Everybody wanted to be like Mike, and that was not lost on Nike. The Jordan brand eventually secured a monopoly on shoes for the NBA, and now players like the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and the Pelicans’ Zion Williamson rep the sneakers on the court. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

In his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.4 steals per game earning him Rookie of the Year in 1985. But, Jordan had another successful rookie season with the release of his shoe line Air Jordans. Despite Nike projecting that the shoe sales would amount to just $3 million after four years, the sportswear company sold $126 million worth of Air Jordans in its first year.

“Before their arrival, sneakers were just something you threw on to play sports or do yard work. Now, we put on Jordans to elevate our style and fashion, and God forbid someone steps on your foot and scuffs them.”

To put it simply, Air Jordans changed the game. Before their arrival, sneakers were just something you threw on to play sports or do yard work. Now, we put on Jordans to elevate our style and fashion, and God forbid someone steps on your foot and scuffs them.

These kicks gained Nike success that it might not have otherwise achieved, and Jordan nearly declined the endorsement. Although Converse was the shoe of choice for NBA stars like Magic Johnson, Dr. J and Larry Bird, Jordan was keen on teaming up with Adidas. During this time, Nike was primarily known for its track shoes, and competitors, like Adidas, were generating more revenue.

In 1984, his agent encouraged him to consider Nike for an endorsement, but Jordan was dead set against meeting with them. Ultimately, his mother ordered him to at least go hear what they had to say. The company offered Jordan $500,000 for five years, which was

Bullet highlights of Michael Jordan's business moves

Despite Nike projecting that the shoe sales would amount to just $3 million after four years, the sportswear company sold $126 million worth of Air Jordans in its first year. (Courtesy of unsplash)

more than any other NBA player received for a sneaker deal at the time, and his father told him he would be a fool not to take the deal. Jordan surrendered his Adidas preference, and thus, the Air Jordan was born.

Everybody wanted to be like Mike, and that was not lost on Nike. The Jordan brand eventually secured a monopoly on shoes for the NBA, and now players like the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum and the Pelicans’ Zion Williamson rep the sneakers on the court.

Interestingly enough, when Jordan first took the court with his vibrant red and black Air Jordan 1’s, he was fined $5,000 for breaking the NBA’s strict uniform rules. The league required players to sport matching shoes, and those shoes had to be predominantly white. Nike resisted the frivolous regulation and decided to foot the bill for any fines Jordan was penalized with for wearing the shoes. The company capitalized on this defiance by advertising the shoes under the name “Banned.” In later years, Nike

Before their arrival, sneakers were just something you threw on to play sports or do yard work. Now, we put on Jordans to elevate our style and fashion, and God forbid someone steps on your foot and scuffs them. (Courtesy of unsplash)

created shoes that complied with the regulations, but rightfully, in 2018, the NBA lifted all color restrictions for sneakers.

Thirty-four mainline releases later, Jordan has earned approximately $1.3 billion from Nike, and thanks to his 5% share of royalties, the all star made $130 million in 2020. To put this figure into perspective, LeBron James earns $30 million a year from his sneaker deal with Nike.

In 2020, the Jordan Brand made over $3 billion in revenue for Nike, and if history repeats itself the brand will only continue to rack up more dollars in sales.

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