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Historian Johnny Smith explores Michael Jordan's delicate dance with racial issues

Superstar. Legend. Billionaire. GOAT — as in, Greatest of All Time.

Photo by Evie Perez
Author Johnny Smith.

There are so many ways to describe and define Michael Jordan. Millions of words and countless hours of audio and video have been devoted to tracing his life from childhood in Wilmington, North Carolina, to college at the University of North Carolina, to his six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls, and his post-playing career as, among other things, onetime owner of the Charlotte Hornets.

He’s been looked at from a million angles. 

Johnny Smith, a history professor at Georgia Tech, decided to look at Jordan’s record on racial issues — where he was controversial mostly for choosing to avoid controversy.

That dichotomy led to Smith’s new book “Jumpman,” which gets its name from Jordan’s apparel brand, but could also refer to the delicate dance Jordan has done when it comes to race.

I really enjoyed thinking about one of the great sports figures of our time in a different way than you might be used to.


Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.