NASCAR Driver Bubba Wallace Details First Meeting with Michael Jordan and How It Changed Him

Published 02/09/2021, 8:57 PM EST
PARIS, FRANCE – JUNE 12: In this handout image provided by Jordan Brand, Michael Jordan paid a visit to Palais 23 this afternoon on Friday June 12, Joined by his frequent partners-in-design Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith, key figures in the 30-year evolution of the Air Jordan, Jordan has returned to Paris to mark the 30th anniversary of 1985’s Air Jordan One. Palais 23 is a spectacular tribute to the shoes, moments, designs and artifacts that have shaped the 30-year evolution of the Air Jordan. (Photo by Jordan Brand via Getty Images)


Michael Jordan is the man of many interests. He can’t stay limited to Basketball and surely can’t attach his name to something he isn’t excessively passionate about. Be it Baseball, Golf, Motorsports, or Stock Car races, his portfolio has got everything covered.

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In his latest project, Air Jordan shook hands with defending Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin to form a new race team, 23X1. One can guess the #23 represents his retired jersey, and this move marks his real entry into Stock Car Racing. But how is it like to be the driver for MJ’s racing team?

That first conversation with Michael Jordan

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Michael Jordan during 2006 Jordan All-American Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, United States. ***Exclusive*** (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

When the 23X1 racing team took shape, Bubba Wallace was the first choice to lead its driving seat. Bubba had earlier raced for Richard Petty Motorsports in a #43 Chevrolet. Surprisingly, the Stock Car Racing phenom had never before enjoyed an opportunity to talk to MJ. 

He revealed that in a recent interview and revealed, “My first encounter with MJ was on the phone, he was like, ‘Hey are you free around 4 O’clock today?’ I’m like yeah sure. So four O’clock it was, you know Denny (Hamlin), he’s usually a couple minutes late. So at 4:30 he was like, ‘hey, what are you doing?’ I was just sitting here, messaging, here’s someone who wants to talk to you, he (MJ) was like, ‘If we do this deal, there’s no more running in the back.’”

Well, that’s just MJ things, where he would not settle for anything that is lesser than the highest form of professionalism. He might no more be a competitive baller, but he sure keeps the same mentality from that ‘90s Bulls’ team.

Bubba Wallace and his admiration of The Last Dance

Earlier, the Michael Jordan Motorsports team did well after replacing Yamahas with Suzuki GSX-R100, but that team could survive only 10 years of the run. However, his early association with the talents like Bubba Wallace and Ty Dillon (last raced for German Racing), MJ’s 23X1 is off to a good start ahead of The Clash at Daytona. 

Michael Jordan in his very first conversation with @BubbaWallace: “If we do this deal, there’s no more running in the back.” pic.twitter.com/TJd3BsDd7X

— Club Shay Shay (@ClubShayShay) February 9, 2021

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The 27-YO Bubba later added, “My mentality changed when I watched The Last Dance. It was like what I want to be as an athlete. If I want to reach these goals, this is what I need to be like. You put that ‘no fear’ and put the fear of god and every else mentality, okay that’s what you gotta have. I hear stories about MJ. He has people from his camp being the part of this team. For his motorcycle team, he would sit there on grid, watch certain drivers and riders, ‘look at way he’s walking, he don’t want it!’ So I’m gonna make sure I walk & talk the right way, a lot of pressure.”

His Airness is almost two decades past his final retirement, and the way his story still inspires the upcoming legends is awe-inspiring. Would you be there to cheer for MJ’s racing team? Help us know your excitement in the comments.

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Read also – NBA Analyst Makes A Strong Case For Why Michael Jordan is The GOAT Over Tom Brady

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Sourabh Singh

1048 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

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