Basketballer-in-Chief Forgives Michael Jordan for Misspelling Name

Barack Obama with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker Associated Press

Michael Jordan, who once called Barack Obama a “hack” golfer, turns out to be a hack speller—or maybe just guy with an interesting sense of humor.

The six-time NBA champion misspelled the president’s name when he signed a poster he gave Obama on his 50th birthday. According to former Obama adviser David Axelrod, who revealed the story to New York magazine, he sent the poster to Jordan for a signature in 2011. Jordan inscribed the poster with a black Sharpie, writing, “To Barrack: you still owe me dinner. Wishing you well, Michael Jordan.”

Axelrod related that when Obama saw the poster, the president petulantly responded, “I can’t put this up, he misspelled my name!” Axelrod replied, “Fine, I’ll take it.”

On Monday, Obama called into Raleigh’s David Glenn Show to reminisce about the late North Carolina men’s basketball coach Dean Smith, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. When Glenn asked Obama about the misspelled poster, Obama responded, “You know what? Michael will always have a place in my heart. The joy that he gave all of Chicago. He’s actually an early supporter. I think I may have been the first publicly acknowledged contribution he made politically.”

Obama contined, “He talks trash on the golf course, I understand, even though he’s never played with me. … He’s a pretty hyper competitive guy.” Of course, Obama also talks trash on the court, as reported by Kobe Bryant, even though he exaggerates his skills, according to former NBA Commissioner David Stern. Stern opined, “He’s not that good. He’s not as good as he thinks he is,” adding to no one’s surprise that Obama was “a lefty, he goes the same way every time.”

Obama misspelled one of Aretha Franklin’s biggest hits, despite her spelling the title in the song, at a White House event last year. But he doesn’t believe Jordan’s flub represents an intentional lack of R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Obama maintained, “Obviously, somebody wasn’t giving him the proper spelling of my name.” Then he magnanimously offered, “I’m going to forgive him for that because I have six championship memories that will never go away.”

After Jordan called him a hack golfer last November, Obama testily replied, “He might want to spend more time thinking about the Bobcats – or maybe the Hornets. But that’s a whole other issue.”