MT. PROSPECT, Ill. – The elevator door opened and hundreds of fans behind thick ropes pushed closer for a view of the new superstar. They cheered thunderously, an incredible wave of sudden attention that’s so forceful you expect the person of their affection to levitate.
Instead, Michael Jordan flashed a golden smile.
Moments earlier, Jordan said he’ll get used to the overwhelming adulation.
“Everyone likes to be recognized,” said Jordan, who appeared at Randhurst mall Saturday. “It’s the same case here. I’d rather be recognized than to have people not know me.”
The Chicago Bulls’ Jordan, recently named the NBA’s rookie of the year, appears to already have skyrocketing fame.
He arrived an hour late for the appearance, and he didn’t contact nervous event promoters about his whereabouts. That animosity all disappeared when the 6-foot-6 forward began signing the first of nearly 2,000 autographs.
“I really do enjoy this,” he said.
And everyone wants a piece of Jordan.
“He’s probably one of the five hottest sports personalities right now,” said Neal Spiegler, a rep for Golden Sports Promotion in New Jersey, which arranged the appearance at Randhurst.
Not many people understand Jordan’s commercial appeal better than Mike Karge of Reuss’ Sporting Goods in Randhurst. Hundreds of items – from $1 Air Jordan key chains to $34 Jordan sweatpants — were available. “Everything is selling,” Karge said.
The hottest product is the Air Jordan shoes, which several fans brought for Jordan to sign. Karge said 36 pairs lasted less than one week. A July shipment already has a reservation list.
“The main thing that’s making them sell is Jordan,” Karge said.
The Air Jordan shoes, which sell for $64.95, soon will be made for toddlers when the Sky Jordan shoes become available this fall.
Jordan said his off-season appearance schedule has been busy.
Saturday, Jordan flew in from Chapel Hill, N.C., where’s he finishing his degree in cultural geography at the University of North Carolina. Immediately after his Randhurst appearance, he was leaving for an early evening engagement at the Nike Board of Directors’ meeting on the West Coast.
“That’s why I go to school,” Jordan said with a grin. “It’s relaxing.”