Michael B. Jordan Says His HBCU Basketball-Fronted Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic Is An Important Part of His Legacy
Michael B. Jordan‘s Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic is back for its third year. The annual event, taking place this year at the Prudential Center in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey on Feb. 3, was created by director, actor, and entrepreneur Michael B. Jordan, WME Sports (the sports division of WME, an Endeavor company), Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment and Horizon Sports & Experiences again features doubleheader of HBCU men’s basketball games.
This year’s included the first-ever SWAC conference matchup at the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic, between Grambling State and Jackson State, as well as one of the oldest rivalries in sports, Hampton University and Howard University. For the third straight year, the showcase airs on TNT.
Part of the proceeds from the basketball showcase will support organizations focused on advancing Black educational institutions and the local Newark community. Continuing an experience that has been beloved by fans in previous years, the participating schools will again bring their respective bands, who will perform during game breaks and participate in a battle of the bands during halftime of their own game. The Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic also features a welcome party with a kickoff concert, a sports and entertainment summit and a college fair so that attendees can learn more about the offerings of HBCUs.
Ahead of the annual event Michael B. Jordan spoke with Blavity and discussed how it adds to his personal legacy of paying it forward.
How did Invesco QQQ get involved with Legacy Classic?
MBJ: This is their third year as the main sponsor. Invesco QQQ has helped me to build the financial literacy aspect for the students, and financial awareness that these collegiate students in HBCUs need.
How does this help put a spotlight on HBCUs to ensure that they stay around, especially due to a lot of the issues that have been coming up with funding and things of that nature for the schools?
MBJ: I think they help by allowing students to get access to the next level. It’s not just about understanding finances, but also giving them job opportunities. They get a chance to go to job fairs and pitch companies for startup businesses. Some are given grants and money to start those startup businesses as well.
Most times, HBCUs and just colleges in general, really survive a lot on alumni donations and the success of athletic programs. So to be able to kind of increase that, so that in time they can pay that forward and pay that back, that ultimately changes the landscape of a university. It’s a step-by-step kind of process. Hopefully, in this third year, it’s better. This year, it’s three times the ticket sales than ever before, and the turnout has been amazing. Being able to donate and help these entrepreneurs kind of start their own businesses, I think, was helpful.
Something you mentioned is that they are an original sponsor and that this is the third year. And they help with student-athletes as far as different resources beyond sports. One of the things that is a main complaint for most student-athletes is directly connected to finances. You mentioned that they help them with jobs and different scholarships. Can you expand on that?
MBJ: From job fairs and pitch competitions that they’re able to participate in. Obviously, all student-athletes aren’t going to make it to the pro level, just out of sheer numbers. So being able to give them healthy alternatives that still satisfy that itch or build on ambitions in other areas that might be sport adjacent, or around the sport they love so much – whether within whatever they have a passion for – whether in entertainment or us being able to bring the things that I have access to to the table that they let me know they are into is a big deal for me. I tell a lot of the students to not be shy about it. Ask for what you want, ask questions, reach out to the mentors that are put in place – and all of the professionals, the CEOs, the executives that are coming into speak that are there and they’ll help. And we’ve seen a lot of success coming from this model.
What are some of the big success stories you’ve seen come out of this program, and how do you stay connected to the students who participate each year?
MBJ: As much as I can. All these little rascals are here doing great things. I’m really super proud and impressed by them. They are so much further ahead than I was. I think they just have so much information at their disposal. Some of the students have been featured in spots with me on the commercial side of things. Their families are involved in certain aspects of their career. And where I stand is the overall perspective to kind of like oversee the entire classic program. The individual success stories are the ones that live beyond. You continue to kind of take the things that they learn here and apply them in their own and their own way, in their own lives. So I think those two things have been great to see.
How have you been inspired by the students that you’ve worked with over the years?
MBJ: They’re fearless. I think they’re fearless. They’re not shy at all. And that’s encouraging. Whenever I come back home, being from New Jersey [and] being able to put this classic in my hometown and seeing a lot of familiar faces getting a little bit older, and seeing even the kids of my peers at one time or another come up, and now they’re in high school and whatnot and have ambitions and drives…. just seeing the circle of life happen [and] how things progress generation to generation. We’re trying to continue to get better. Newark as a whole is trying to build its economy up and build. The city of Newark is part of such progress. I get excited every time I think about the possibilities that these kids have in front of them.
How special is it to have this event in your hometown? Does it keep you grounded being able to pay it forward in this way?
MBJ: The hope has always been the idea of you leave home, you travel around the world, you learn, you get new experiences that you might not have had access to…and at some point, you come back home and share those experiences and the things that you learn and that access that you have, and give that on to the next generation so they can learn from you and continue and apply that to their own life and their own ambitions and their own goals. It’s definitely a way to always keep in touch. I have a plethora of friends and family that are from here. And I try to come back as much as I can. There’s the going away to college phase where you go off, you grow, and you learn and you come back better than what you were when you left. And you try to make things around you, and people around you, better in the process.
The theme of all of this is “More Legacy.” And at this point in your career, you’re doing a lot more than acting or directing, such as being a health and wellness advocate and much more, so you’re really doing a great job at cultivating your legacy. How does this align with what you’re doing and leaving a lasting legacy? What do you want your legacy to be?
MBJ: The goal is always to build something and build things that are going to last a lot longer than I will. So whether that’s a mentality or an approach, a way of thinking, I want this to be a part of my legacy. I think you are defined by who you help and who you put on. Growing up in a family who are people of service has taught me that. My upbringing was being alongside my mom and dad working in food banks, throwing neighborhood block parties and watch associations and cooking church dinners. I think I grew up with the examples of being of service to others. So putting on this classic was just kind of an extension of that and being able to put things in place that continue to help a lot of people at one time. I know that my art is loved, and that’s great. But it’s more in who you impact.