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Michael Jordan To Appear On Video Game Cover

Michael Jordan might be retired, but he’s still the most powerful force in the basketball marketing world. He has proved that in the shoe business and now he’ll get his chance on a video game cover.

NBA 2K11
Source: Take-Two Interactive
NBA 2K11

Jason Argent, vice president of marketing for 2K Sports, confirmed to CNBC.com that the Charlotte Bobcats owner will appear on the cover of NBA 2K11, which will hit stores on Oct. 5.

“We’ve made a lot of progress over the past 10 years, but we know we have the best NBA video game ever made here,” Argent said. “So we thought to ourselves how can we embody that and there was only one person on that list who we wanted to have and that was Michael Jordan. Actually getting this done is the most ridiculous win of all-time.”

“Michael’s last appearance in a video game was in 2004 and over that time the video game industry had continued to grow,” said Estee Portnoy, Jordan’s business manager. “We had been hearing that there was demand from the gamers to have him in the game and this came along and made a lot of sense.”

Argent wasn’t ready to talk about specifics of how Jordan would appear in the game other than to say that there will be “some really good surprises.” Argent did however guarantee that the game would be the best selling game in the 10-year history of 2K Sports.

“It’s an honor to be featured on the cover of NBA 2K11,” Jordan said, in a statement. “I have no doubt that NBA 2K11 will be a big hit with gamers and basketball fans alike. I’m looking forward to getting back out on the court, virtually.”

2K Sports hasn’t suffered from a lack of attention lately. The company recently gave away $1 million to a 23-year-old gamer for pitching and recording a perfect game in its Major League Baseball 2K10 title.

The Jordan announcement follows the announcement earlier this week that Wayne Gretzky would appear on the cover of NHL Slapshot, EA’s hockey game for the Wii.

So what’s wrong with all the active players?

Argent said that his choice to select a retired athlete over current athlete shouldn’t come as a slight to those playing in the league, who of course will be included in the game.

“I think everyone who is playing greatly reveres what Michael meant and still means to the game of basketball,” Argent said.

Jordan has had an interesting history with video games. Due to a licensing agreement he had with the NBA, his rights weren’t part of the group licensing agreement that included all the other players—meaning his likeness didn’t automatically appear in many games while he was playing.

Jordan, through Nike’s Jordan brand , still sells the majority of premium basketball shoes in the United States. He also has endorsement deals with Hanes, Gatorade, Upper Deck and Five Star Fragrances. Aside from being the owner of the Bobcats, he has a motorsports team, is a partner in restaurant business and owns Nissan dealerships in North Carolina.

Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA—13 with the Chicago Bulls (where he won six titles) and two with the Washington Wizards. He played his last game more than seven years ago.

Last week, ESPN.com quoted sources as saying that Jordan would be appear on the cover, but the news wasn’t confirmed publicly until today.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com