A grocery-store chain was ordered on Friday to pay basketball legend Michael Jordan $8.9 million for invoking his name on a state ad without his permission.
The amount was close to the $10 million his attorneys said the one-time use of his name was worth and Jordan hugged his lawyers after the decision was read in a federal court in Chicago, where Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won six NBA championships.
"I'm so used to playing on a different court," a visibly delighted Jordan told reporters outside the courthouse. "This shows I will protect my name to the fullest. ... It's my name and I worked hard for it ... and I'm not just going to let someone take it."
Jordan added that the case "was never about money" and that he'll give the damages award to charities in Chicago.
Two jurors asked Jordan for a photograph and he obliged by throwing his arms around them and smiling for a cellphone camera.
A judge ruled before the civil trial that the now-defunct Dominick’s Finer Foods, which was owned by Safeway, was liable. So the sole unresolved issue was damages for the unauthorized 2009 ad in Sports Illustrated. The ad congratulated Jordan on his Hall of Fame induction and included a $2-off coupon above a photo of a sizzling steak. Jurors deliberated for six hours before returning with the $8.9 million figure, at one point sending a note to the judge that said, “We need a calculator.”
Jordan's fame loomed over the case, with one would-be jurors struck from the jury pool after describing Jordan as his idol. During closings Friday, Jordan attorney Frederick Sperling appealed to city pride in trying to persuade jurors to side with Jordan.
"He gave us six championships," he told jurors, Jordan sitting nearby.
Steven Mandell, the attorney for Dominick’s, told jurors that he was also proud of Jordan’s accomplishments in sports. But he said Jordan’s clients overvalued his client’s name, saying jurors should away Jordan no more than $126,900.
Evidence presented during trial provided a peek at Jordan's extraordinary wealth, including the $480 million he made from Nike alone between 2000 to 2012.
Among the witnesses was Estee Portnoy, a marketing executive hired by Jordan, who said she was shocked when she saw the Dominick's ad, which included the text, "Michael Jordan ... You are a cut above."
Asked after the jury's decision whether he ever tried one of the steaks Dominick's advertised, Jordan laughed and noted his own namesake steakhouse was a few blocks away.
"You can go get a steak over there," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.