ABC News’ Bianna Golodryga and Natasha Singh report:
Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, but the athlete known far and wide for his gravity-defying feats on the court and six NBA championships has been working quietly for 20 years to help make dreams come true for children with life-threatening illnesses.
As an ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Jordan, 51, has helped change the lives of more than 200 sick children, including 8-year-old Lucas Boerean, who got the star treatment at the Aria Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Lucas, a third-grader from Hallandale Beach, Fla., was diagnosed last year with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma. He has been idolizing Jordan since he was 5 years old, and when he finally got to meet the sports legend at the Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas earlier this month, his face lit up.
It’s ‘Gratifying’ to Change Kids’ Lives
Off the court, Jordan has led a very private life, but agreed to an interview because of his passion for the work of the foundation.
“They’ve given me a vehicle to give back and be able to touch kids that probably need the relaxation, need to get away from the daily activity they deal with,” Jordan told “Good Morning America.”
Asked about the difficulty of having to choose which wishes to fulfill from among many requests, Jordan said: “As much as it’s tough to try to touch as many, it’s so gratifying to be able to touch even the few that we do touch.”
Jordan said that when he heard about Lucas, he was eager to meet the boy.
“These are life-changing events for these kids and I want them to be able to enjoy it,” he said.
Jordan said his parents taught him compassion, which he believes helped him cope with the loss of his father, James Jordan Sr. The elder Jordan was shot to death in 1993 as he took a nap in his car at a highway rest stop in North Carolina. His vehicle was then stolen.
Jordan said he was very fortunate to have had his father for 32 years, “when some kids don’t get to spend a year or less with their parents or significant family member.
“I think it helped me emotionally to deal and be able to react to some of these kids and some of the problems they’re dealing with,” he added.
‘I’ve Had My Time in the Sun’
Jordan, who once dominated the sports world, now prefers to live his life out of the spotlight.
“I don’t want to be out in front of the camera, I don’t want to be on that stage,” he said. “I had my time in the sun and now I just want to quietly sit over and watch — and when I can help, I can help. But for the most part, I’m just home.”
Jordan’s wife, Yvette Prieto, gave birth to twin girls in February.
Jordan, who has three children from his previous marriage, said fatherhood is a little different this time.
“I can spend more time … I can see a lot of the things. I mean, with my other three kids, they got cheated a little bit because I wasn’t there as much, I was always gone,” he said. “And now I’m trying to play catch-up for them and be there for them whenever they need it.”
With his twin infants, Jordan says he’s been “given a second opportunity to be able to influence a kid from a very young age, my own kid. And I’m learning but I’m having fun. I’m certainly inspired each and every day.
“I can never have a bad day, going home and seeing these kids who have no clue about anything I’ve done in the past.”