The original Jumpman wasn’t Michael Jordan; it was Mario! But the name didn’t stick because it wasn’t marketable enough according to Minoru Arakawa, Nintendo’s American boss in the early 1980s. Luckily, he got some outside inspiration.
From the Economist:
“His name was an afterthought. Top billing on the game was always going to go to the gorilla. (“Kong”, in the context, was more or less a given; “Donkey” was found by consulting a Japanese-English dictionary for a word meaning silly or stupid.) The protagonist was simply called “Jumpman” for the one thing he was good at. But Minoru Arakawa, the boss of Nintendo in America, wanted a more marketable name. Around that time, writes David Sheff in “Game Over”, an authoritative account of Nintendo’s rise, Mr Arakawa was visited at Nintendo’s warehouse outside Seattle by an irate landlord demanding prompt payment. He was called Mario Segale, and he had a moustache. Thus does destiny call.”
By 1990, the pudgy plumber who gained energy from mushroom fluff became more recognizable than Mickey Mouse. And if the lost hat from a Halloween costume I found on the street yesterday morning is any proof, Mario is still king!