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Michael Jordan First Athlete To $1 Billion
CNBC.com | September 11, 2009 | 10:53 AM EDT

There’s been much talk about the first billion dollar athlete.

Tiger Woods is supposedly on track to reach $1 billion next year, though his agent Mark Steinberg told us he doesn’t keep an official tally anywhere. And many mention LeBron James as the guy who is most likely to follow Woods.

But, at least according to one metric, they’ve already been topped by Michael Jordan.

It’s hard to say how much Jordan has reaped personally, but 2009 will be remembered as the year MJ was inducted into the Hall of Fame and the year that his Nike brand, Jordan, topped $1 billion in annual revenue for the first time. It appropriately comes 23 years after Nike reached $1 billion in revenue for the first time.

The rise of Jordan as a marketing icon is an amazing story. The kid from the University of North Carolina, who had never worn Nikes before he signed his contract, made buying Air Jordans an annual ritual. And 6 ½ years after he played his last game, the business continues to grow. At more than $1 billion in sales, the Jordan brand now makes up roughly 5 percent of Nike’s overall revenues.

Consider these statistics, provided by SportsOneSource, a sports market retail tracking firm:

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