Meeting of the Minds: 25 Years Ago, Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan Join Forces in "Jam"

It was June 19, 1992…

It’s hard to fathom that 1992 was twenty-five years ago, yet people still reminisce about timeless moments in entertainment occurring around that time. To most millennials and Gen-X kids of the world, the ‘90s was the best era when it comes to all things fashion, music, TV and sports. This summer day was no different when Michael Jackson premiered his music video for “Jam,” featuring a special cameo from a fellow MJ, Michael Jordan.

If you ask your friends to name their top five Michael Jackson videos of all time, “Jam” is typically missing from the list. However, with Jordan and Jackson coming together in the video, it’s arguably one of the most iconic visuals Jackson released during his career. Something special happens when the greatest entertainer to ever live meets the greatest NBA player of all time. Not only have the two changed the course of music and sports as we know it, but their cultural impact has changed the world.

This was a unique meeting that couldn’t have come at a better time for both of them. Jackson was on his eighth studio album Dangerous, a project following his top-charting predecessors Bad and Thriller. Since it was the beginning of the ‘90s, music was starting to take a different turn in terms of sound. Hip-Hop was becoming more mainstream, while R&B took on new fused elements such as New Jack Swing. After working with longtime collaborator Quincy Jones on his previous albums, Jackson decided to reinvent his sound with producer Teddy Riley, ultimately creating the album’s fourth single, “Jam.”

Michael Jordan on the other hand was busy being the biggest athlete in the world. He helped put Chicago on the map as he brought more championships to the city during his eighth year in the league. The Bulls were becoming an unstoppable force in the NBA after beating the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers for back-to-back titles. In 1991, Jordan inked a lucrative endorsement deal with Gatorade, spawning one of the company’s most famous campaigns, “Be Like Mike.”

 


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However, that Gatorade tagline of wanting to “Be Like Mike” could ring true for both MJs. Any kid or teenager who grew up during this era watched the two entertainers at the height of their careers. For Jordan, fans emulated hitting mid-range jumpers or posterizing dunks over opponents. In Jackson’s case, fans took on his style from rocking a sequin glove to the famous red leather jacket, or practicing long hours just to master the moonwalk. Any basketball fan and music lover wanted to be like them in some shape or form.

To some kids today, it may come as a shocker that the world didn’t always have YouTube to watch videos. The ‘90s was a prime time for music video exclusives. Music lovers stayed glued to their television sets to watch videos on networks such as MTV, VH1 and BET, back when reality TV was a non-existent phenomenon. (Can we go back to that?) Videos had a set date and time for a world premiere, allowing more anticipation with bringing songs to life, than in today’s world of artists who simply tweet out a YouTube link for video viewing. Fans used VHS tapes to record music videos with a VCR, becoming the best way to learn MJ dance moves.

However, black artists didn’t always have the music programming world on their side, especially with music videos. MTV launched back in 1981 and centered their video programming around rock ‘n’ roll. If artists such as David Bowie, Journey, The Who and Rod Stewart come to mind, then you’re right on track. It wasn’t until 1983 with the success of Jackson’s Thriller and some heavy persuasion from CBS Records president Walter Yetnikoff that broke down the racial barriers at the network. “Billie Jean” was the first video from a black artist aired on MTV, effectively broadening the network’s programming with pop and R&B, while allowing more black artists to gain mainstream status. Fast forward to June 1992 and FOX TV premieres the video for “Jam.”

Michael Jackson’s videos typically consisted of a few key elements such as a mini-movie plot, eye-catching costumes and jaw-dropping dance routines. However, “Jam” was one of the more simpler videos he released. The song itself featured bars from the late Heavy D, while the video also featured a cameo from hip-hop duo Kris Kross. Jackson and Jordan shot the visual in a Chicago warehouse, and it’s a sign of the times seeing the crossover between music and sports come alive. The two face off as Jordan tries to teach Jackson a little one-on-one, while the King of Pop is showing No. 23 some signature dances.

Jordan previously spoke on how the meeting nearly became non-existent, "First I said, 'I don't know if I want to do this, because this guy's going to try to get me out there to dance, and that's going to be really embarrassing.' But then I said: 'Well, shoot, it's Michael Jackson. When would you ever get an opportunity to get to know him socially for a little bit, and yet at the same time, get to do his video?' So I changed my mind and went on and did it."

Now Jordan is clearly not the greatest dancer in the world, but that’s what makes this meeting of two anomalies so great. “Jam” showcases each of them in their purest form, Jordan dominating the court while Jackson commands a stage. Besides sharing the same initials, their talent and showmanship continuously proves why they are called the G.O.A.T.s in their respected fields. Fans and critics will always ask “Who is the next Michael Jordan?” or “Who is the Michael Jackson of this era?” because these two are the best.

 

The King of Pop and His Airness set the bar high for anyone who follows suit. A number of entertainers possess a certain MJ-esque quality in their craft, showing how they also want to inspire future generations. Artists such as Chris Brown, Miguel, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars have all mentioned Jackson being one of their biggest idols. R&B crooner Usher had the pleasure of sharing the stage with MJ and in an interview with MTV News, he spoke on how the King of Pop impacted his career. “They say if you ever want to be great, you’ve got to study who the greats studied, so of course, I studied his moves—studied them down to a T,” he said. “But there was much more to him than that. Really, he created an eclectic style of life and, throughout the years, from his childhood to his adulthood, he managed to continue to be successful, but also to continue to push the limits and push everyone's expectations."

Those same lessons and mentality that Usher gained from looking up to Jackson are similar to athletes who aspire to be like Jordan. Ballers like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and LeBron James have all been compared to Jordan at some point in their careers. Bryant won five championship titles during his career compared to Jordan’s six, while James broke Jordan’s record for most points in NBA playoff history during the recent Eastern Conference Finals. It’s the type of ambition and astronomical talent that keeps people questioning, “How does he do that?” These entertainers meet the standard MJ 'je ne sais quoi', and it says a lot about who they are in their careers to be compared to the greats. Thankfully, the legacies from Jackson and Jordan continue to shine through artists and athletes.

The Dangerous single went on to be featured in a number of NBA promotions during the '92 season, along with a Bulls' championship documentary. Although “Jam” may have not been the highest chart-topper that King of Pop fans were used to, the video with MJ schooling MJ should finally get the respect it deserves.

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