NBA legend Michael Jordan to fund middle school athletics programs in Charlotte, N.C.

Michael Jordan and the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats will announce a $250,000 donation Monday to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system to help fund middle-school athletics programs this academic year.

Jordan, an NBA legend who made a fortune with his basketball skills and marketing savvy, bought the Charlotte Bobcats this spring. At the time, he talked of the importance of making the franchise an active contributor within the Charlotte community.

Budget cuts, including the school system's elimination of $1.25 million — the entire budget — for middle school athletics, brought an opportunity to do just that, Jordan told the Observer.

"We investigated the situation. We looked for ways to help middle schools and this was one of the options presented to us. We took it because of the impact on middle schools and giving them the opportunity to play sports and as motivation for education as well," Jordan said.

School officials had announced this summer a pay-to-play plan for middle-school and high-school athletes, intended to prevent middle-school athletics from being eliminated.

The fees, $50 to play middle-school athletics and $100 for high-school athletics, were imposed to help fund the shortfall. But they won't come close to covering the $1.25 million cost of the programs, CMS athletics director Vicki Hamilton said.

There are 32 middle schools in CMS, with teams in 13 sports and involving about 6,500 students.

Students in free or reduced-cost lunch programs — for which more than half of CMS students qualify — are exempted from paying the participation fee.

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