- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Joe Gibbs Racing driver announced Thursday he has a deal with Nike's Michael Jordan Brand.
Jordan's famous "jumpman" logo will appear on Hamlin's firesuit, gloves and shoes just as it is on the apparel of Wade, Jeter and other stars.
"It's a big deal for myself and really NASCAR," Hamlin said during the preseason media tour at Daytona International Speedway. "The Jordan Brand has never been in NASCAR before. It is a dream come true for me. To me the Jordan Brand represents excellence in sports."
Hamlin and Jordan developed a relationship after the six-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer took over as owner of the Charlotte Bobcats last year. What Hamlin didn't realize until recently was that Jordan is a motorsports fan.
"He always talked to me last year about how the race went, because he watched the races," Hamlin said. "I never knew he really kept track of racing that much until I dug a little deeper and found he's had his motorcycle team since 2004.
"He's always been an avid motorsports fan. He just never knew the right situation to get into NASCAR, and he felt like I was the right representative for him."
Said Jordan: "Denny's confidence and passion for racing along with his determination for excellence on the track make him a valuable addition to the Jordan Brand. We look forward to working with Denny as he continues to take his success to the next level."
Hamlin said he didn't have to beat Jordan in a game of one-on-one or outjump him to get the deal.
And don't call him Air Denny.
"Definitely, I don't think it's based on physical ability on the court," said Hamlin, who finished second to Jimmie Johnson in the 2010 Chase.
But Hamlin does believe the logo will help broaden the awareness of NASCAR beyond its typical fan base when his name is mentioned with stars such as Wade and Jeter from other professional leagues.
"I personally think it's going to relate to a lot of these sports athletes who come to these races each and every week," Hamlin said. "They don't always recognize and understand with us. I feel like they're going to see that and recognize the brand.
"This is a huge stepping point, and hopefully something that turns into something very big within our sport."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
14hK. Lee Davis