When you're a sports megastar and you're sponsored by Nike, chances are you will have to travel to Asia in the summer for promotional duties, and sometimes, due to cultural differences, these gigs will seem bizarre -- like, for example, LeBron James stripping in Taiwan, Ray Allen dressing up as a Chinese archer, or Ronaldo working his facial muscles.
A recently surfaced video shows that even Michael Jordan wasn't above these gigs. Because here's MJ serving as the referee for a 3-on-3 basketball game between Jason Kidd, Charles Barkley, and Michael Finley going against three sumo wrestlers.
The event was part of Nike's "Hoop Heroes" event, one of the company's earliest attempts to market to the Asian market.
Here's an AdAge article from 1996 that offers more details on the event:
“Events are being created with key Nike athletes in mind. A template for what Nike has in mind was established with “Hoop Heroes,” an event in Tokyo earlier this month. Held on two consecutive nights, each event was a slickly produced, 2-hour show headlined by Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and other Nike basketball endorsers. High on entertainment values like music and lighting, and heavy on athlete-spectator interaction, the show even had some NBA stars challenging a group of Japan’s best sumo wrestlers to a game of basketball. Tokyo Broadcasting System televised the events; Nike is now shopping for an international distributor. Nike also set up a retail space for its athletic footwear and apparel, and reported brisk sales and hefty profits.”