McDonald’s has a long history of creating special, limited-time, menu items. Some have gone on to great success like the McRib. Others have been short-lived like McPizza. Most of their special offerings have been available nationwide, but every now and then, they roll out an option in smaller, more select areas. Such was the case with the McJordan Special they released in 1991, and why not everyone remembers it.
In 1990, an idea was hatched to create a special burger and name it after one of the most famous people in the world…NBA megastar Michael Jordan. Jordan agreed to let McDonald’s name a variation of their classic Quarter Pounder after him if he was involved in the creation of the burger. After Jordan dismissed several creations by McDonald’s chefs, he took the reigns himself and designed the burger after the way his family used to eat burgers at home. Due to his family being on a tight budget when he was young, they spiced plain old hamburgers up in different ways to keep them from being redundant.
His version of the Quarter Pounder that would go on to carry the McJordan Special was actually quite simple. Just by adding bacon, barbeque sauce, and Jordan’s name, the classic Quarter Pounder was transformed into something truly special.
“It’s what he likes on a burger,” Tori Moore, a regional marketing manager for McDonald’s, told the Chicago Tribune. “This is it. You can’t call any other sandwich by his name, and you can’t call this anything else.”
The new burger was test-marketed in Chicago, Illinois, the base for Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. After successful testing and positive feedback, the $1.89 burger went on sale at roughly 350 McDonald’s locations in the Chicago area in March of 1991.
The McJordan Special was a hit, selling an average of 100-150 burgers a day at participating locations. The response was so strong that the promotion was extended from its intended end date of April to continue being available through May of that year. Later that year and into early 1992, it was also sold in 500 locations throughout North Carolina and South Carolina as well as in Alabama and Tennessee.
Franchisees that opted into offering the McJordan Special sometimes ran promotions. In North Carolina, customers could reduce the price of the burger by one cent for every point Jordan scored in Friday night games.
In 1993, McDonald’s brought the McJordan back for a limited time to counter Burger King’s rollout of their new Meatloaf Sandwich. In all honesty, McDonald’s didn’t need to do anything, as the Meatloaf sandwich was doomed to failure anyway.
The McJordan Special never quite reached the heights of other novelty items, and mostly disappeared after its ’93 run. But Jordan remains on a very short list of people who have had their names on the McDonald’s menu.
But interestingly enough, one of the other famous faces to be associated with a McDonald’s burger was a rival of Jordans in Larry Bird.
In 1993, McDonald’s paired with Larry Bird to introduce The Big 33 burger, named that since Larry Bird wore #33 on his jersey. It was basically the same as the McJordan Special minus the mustard. The Big 33 was available in limited areas as well, and mentions of the Big 33 are rarer than the McJordan Special in nostalgia circles online.
If anyone is interested, it would be easy to replicate either burger with a custom order at McDonalds. Just ask for a Quarter Pounder with added bacon and barbeque sauce. If they’re unwilling to add the sauce to the burger, just ask for a pack of their barbeque sauce and add it yourself, and you’ll find yourself transported back to the day of delicious McDonalds burgers named after basketball superstars.