Last night, sports and entertainment stars including Michael Jordan, Aaron Rodgers, Bruce Jenner, Nick Jonas, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Pablo Galavis & Nikki Ferrell, Boyz II Men, Josh Freeman, Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Adrian Young, among dozens of others, gathered at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas for the 13th Annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Celebration.
The star-studded annual gala marked a night of celebration kicking off the two days of exclusive celebrity golf competition at Shadow Creek in the name of charitable fundraising. Also in attendance was eight-year-old Lucas, a Make-A-Wish “wish kid” who fulfilled his dream of meeting MJ earlier in the day. Lucas received celebrity treatment, following celebrities including Jesse Williams, Alan Thicke, Brandi Chastain, Gretchen Rossi, Slade Smiley, Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, Mario Umansky, Chris Chelios, Brian Baumgartner, Flex Alexander, Mike Piazza and many more, down the red carpet as dozens of cameras flashed away.
Jordan sat front row and center at a table by the stage, alongside pals including Ahmad Rashad and Stuart Scott. Bill Cramsey, ARIA’s Executive Director of National Marketing, introduced the tournament host and welcomed him to the stage, crediting MJ’s celebrity invitational tournament for the role it has played in the success of the resort itself.
Jordan welcomed guests to the gala and thanked ARIA, Shadow Creek, sponsors and volunteers for their time and service. Jordan also thanked all of his friends for taking the time out of their busy schedules to attend the tournament, reminding them that it’s not for him, but for the many people who receive support from the benefiting charities each year. He encouraged fellow celebs to find “wish kid” Lucas at the gala – telling the crowd how much fun they had together at the course and explaining that Lucas, and the many other children whose lives have been touched throughout MJCI’s thirteen years, are the true inspiration for holding events such as the celebration gala.
The celebrities and VIPs enjoyed an evening of entertainment hosted by magician, comedian, actor and television personality Justin Willman, a regular guest on The Tonight Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Chelsea Lately and host of Cupcake Wars.
Willman had the audience in stitches as he pulled Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and former NFL halfback Jerome Bettis on stage for several magic tricks through his standup routine.
The gala’s headlining performer and GRAMMY Award-winning artist T-Pain brought the crowd to their feet as he launched his energetic set with hit song “Good Life” and thrilling the crowd with performances of some of his most famous collaborations including Jaime Foxx’s “Blame It,” Lil Wayne’s “Got Money,” Rick Ross’ “The Boss” and Flo Rida’s six-time, multi-platinum “Low,” among others.
Stars took to the dance floor to dance the night away, including actress Janet Jones-Gretzky who was spotted breaking it down to “Black And Yellow” alongside Alan Thicke’s wife and actress Tanya Callau.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and innovator of funk George Clinton surprised the crowd by joining T-Pain on stage for superstar collaboration of T-Pain and Maino’s 2009 hit, “All The Above.”
The legendary funk performer was next joined on stage by his band Parliament-Funkadelic to deliver signature songs “Bring The Funk,” “Flashlight” and more. Clinton, who has been performing for more than 50 years, put on an epic set, stepping off the stage and into the crowd numerous times to invigorate the dance floor and boogie with guests. The band jammed a continuous set featuring live saxophone, drums, soulful backup vocals and electric guitars and bases.
The celebration continued late into the night, as the ballroom transformed into a popup nightclub.
Photo Credit: Isaac Brekken/Ethan Miller