June 10, 2020
By Lynn Burkhead
Only weeks after Michael Jordan captivated the nation again with the extraordinary COVID-19 quarantine run of the "Last Dance" documentary series on ESPN, #23 is up to his old tricks again.
Except this time, the NBA Hall-of-Famer who many regard as basketball's G.O.A.T. (greatest of all-time), isn't swishing a basketball through the net at the buzzer as millions of fans wait on the edges of their seats.
This week, MJ is making waves in the sports world again. Except, it isn't on a basketball court or Olympic venue.
It's the wide-open, wave-tossed waters of the Atlantic Ocean during one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious offshore fishing tournaments. For MJ, competition is competition, even when the sport is fishing.
With the likes of TMZ, Sports Illustrated, and the Washington Post sitting up and taking notice on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, Jordan and the anglers and crew aboard his CATCH 23 fishing boat caused quite a stir as they came to the docks during the 62nd Annual Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, going on this week off Morehead City, N.C.
Anticipation was already running high since the tournament’s website had stirred the waters with a report of a big blue marlin hook-up and catch aboard the CATCH 23 boat around the mid-day hour on Tuesday. Skippered by Capt. Stetson Turney, the team found plenty of onlookers waiting later in the afternoon to see the big fish hoisted up for weighing and display.
When the weight was announced at 442.3 pounds, Jordan and his crew were all smiles as the CATCH 23 moved into sixth place on the leaderboard behind the tournament’s No. 1 catch thus far, a 494.2-pound blue marlin brought in by the crew aboard the Predator.
In an interview aired by TMZ Sports Jordan told an on-the-dock interviewer after the weigh-in that while this particular deep sea tournament was not his first for blue marlin, it was the first one he has participated in in his home state of North Carolina.
Given his success on Tuesday—and the crowds of onlookers cheering on MJ not too many miles away from where he starred at the University of North Carolina—Jordan might be back for more in future tourneys. Especially if his team, which went out onto the Atlantic aboard the 80-foot Viking boat that the NBA great owns, can find a way to come back and win it all.
"If I could say this, I'd love to be back...with a little bit bigger fish," Jordan said with a smile.
Despite the recent COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that have limited big-crowd gatherings, the ongoing reopening of American society brought lots of enthusiastic onlookers on Tuesday to cheer on MJ and the other anglers. Jordan noted that North Carolinians are eager to support the state’s various stars and the good causes they represent.
That includes the Big Rock tournament, which according to its website, is committed to giving to a core group of charities within the local region. After last year’s event, the tourney (and the affiliated KWLA tournament) have now contributed some $6,009,721, with even more contributions scheduled to come after this year’s event.
Jordan indicated he was more than happy to be a part of such fundraising efforts in his home state.
"I can't (forget)," said Jordan. "This is where I'm from and I never forget home. I'm a true blue Carolinian and every chance I get to come back home, I'm always looking forward to it."
Jordan, of course, is no stranger to success in competitive action during his legendary athletic career. His career accomplishments include numerous championships and honors, ranging from the 1982 NCAA college basketball championship to six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls.
MJ also has two Olympic gold medals in basketball, numerous Hall-of-Fame honors, has had his playing number retired in both Chapel Hill and Chicago, and was named the greatest North American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN (Jordan was second behind Babe Ruth in the AP’s similar list of 20th century athletes).
Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame twice, Jordan still reportedly holds the NBA record for the highest career regular-season scoring average with 30.12 points per game along with the highest NBA career scoring average with 33.45 points per game.
Such basketball accolades fueled production of the popular documentary series on MJ’s legendary career, a cable television series that captivated a quarantined nation during the spring. Originally scheduled to run on ESPN this summer, the series—which drew incredible ratings and acclaim—was moved up for early release due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For all his success in the basketball world and now on TV, for this week at least, Jordan has found a different kind of success in the sports world. And with days yet to go in one of the nation’s longest running offshore tournaments, don't count the basketball legend out just yet.
There may not be a net involved with the landing of this kind of billfish and the trophy may look a little different than the others he's hoisted during his career.
And as Jordan has proven time and again, when the ball is in his hand—or this time, a rod-and-reel—anything is possible as time winds down on the clock and the crowd looks on.
Big blue marlin of the Atlantic, beware because Michael Jordan is on the prowl and looking for yet another trophy to add to his immense collection.