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Jordan Picked as Seventh Celebrity Athlete on Wheaties Box

October 31, 1988 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ Michael Jordan was dressed to play basketball Monday, but instead, he talked about breakfast cereal, posed with a picture of a cereal box almost as tall as he, and got down on one knee with an actual-size box in hand.

Such was the Chicago Bulls star’s inauguration as only the seventh ″celebrity athlete″ to be pictured on the front of packages of Wheaties, the General Mills Inc. cereal marketed as ″The Breakfast of Champions.′

Jim Nuckols, product manager, told reporters Jordan was ″a man of real character and integrity,″ fitting for the positive image the product tries to have.

″I’m very happy to be part of the Wheaties organization,″ said Jordan, clad in his No. 23 Bulls jersey and black sweat pants. ″A lot of people would love to be in my shoes.″

Many might also want to have his bank account, which could swell with the Wheaties deal. But Jordan and company officials said that terms were not being disclosed.

What they did disclose was that Jordan’s picture would be printed on at least 12 million to 14 million boxes of the cereal.

Others who have contracted with Minneapolis-based General Mills for the Wheaties limelight, beginning in 1956, include pole vaulter Bob Richards, decathlon star Bruce Jenner, gymnast Mary Lou Retton, baseball player Pete Rose, football’s Walter Payton and tennis star Chris Evert.

Richards, now a clergyman in Texas, first adorned Wheaties boxes before Jordan was born 25 years ago, and Jordan admits that as a child, he didn’t know about the cereal.

″We had a big family,″ said the North Carolina native, and pennies had to be watched. ″We used to eat wheat puffs - remember those in the big bags that could last ... through five or six kids? That’s what we had.″

On the back of a series of Wheaties boxes will be installments of ″The Michael Jordan Story,″ tracing his roots from an awkward kid to pro basketball’s Most Valuable Player last season.

Actually, ″a dozen or two″ athletes have been pictured on the front of Wheaties boxes over the years, but Jordan is only one of seven ″celebrity athletes″ to get the honor through major deals with the company, said Kathryn Newman, public relations supervisor for General Mills.