Monday night, Cup Series star Denny Hamlin and NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan announced they are starting a new NASCAR team with Bubba Wallace in the driver's seat. Following the initial statements on Twitter, Jordan conducted an exclusive interview with the Charlotte Observer and explained why Wallace is the best fit for this new team. He cited the 26-year-old's desire to win as one of the main reasons.
"If I'm investing, if I'm a participant, then I want to win! I don't want to be out there to be just another car," Jordan told the Observer. "I feel like Bubba feels the same, and Denny has definitely done that this year. We've got the right people involved. Now, we need to get the right equipment. The right information and data. Give Bubba his best chance to win."
In addition to explaining his desire to win, Jordan also revealed that the plan to start the team came together in 10 days. Once he and Hamlin got deep into talks, the opportunity to add Wallace to the team became a possibility. "When [Hamlin] told me there was a possibility of getting Bubba Wallace, I'm saying, 'OK, this is perfect!'" Jordan said. "If I'm getting involved in NASCAR, then get a Black driver [with] a Black owner."
While fans have expressed considerable excitement about the new partnership between Hamlin, Jordan and Wallace, the team is still early in the process. The six-time NBA champion explained that they are engaged in talks with Joe Gibbs Racing — the team behind Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota Camry — to acquire crucial data and top-level equipment. Wallace developed a reputation throughout his career for performing well with "inferior equipment" and moving him to a Toyota could provide better opportunities to find success.
Of course, the biggest question following the announcement on Monday was about the number. Wallace currently drives the iconic No. 43, which will remain with RPM after he departs. The new car doesn't have a number yet, but many fans have expressed hope for No. 23 to coincide with Jordan's jersey numbers.
The NBA Hall of Famer clarified that he would be happy to see his iconic number on the side of a stock car, but he is not forcing the issue. Jordan said that he doesn't want to push his persona on Wallace. "If he chooses to drive that number, great! If he chooses another number, that's great as well," Jordan told the Observer.