Michael Jordan’s gift to Denny Hamlin: NBA star tried to halt NASCAR driver’s bad luck

The name of Michael Jordan – aside from his infamous foray into baseball for one season – is usually associated with his exploits in basketball with Chicago Bulls. But the NBA All Star’s involvement in NASCAR proves he is willing to try new things.

In 2020, he teamed up with NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin to start a team named 23XI Racing in 2020 as he attempted to gain a foothold in the world of stock-car racing.
The pair hired Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick to be their drivers, even though Hamlin could easily pick himself to race for his and Jordan’s team. Instead, the American drives for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin just started a NASCAR team, and signed  Bubba Wallace - SBNation.com

The 43-year-old is viewed as one of the stars of the NASCAR Cup Series circuit, but despite claiming 51 victories in the series, he has never been crowned champion in his career.

Clearly, Jordan trusted his business partner would end that run one day after handing his father, Dennis, a unique gift. In an episode of the Netflix documentary series ‘NASCAR: Full Speed’, he recalls how the 65-year-old tried to motivate Hamlin into winning – by signing a cigar and handing it to him.

“Him and Michael Jordan are good friends, and now they’re partners,” Dennis Hamlin said. “So, he [Jordan] pulls up in his Lamborghini, and he reaches down in his side door, pulls out this cigar.

Michael Jordan signed it for me and wrote a little letter [that] says, ‘Break it when we win the championship’. I’m supposed to break that and smoke that cigar. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Close but no cigar

Just as the old adage goes, there would be no celebratory cigar for Hamlin after he finished fifth for the second season in a row.

There are other objectives for the veteran driver to consider, however, with the Daytona 500 offering a chance for redemption and an opportunity to lift some silverware.

A frustrated Hamlin spoke of his disappointment at missing out on the title again and suggested he was ‘cursed’.

“I can’t draw any conclusions on why, year after year, things out of my control have happened that (have) taken us from in control to out of it,” Hamlin told Netflix after his 2023 elimination. “It’s just been bad luck, honestly. I am the black cat of death. I’m [expletive] cursed.”

 

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