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April 21, 2024

Michael Jordan celebrates Reddick’s Talladega win: ‘This, to me, is like an NBA playoff game’

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Michael Jordan’s presence at a NASCAR Cup Series is always significant. In Victory Lane? Overpowering.

Jordan was finally able to celebrate a victory with the 23XI Racing team he co-owns after Tyler Reddick held on to win Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, donning the white and black Jordan Brand colors across his No. 45 Toyota Camry XSE.

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A six-time NBA champion, Jordan co-owns the team with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin, who exited Sunday’s event at Lap 156 in a crash that included Bubba Wallace, 23XI’s other driver and a two-time winner. But the legendary hooper was never in attendance for any of the team’s five prior victories. The sixth time was the charm.

“Denny keeps saying I was bad luck when I come to the track, and today we proved him wrong,” Jordan joked with FOX Sports. “Actually, he did a good job by wrecking so we can get up front. That was actually pretty good. But I think Tyler did a good job. Unfortunately, Bubba couldn’t finish. But the whole team did a good job. And look, I’m very happy to be here to see it. Everybody tells me when we win, we can have a good celebration. But this is the first time I’ve been here. And to my wife and my kids and everybody: Yeah, we did it!”

Immediately after the checkered flag, Jordan was standing on pit road in the No. 45 team’s pit stall, holding Reddick’s 4-year-old son, Beau, with a smile as wide as the day is long while Jordan praised the Reddick that sat behind the wheel.

“He did a great job,” Jordan told Beau of Reddick’s drive. “We going to celebrate?”

“Yeah!” Beau responded, with Jordan erupting in laughter.

Jordan’s joy overflowed, relishing in the opportunity to truly celebrate the triumph in person. And with basketball’s postseason fired into full spring, those emotions of Jordan’s past came to the forefront Sunday.

“This, to me, is like an NBA playoff game,” Jordan said. “I am so ecstatic, obviously for the fans who support the sport itself. And we’ve been working hard, trying to get ourselves up to compete against all the top guys in this sport. But we’ve done a heck of a job just to be where we are. And for us to win a big race like this, I mean, it means so much to me and for the effort that the team has done.”

Reddick laughed upon learning Beau got to celebrate with MJ on pit road, especially since Jordan is no stranger to the toddler.

“He knows who Michael Jordan is,” Reddick said. “Any time I have a pair of Jordans on or he does, I always ask the question: Whose shoes are these? He says Michael Jordan’s shoes. So yeah, I think in the moment, it means a lot, right? But as he gets older and everything, too, looking back on that, that’s gonna be really, really cool.”

MORE: Tyler Reddick’s post-race reaction

Crew chief Billy Scott was in the pit box as Jordan celebrated with Beau, team president Steve Lauletta and Reddick’s fiancée, Alexa DeLeon. He was beaming with nearly as much pride as MJ, soaking in the moment.

“Honored that we got the first win with him being here today,” Scott said. “And glad he was able to be here for one and doesn’t think it’s a curse to come or something because there’s certainly been some ones that could’ve gone the other way. And just to see his excitement, it’s interesting. He is a study of the sport. I was talking to him before the race and he watches every Truck race, every Xfinity race, every Cup race, just trying to learn and understand what we’re going through and figure out how he can help from the owner side. It’s impressive. And just to see the excitement on his face, that’s what I enjoyed.”