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Michael Jordan Refereed An Epic 3-On-3 Game Between Sumo Wrestlers And Charles Barkley's Team In Japan In 1996

Michael Jordan Refereed An Epic 3-On-3 Game Between Sumo Wrestlers And Charles Barkley's Team In Japan In 1996

Michael Jordan was a huge reason that the NBA went as viral as it did around the world in the 90s, his superstar status and unparalleled charisma made him a global icon. During his prime, Jordan traveled to various parts of the world to promote the league or to promote one of his many endorsements, the most famous of which was, of course, Nike. 

So when Jordan found himself in Japan in 1996 promoting Nike, there were a number of events that required his participation. One of the most unbelievable things to happen during this tour though, was when Michael Jordan, along with Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd, and Michael Finley got involved in a game of 3-on-3 with some sumo wrestlers in Yokohama. Barkley and Jordan enjoyed some epic moments with Nike, including the apparent fight they had in this 1994 commercial, but it pales in comparison to playing basketball with actual sumo wrestlers. 

The game initially had MJ himself shooting some hoops with the sumo wrestlers but he eventually settled down and became the referee as the other three NBA players played a game. It wasn't the only event that took place at the venue either, Jordan clearly had quite a bit of fun in Japan. 

An article from 1996 by AdAge went into further details about everything else that the event involved, including light shows and interaction between the spectators and the NBA stars. 

“Events are being created with key Nike athletes in mind. A template for what Nike has in mind was established with “Hoop Heroes,” an event in Tokyo earlier this month. Held on two consecutive nights, each event was a slickly produced, 2-hour show headlined by Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and other Nike basketball endorsers. 

"High on entertainment values like music and lighting, and heavy on athlete-spectator interaction, the show even had some NBA stars challenging a group of Japan’s best sumo wrestlers to a game of basketball. Tokyo Broadcasting System televised the events; Nike is now shopping for an international distributor. Nike also set up a retail space for its athletic footwear and apparel, and reported brisk sales and hefty profits.”

The score of the game remains unknown, but playing a game of basketball against sumo wrestlers is maybe the one time MJ might not have been too focused on winning. Many stars since have since gone to promote various products to Asia and just to promote the game of basketball as well, but few have enjoyed as many iconic moments like Michael Jordan.