ESPN’s hit docuseries The Last Dance has reminded us all that Michael Jordan was, and remains, a living legend—but for some viewers, it’s also sparked concern about Jordan’s health. Viewers of The Last Dance, which hit Netflix on July 19, have noted the yellow tone of Jordan’s eyes in interviews conducted for the docuseries, speculating that it could indicate potential health problems. “Also, someone please check on Michael Jordan’s eyes,” one person wrote. Another chimed in: “I, too, find his eyes concerning.” Many other people on Twitter have expressed the same sentiment: “What’s going on with Michael Jordan’s eyes?”
Here’s what his eyes look like:
michael jordan surprised red eyes pic.twitter.com/SPXgiNSyuwMay 17, 2020
I’ll never forget that someone said Michael Jordan dips his eyes in Hennessy every night before bed😭 pic.twitter.com/ZdHcRARuVmMay 16, 2020
Does anyone know why Michael Jordan’s eyes are red? This is troubling in The Last Dance…and never mentioned. I’m assuming he’s fine, but I’ve never seen this before. pic.twitter.com/dnC79dL2EnMay 2, 2020
VICE spoke to an ophthalmologist, who of course couldn’t diagnose Jordan or say whether his eyes were cause for worry without assessing him personally, but had some concerns. “Yellow eyes should not be ignored because they are a sign of something more going on,” Dr. Val Phua said, adding: “Yellowish discoloration of the eyes may be more obvious in a dark-skinned individual compared with someone who is fair-skinned.”
And although The Last Dance is putting Jordan’s eyes on show to a large audience, Express points out that “Jordan’s eyes have looked yellow for the better part of the past two decades.” In other words, this is nothing new—which may be even more concerning.
Two potential conditions flagged by Dr. Plua that can cause yellow eyes like Jordan’s are jaundice and pinguecula (the latter is defined by VICE as a benign growth). Given the length of time that Jordan’s eyes have looked this way, jaundice has often been cited by fans (who are not, it should be noted, medical professionals) as the likeliest reason behind the yellow hue of Jordan’s eyes.
Jaundice is generally a sign of something bigger going on; it can be caused by a range of problems, including hepatitis, liver damage, and bile duct issues. (It can also be caused by certain medications.) Basically, jaundice occurs when your liver isn’t able to do its job properly.
That said, it’s telling that Jordan’s eyes have looked like this for so many years. If your eyes signaled health issues and you were one of the most famous and iconic men alive (one can’t imagine that Jordan has missed the speculation about his eyes), it would be hard to avoid getting it checked out for two whole decades. At the very least, you’d assume that Jordan has gone for regular check-ups with his doctors and they would have flagged it as a concern.
A Newscaster video, below, summarized what we know about Jordan’s health based on interviews with experts. Jordan’s personal trainer at the time, Tim Grover, noted that Jordan’s commitment to the sport could be extreme: “Michael would shut down everything outside of basketball and just train. Three workouts a day: workout, golf break, workout, lunch, golf break, workout, dinner, bed. Every day.”
Grover also said in 1996, “I don’t monitor Michael’s nutrition plan anywhere near as much as the younger players I consult. He’s learned more each year what works for him, what gives him the most energy and stamina.” He did note that Jordan tends to lose weight quickly because of a high metabolism, though, so he prescribed smaller meals eaten throughout the day.
Jordan has also spoken about his post-retirement passion for cigar-smoking and alcohol, both of which can impact the body—including the eyes. In 2005 he said, “I’m stepping away from that public image, from that other self that’s been around for so many years. These are the things that I enjoy. These are the passions that help me get from point A to point B. The relaxation that I get from it.” He added, “I’m not endorsing anything, or telling kids they should pick up cigar smoking or drink beer. These are things that I enjoy. This is my passion. They are some of the things that I like to do.” He also mentioned, “I’m at that stage where now I’m taking my life back from the public and doing the things that I enjoy doing.”
Whatever the reason behind Jordan’s yellowing eyes, he almost certainly knows about it—the man has access to the best doctors and treatments on the planet—and is choosing not to share his private medical information with his fans, which is very much his prerogative. Though, with The Last Dance coming to Netflix on July 19, perhaps more info may come to light.
WATCH THE LAST GAME ON NETFLIX