By Norment, Lynn
Ebony , Vol. 47, No. 1
Is Michael Jordan really the perfect male specimen?
Yes, we know that this 28-year-old basketball superstar led the Chicago Bulls to the 1991 NBA Championship as a dynamic scorer and aggressive defensive player. And we, as well as his teammates and opponents, are repeatedly astounded by his gravity-defying elegance as he rises to the basket with acrobatic grace.
Indeed, he is the superathlete who has redefined the slam dunk and given new meaning to the phrase hang-time.
But these facts and feats are now part of basketball legend. What about Michael Jordan off court? How does No. 23, who happens to bring home a cool $14.7 million (3.7 million from the Bulls) annually, shape up as a husband and father?
According to Juanita Vanoy Jordan, his wife of two years and the mother of their two sons, Michael Jordan is a champ on the homefront as well as on the basketball court. She says he's a good father who helps out with the kids and with household chores, and an attentive husband who desn't take his wife for granted. "He's affectionate and romantic," she says, looking peacefully happy behind a Southern-style smile and demeanor. "We often have candlelight dinners. He likes champagne, and he sends me flowers all the time."
Candlelight dinners? Champagne? Flowers? Thousands, if not millions, of women of all ages, creeds and colors would do almost anything to share a moment--any moment--with Michael Jordan, the supple and muscular too? What more could a woman want? Yet, says his wife, there's more.
"He never forgets a birthday or anniversary, and he loves buying jewelry. He picks out clothes for me all the time. He has good taste," Juanita continues, sipping Chardonnay at a restaurant near their suburban Chicago home. "My birthday was the day after the championship, and I thought that was a great birthday present in itself. But he still went out and bought me something." That "something" turns out to be a gold Cartier watch encrusted with a diamonds and a band of diamonds and rubies.
Earlier that same day at a photographer's studio in Chicago, Michael personified some of his wife's points by being openly affectionare. As they waited under the glaring lights, he repeatedly kissed and hugged her, more like a lover courting his lady than a husband with his wife.
Without a doubt, there are heavy demands on Michael Jordan's time due to an intense basketball schedule, various promotional projects, numerous charitable endeavors, and his dedication to gold. But when it comes to being a good husband and father, Michael is pushing himself to do more.
"I've got to do more for her, because this is what she expects from her husband--to be taken out to dinner, to movies, on vacations," he says in his characteristic genteel, soft-spoken manner. "From a husband's point of view, I've got to improve."
Michael says that what attracted him to Juanita Vanoy when he met the South Side Chicago native in 1985 was her independence. "I like independent people," he says without hesitation. "She always was very independent. She knew how to work and provide for herself, which is what I loved. I love her and I never wanted to take her away from her independence. She still does what she wants, and I love for her to do that. She is more of the stern side of this relationship. And I like that."
To illustrate his point, Michael admits he has difficulty saying no--to family, friends and strangers alike. "It's hard for me to say no, but she steps right in and says no. I think that is a part of what I need in my life," he says.
Juanita says she fills that void out of necessity. "I have no problem saying no," she emphasizes, echoing her husband's words. "If someone doesn't step up and say no, there would be no time for his family. Everyone wants a piece of Michael. When people see him, they feel it's their only chance to get an autograph, touch him, shake his hand. …