Bulls. Winner of two Olympic gold medals, including one with the 1992 Dream Team, Jordan is principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets and is the first former player to hold a majority interest in a team.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to support this museum,” Jordan said in a statement. “I also am indebted to the historic contributions of community leaders and athletes such as Jesse Owens, whose talent, commitment and perseverance broke racial barriers and laid the groundwork for the successful careers of so many African Americans in athletics and beyond.”

Museum Founding Director Lonnie G. Bunch III expressed gratitude for Jordan’s contribution. “His gift will enable our visitors to explore how sports were used to break barriers as a way to gain full participation in American society,” Bunch said in a statement.

Authorized by Congress in 2003, the 400,000-square-foot museum is under construction on the Mall, between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History.