Deloris Jordan, Michael Jordan's Mother, Had a Profound Impact on His Life

Deloris Jordan, who has had a profound impact on her basketball player son's life, is featured in ESPN's 'The Last Dance' docuseries.

One of the most compelling figures in ESPN docuseries The Last Dance is Michael Jordan's mother Deloris Jordan (opens in new tab). The former bank teller, born in North Carolina and now living in Chicago, has spoken openly about her superstar son, her life as a mother, her work as a philanthropist and author, and the tragic death of her husband. (opens in new tab) She even makes an appearance in The Last Dance, unlike Jordan's ex-wife or current partner (opens in new tab). Here's what we know about Deloris, and the impact that she had on her son throughout his life.

Deloris and Michael are close.

Michael credits his family for his success, saying (opens in new tab), "They were hardworking people and they instilled that not just in me but in my brothers and sisters...It just became a part of my nature I always take a negative and turn it into a positive—that all came from my parents."

The Last Dance does also dive into the competition between him and his brothers, and how his father encouraged them to push themselves really, really hard. Michael could apparently be combative as a teen, and his mom pushed him to stay studious.

She says (opens in new tab) her parenting style was simple, despite Michael's massive success:

"I always told my children, 'Each one of you has special gifts, it's how you use them...Each one had a talent, but how they approached it was different from the others. Michael might have skills for basketball, but Larry built things with his hands, and our oldest son was in ROTC and such a leader."

In an interview about a book she wrote in 1998 called Family First: Winning the Parenting Game (opens in new tab), Deloris spoke about raising Michael and her other children:

Deloris shares more about her son in The Last Dance. 

In Deloris' interviews, she even shared a letter (opens in new tab) Michael wrote her while he was in college. I'm just going to quote the whole thing here:

Dear Mom,
How has life been treating you? Fine, I hope. I am doing just fine. I am sending you my account number so that you can deposit some money in my account. I have only $20 in there. Tell everyone I said hello and smile. God and I love you.
Love, Michael.
P.S. Sorry about the phone bill. Please also send me some stamps.

Amazing.

The Jordans suffered family tragedy.

In 1993, Deloris' husband James Sr. was murdered by two teenagers (opens in new tab) who stole his car. The tragedy was devastating for the whole family (Michael briefly retired from basketball before returning to the Bulls). Deloris explained that it eventually brought the family closer together to grieve and bond.

Jordan openly wept when the Bulls won another championship on Father's Day in 1996:

"I know he's watching," he told NBC (opens in new tab) at the time. "To my wife and to my kids, to my mother and my brothers and sisters, this is for daddy."

Deloris still does charitable work.

In 1989, Deloris and James Sr. cofounded the Michael Jordan Foundation, which closed in 1997 to put more focus on the new James R. Jordan Boys & Girls Club and Family Life Center in 1997. Deloris established the James R. Jordan Foundation and has been president for more than 20 years.

She launched many initiatives including; the Vision for Families Program, The A-Team Scholars program, the Time Out Summer Camp, the Reading Together Program, and the S.T.E.A.M. program. Her foundation also formed partnerships with elementary schools in the Chicago area, and in 2009 she established the James R. Jordan Foundation International in collaboration with other international organizations.

Deloris continues to speak publicly—in 2019, she spoke to mothers of NBA players (opens in new tab): "We are blessed to be a blessing."

WATCH 'THE LAST DANCE' ON ESPN+ (opens in new tab)

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(Image credit: Danielle Del Valle)
Katherine J. Igoe
Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.