The Michael Jordan Doppelgänger Suit

February 5, 2016 | J. Price McNamara
The Michael Jordan Doppelgänger Suit

Today, in a continuation of our frivolous lawsuit series, we’re going to dive deeper into the “Superstar Mistaken Identity Case.” The case began in 2006, when a Portland Oregon native, Allen Heckard, tried to sue Michael Jordan and Nike. You’d think a personal injury case against Nike and Michael Jordan would have something to do with a twisted ankle playing basketball in Air Jordans. After all, there were a few successful suits for people who suffered from Sketcher shape-up shoe injuries. Amazingly, this case has nothing to do with shoes or physical injury.

A Litigious Lookalike Case

Heckard filed a lawsuit, because he was sick and tired of people mistaking him for Michael Jordan. Apparently, he had people saying they looked alike left and right. Most people would love this kind of attention and would milk it for all it was worth. Not Heckard, though – in fact, he was so tired of being mistaken as the basketball superstar that he sued Jordan for defamation, permanent injury, and emotional pain and suffering. You might be wondering what Nike has to do with the suit? Heckard claimed that Nike sabotaged his life, because they were the company that made Jordan so famous. According to Heckard, the pain and suffering inflicted by Jordan and Nike will follow him for the rest of his life. He also blamed Nike and Jordan for negatively impacting his “lifestyle.” He claimed that he continually dealt with public harassment that aggravated his already shot nerves. Supposedly, this public harassment followed him for the last 15 years, making him miserable. According to Heckard, the emotional stress from being Jordan’s doppelgänger made it hard for him to work. Somehow it also made it impossible for him to capitalize proper nouns or use the possessive form of nouns. He was so distressed that he sued for the not-so-humble amount of $832 million. He wanted $416 a piece from Jordan and Nike. While not the most sensible claim in the world, when it came down to it, Heckard and Jordan did look alike – sort of. They’re both African-American males with shaved heads and one earring. Ironically, Heckard also liked to wear Air Jordans. Nonetheless, these similarities are too vague to be uncanny. Heckard was also 50 pounds lighter, six inches shorter, and eight years older than Jordan. He’s also not as good at basketball. Okay, so maybe Heckard and Jordan didn’t look that alike. Maybe Heckard could’ve saved himself a lot of emotional distress, if he took his earring out and changed his shoes.

Why This Case Wasn't a Slam Dunk

This case was finished before it was ever started. Heckard paid a $206 fee to file his lawsuit and never got a lawyer to represent him in court. When asked how he arrived at the amount of $832 million for compensation, he responded with “you figure with my age and you multiply that by seven and, ah, then I turn around and, ah, I figure that’s what it all boils down to.” He doesn’t make much sense in his response, but then again, the entire suit also didn’t make much sense. When asked what he hated about being mistaken for Michael Jordan, he responded with “I want to be recognized as me, just like Michael’s recognized as Michael.” We can empathize with why this would be annoying. Any younger sibling knows how annoying it is to be identified as “so-and-so’s younger brother," and can relate tp this sentiment. But most people are logical enough to see this as an annoyance and not an emotional distress.

What Do We Learn from the Doppelgänger Case?

This case is so out in left field that there's a good chance that Heckard was suffering from some sort of emotional pain or mental illness. He just didn’t realize that his problems weren't caused by Nike and Michael Jordan, and they were probably caused by a personality disorder. In fact, it’s not uncommon for these litigious lawsuits to be filed by people suffering from personality disorders. Oftentimes, people with personality disorders are attracted to quarrels and will try to use the legal system as a means to sustain conflict. In Heckard’s case, he picked a squabble with the wrong celebrity. The case ended up drawing more attention to himself, which was where his "emotional distress" stemmed from in the first place. Only in the end, the spotlight wasn’t on his physical appearance, it was on his silliness. There’s a small possibility that Heckard would’ve been taken more seriously, if he’d found an attorney willing to take his case. Nonetheless, most attorneys would know that his case is a stretch. It’s easy to spot groundless lawsuits, which is why your legitimate personal injury will stand out in the legal system.
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J. Price McNamara


Losing my own brother, then my father and sister after long, disabling illnesses just a few months apart drove a career change for me. Before that experience, I never truly understood the place you’re in. I never understood the dramatic impact that receiving (or not receiving) the disability and life insurance benefits you paid for and counted on can have on your life especially when you need to focus on family and healing. What I experienced with my own family now drives the way I view my clients and my work, and I will never forget it!

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