Michael Jordan
Source: Getty Images

The Untimely Death of Michael Jordan’s Father Explained


May 6 2020, Updated 3:29 p.m. ET

On July 23, 1993, James R. Jordan was shot and killed while taking a nap in his car off the side of US Highway 74 — just south of Lumberton, N.C. The father of five children had been driving a car recently purchased by his youngest son, Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan.

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Michael’s father played a big role in his career, having followed his son around the country as he advanced in his NBA career. 

James’ untimely death sent a ripple through the NBA community and just a few months after his father’s remains were discovered decomposing in a swamp in South Carolina, Michael announced his first retirement from the Chicago Bulls. 

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michael jordan dad
Source: ESPN

“I guess the biggest positive thing that I can take out of my father not being here with me today is that he saw my last basketball game… and that means a lot,” Michael said at his retirement press conference in 1993.

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Who was Michael Jordan’s father?

James R. Jordan, Sr. was born on July 31, 1936, in Wallace, N.C. Standing at 5 feet, 6 inches, James met his future wife, Deloris Peoples, while attending Charity High School. Once he graduated, James decided to join the Air Force and was soon stationed in San Antonio, Tex. 

michael jordan family
Source: ESPN
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After marrying Deloris, the newlywed couple welcomed their first child, James Ronald Jr. The family moved back to North Carolina and brought two more children into the mix: a daughter named Deloris and a son named Larry.

A few years later, as their children were well into their toddler years, James made the decision to move to Brooklyn so he could train as a mechanic. He and his wife left the children in their grandparents' care while he studied and Deloris began working at a bank.

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michael jordan baseball
Source: ESPN

In February of 1963, the couple gave birth to their fourth child, Michael. The two raised baby Michael while James completed his training, but decided to move back to North Carolina due to the rising crime rate in Brooklyn. 

Back home in the comforts of their home state, the Jordan family welcomed baby Roslyn, their fifth and final addition.

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James was a huge sports fan. Despite what many may think, he actually favored baseball over basketball and even envisioned his son Michael becoming a major league baseball star. It wasn’t until high school when Jordan homed in on his basketball skills.

Who killed Michael Jordan’s father?

michael jordan james jordan
Source: Andrew D. Bernstein

James’ body was found on August 3, 1993, in a swamp in South Carolina. Ten days later, information provided by their family dentist helped confirm the identity of the decomposed body. He had been shot by assailants Daniel Andre Green and Larry Martin Demery.

Green and Demery then stole his car along with James’ cellphone and two NBA championship rings gifted to him by Michael, among other items in the vehicle at the time.

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Green and Demery were caught making calls on James’ cell phone. Demery claimed their plan had been only to tie up their victim, but Green pulled the trigger, killing James. The men were both sentenced to life in prison, though Demery was approved for parole in August of 2020. He is set to be released from prison on Aug. 6, 2023.

michael jordan
Source: Getty Images

Michael Jordan winning his sixth NBA championship in 1998.

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Although this tragic event led to Michael Jordan’s early retirement from the Chicago Bulls, he did return to the game a few years later, solidifying his legendary status in the NBA. His father’s memory lives on with him to this day.

“My father used to say that it’s never too late to do anything you wanted to do,” Jordan said, in reference to his father. “And then he said, ‘You never know what you can accomplish until you try.’”

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