We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when.
And on Sunday night, ESPN’s “The Last Dance” gave us the context to everything that went into making Michael Jordan … Michael Jordan Brand.
It’s easy to see athletes as global stars and ambassadors for their sports now, but that level of celebrity didn’t exist until Jordan in the ’90s.
Jordan was everywhere, and still is to a certain degree. And a lot of that has to do with shoes. It’s easy to look at athletes like Maya Moore, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Jayson Tatum, Zion Williamson, and even Derek Jeter, that have been a part of Brand Jordan over the years, but Sunday night showed us how the marriage between Jordan and the brand almost didn’t happen.
With a basketball roster that included Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Mark Aguirre and Bernard King, Converse just didn’t have the bandwidth at the time to add anybody else.
But as always, “Mom knows best,” and after forcing her son to take a meeting with a company that specialized in track shoes, Deloris Jordan wound up being the person that put her son and Nike together, forever.
According to Forbes, Nike has paid Jordan at least $1.3 billion since 1984, as he earned an estimated $130 million from Nike in 2019. His Jordan Brand pulled in $3.1 billion during the fiscal year that ended in May of 2019.
Like Mars Blackmon said, “It’s gotta be the shoes.”
Ironically, Adidas was the company that Jordan originally wanted to sign with, but they couldn’t get a deal done. And after missing out on Jordan, the German apparel company didn’t learn their lesson when they missed out on LeBron James, the man who is the current face of Nike and has a lifetime contract with the Swoosh that’s worth more than a billion dollars.
“I said then, I’ll say until I die, the biggest mistake ever made in corporate America on this sort of a thing, was when Adidas backed out of signing LeBron James. [If] they sign LeBron James, the world changes,” former sports marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro told The Ringer in 2016. Vaccaro was the middleman in the deal and had advised Adidas to offer James $100 million. But when the official offer came in, it was $30 million lower.
“Nike was No. 1 before LeBron. Nike had great players. They always will. They were always No. 1 with the greatest personalities in sports. There’s no question about that. I don’t think that will ever change. My point to you is, [Adidas] could’v