Michael Jordan got into NASCAR because of a desire to turn “fake news” into real news. Did Tom Brady take a page out of his book?
Back in early 2022, Netflix revealed a six-episode docuseries about NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace titled Race: Bubba Wallace, which goes into great detail about how the 28-year-old Mobile, Alabama native got to where he is today and how he reckons with who he is both on and off the race track.
One of the topics discussed during this docuseries was how 23XI Racing, Wallace’s current team, got started. The team, which made their debut with the #23 Toyota in the 2021 season, is co-owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin.
In the summer of 2020, there were various rumors linking Jordan and Hamlin to team ownership. On Wednesday, August 26, a false report was published (and later deleted) stating that they would be acquiring an ownership stake in Richard Petty Motorsports, Wallace’s team at the time, along with Wallace.
A follow-up article, titled “NASCAR: Michael Jordan buying into a Cup team?”, was released the following day, Thursday, August 27, shooting down the rumor despite additional reports saying that it was “all locked in”.
Ironically, Hamlin came across this follow-up article, which was featured in a still during the documentary, while golfing and shared it with Jordan as a way of trying to “get his temperature”.
Jordan confirmed what we all knew by that point: that the rumor itself was “fake news”. But he asked Hamlin if he wanted to make it “real news”.
And the rest is history.
Now let’s shift gears for a second here: did Tom Brady take a page out of Michael Jordan’s book and turn “fake news” into “real news”?
When I say shift gears, I mean really shift gears.
I’m not talking about some news outlet publishing and then deleting a false report about Brady joining the Cup Series with TB12 Racing and fielding the #7 car as a nod to his record-breaking seven Super Bowl rings. Although speaking that into existence would be something, wouldn’t it? Unbeknownst to us, it has happened before.
I’m talking about an entirely different matter, but one that might effectively mirror Jordan’s path to NASCAR.
In early February, Brady retired from the NFL after 22 seasons following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ NFC Divisional Round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams, which had taken place just over a week earlier.
But the talk after that revolved around Brady potentially unretiring and returning to the NFL. Some even joked that the GOAT will want to surpass Jordan’s record of three retirements.
Have we seen a Jordan-esque scenario play out here?
Just 40 days later, 40 days filled with rumors from the moment he said he was stepping away, Brady announced that he would be returning to the Buccaneers for the 2022 season.
Was it really a matter of when, not if, he took Jordan’s line to Hamlin, found himself on the phone with the Buccaneers and some of his teammates, and said, “Haha, obviously, fake news. Not real. But if you want to make it real news, let me know…”?
We know for a fact that Jordan had previously been opposed to Cup Series ownership, and he had made that quite clear. We also know for a fact that Brady indeed planned to retire, and he had made that quite clear.
Yet here we are now: Jordan is a second-year Cup Series team owner, and Brady is going for a record eighth Super Bowl ring for a second year in a row.
Maybe TB12 Racing doesn’t sound like such a far-fetched idea yet.
The Buccaneers are scheduled to open up their season tonight against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. NBC is set to broadcast the game live beginning at 8:20 p.m. ET.
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