WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington native and NBA legend Michael Jordan stopped by Wilmington Tuesday to hand out Thanksgiving meals and meet with those affected by Hurricane Florence.
Jordan distributed Thanksgiving meals at Lowe’s Home Improvement on 354 South College Road at 3 p.m.
“Anything I can do to help my fellow Wilmingtonians, I’m willing to do," Jordan said. “Once this storm goes away, it’s not going to just end. It’s going to take a while before we get back on our feet.”
Deja Knight, who was in line to receive a Thanksgiving meal at Lowe’s, said she had no idea Jordan, who went to Laney High School and UNC Chapel Hill before his Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bulls, was going to be there.
“I was actually standing in the line when he walked up," Knight said. "We didn’t know anything until I screamed out, ‘That’s Michael!’”
Born and raised in Chicago, Knight said she’s been a fan of Jordan’s since she was a kid.
“I watched Michael play so many games," Knight said. "I’ve been a Michael fan since I was a little person.”
After all the meals were handed out at Lowe’s, Jordan, a majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets, went to the Community Boys and Girls Club for a surprise visit.
Jordan spent many hours at the Boys and Girls Club as a kid and has given back over the years to help it stay open and serve more young people.
On Tuesday, he handed out 200 pairs of Air Jordans and care packages to local kids.
“To me, if I can use this to inspire them, just by giving them this start, great," said Jordan. "If it helps them educationally, if it helps from a motivational standpoint, obviously it’s Thanksgiving, to me that’s a start, because that’s where you’re going to have to rebuild is from a start.”
Jordan autographed some of the Jordan shoes given to kids.
“The coolest part is that Michael Jordan came, and my brother’s name is Jordan,” said Brieyelle, one of the children at the Boys and Girls Club.
Lowe’s also announced that it will give the club $100,000 for renovations.
“If I bring a smile to their faces, especially during this time, I’m willing to do that, without a doubt," said Jordan.
Jordan’s last public visit to Wilmington was in 2007 with his team at the time, the Charlotte Bobcats, to hold a training camp at UNCW.
James Jarvis, director of the Cape Fear chapter of the American Red Cross, said Jordan did more than what most people saw during this Wilmington visit, including going to see a family hit hard by the hurricane.
“This family had been in a shelter so they came in, had a few minutes with Mr. Jordan in the back room of the store," Jarvis said. "We really appreciate everything he has done for the Red Cross. He gave a million dollars and he wanted to meet with the family that was directly touched.”
The first man in line for a meal at Lowe’s was stunned when the six-time NBA champion appeared.
“This is outstanding, what a blessing,” the man said. “I was so surprised when I saw him coming.”
In May 2017, Jordan returned to Laney to film part of a commercial for Gatorade. The ad, Make Defeat Your Fuel, features several prominent athletes discussing low points in their athletic careers.
When he was a sophomore at Laney, Jordan didn’t make the varsity team and is quoted in the commercial, “You want to know the secret to victory? Fail to make the varsity team.”