The Murder of Michael Jordan’s Father, Explained

Michael Jordan‘s life story may not be the sole focus of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon‘s movie “Air,” which began streaming on Prime Video on May 12, but it makes a lot of familial connections to his mom, Deloris Jordan (played by Viola Davis), and dad, James Jordan Sr. (portrayed by Julius Tennon, who’s Davis’s real-life husband). The movie recalls the true story behind Nike’s epic landmark deal with Michael and how the Air Jordan sneaker came about. However, it also depicts the all-star athlete’s close relationship with his parents, as well as his mother’s major influence on his legendary career.

Tennon as Michael’s father makes many appearances throughout “Air,” mainly alongside Davis’s character. And though the film covers a pivotal point in Michael’s life, it doesn’t include one of his life-changing moments from 1993: the murder of his father.

For those who may be wondering what led to James’s untimely death, read ahead for all the facts.

What Happened to Michael Jordan’s Dad?

Michael’s father, James, died in July 1993. He was shot and killed while sleeping in his car in Robeson County, North Carolina. According to Rolling Stone, he went missing on July 23, 1993, after driving home from a party. His body was then discovered roughly two weeks later. Around the time of his father’s death, the outlet noted that Michael retired from the NBA soon after and announced during a press conference that his father dying “made me realize how short life is, how quickly things can end, how innocently.”

Rolling Stone reported that soon thereafter Larry M. Demery and Daniel Green – who were both 18 years old at the time of James’s death – were arrested and charged with Michael’s father’s murder after using his car phone following his disappearance. Demery reportedly admitted the two attempted to rob James as he slept in his car and they ended up shooting him.

While the details of the attack have never been entirely clear on Demery and Green’s accounts, the latter maintained his innocence and claims he wasn’t there at the time of the crime. However, Demery pled guilty to first-degree murder, armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery in 1995, which he received a life sentence plus 40 years for. He was then resentenced in 2008 after an error was found in his initial sentencing, per AP News. Green was also sentenced to life in prison for murder during the robbery, plus an additional 10 years for conspiracy to commit robbery. According to AP News, in 2019, a judge refused to allow an evidentiary hearing that could’ve led to a new trial for Green, so he remains in prison as he serves out his sentence.

On Aug. 18, 2020, AP News reported that the N.C. Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission granted parole to Demery and he was expected to be released in August 2023, though it was later pushed back by a year. However, on Dec. 28, 2021, the publication reported that the commission announced that Demery’s “agreement has been terminated” effective immediately without giving a reason. It was stated that he would be reviewed again for parole on or around Dec. 15, 2023.

What Has Michael Jordan Said About His Dad’s Death?

Most notably, Michael got emotional when speaking about his father’s death during his “The Last Dance” docuseries in 2020. “He was my rock. You know, we were very close. He constantly gave me advice,” he recalled during one episode. “I remember, in ninth grade, I got suspended three times in one year, and my father pulled me aside that summer and said, ‘Look, you don’t look like you’re heading in the right direction. You know, if you want to go about doing all this mischievous stuff, you can forget sports.’ And that’s all I needed to hear.”

In a 2022 interview with ESPN, Michael reflected on his father’s death again, saying, “He never met my fiancée. He never got to see my kids grow up. He died in ’93. Jasmine was a year old. Marcus was 3 years old. Jeffrey was 5 years old.” However, he reminisced about the sweet memories he shared with his dad, too, recalling how the two loved watching western films together. “The thing we’d do, we’d stay up all night and watch cowboy movies,” Michael recalled, adding that one of James’s favorites was 1992’s “Unforgiven.”