Michael Jordan Donates Record $5 Million Gift to New Smithsonian Museum

It's a game changer.

Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan holds up the Most Valuable Player trophy in 1988. Courtesy of TIM CLARY/AFP/Getty Images.

Michael Jordan has donated $5 million, as well as a basketball jersey from the 1996 N.B.A. Finals, to the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC—the highest endowment of any sports figure to the museum. In honor of the gift, the “Game Changers” gallery in the sports section of the museum will be named the Michael Jordan Hall.

The basketball star will hold court alongside 16 other record-breaking African American athletes, including track-and-field legend Jesse Owens and tennis player Althea Gibson, when the museum opens September 24. The opening weekend will feature musical performances, and extended visiting hours.

“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,” museum founding director Lonnie G. Bunch said in a statement.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Photo: Michael R. Barnes, courtesy the Smithsonian Institution.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Photo by Michael R. Barnes, courtesy the Smithsonian Institution.

Jordan recently donated $2 million to two organizations dealing with “build[ing] trust between law enforcement and the communities in which they work,” according to the Undefeated. The Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund will each receive $1 million.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which cost $540 million, is the first of its kind on this scale, and its opening days will be a test, as there’s so many different ways to cover 400 years of history. The museum already caught some flak for hiring British architect David Adjaye, who was born in Tanzania, rather than an African American architect instead.

The 350-seat theater onsite, however, is named after an icon who is even more known than Michael Jordan: Oprah Winfrey.


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