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Before future Hall of Famer Michael Jordan joined the NBA, he was a promising college prospect with three years under his belt at North Carolina. This put him in line to earn a lucrative endorsement deal before he went pro.

Jordan had an opportunity to sign with any brand. But he chose to ink a multi-year contract with Nike, and the rest is history. However, his heart lay with the chance to work with Adidas, who passed on him for a ridiculous reason.

Michael Jordan wanted to sign with Adidas

Before the 1984 NBA Draft, Jordan was widely perceived as a lock for one of the top selections in the draft order. This gave him the chance to receive a significant offer from prominent apparel companies like Converse, Adidas, and Nike. Each had their shot at courting Jordan, but it was clear the North Carolina product wanted to ink a deal with Adidas.

The future superstar had a strong affinity for the company he believed was the premiere brand. He was dead set on working out an endorsement contract with Adidas. Things didn’t work out as Jordan wanted, all due to Adidas’ strong stance on his stature.

Adidas thought Michael Jordan was too short

Jordan and his agent David Falk spoke with Adidas about a potential pairing, but there wasn’t significant interest in adding him to their roster of athletes. According to the Wall Street Journal, company executives in Germany believed customers thought he was too short. Adidas wanted to sponsor centers.

A University of North Carolina basketball star named Michael Jordan wanted a sponsorship deal with Adidas when he went professional, say people familiar with the matter.

Adidas distributors wanted to sign Mr. Jordan, says someone who was an Adidas distributor then. But executives in Germany decided shoppers would favor taller players and wanted to sponsor centers, the person says, adding: ‘We kept saying, ‘No — no one can relate to those guys. Who can associate with a seven-foot-tall guy?”

Adidas had Los Angeles Lakers star center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar under contract as their primary NBA client. They were also unwilling to provide him his own shoe line entering the league.

Although it was a crushing blow for Jordan, it did open the door to what turned out to be one of the best decisions of his life, earning him north of $1 billion and counting.

Nike takes advantage of the situation

With Adidas dropping the ball in negotiations, Nike stepped in to make one of the biggest decisions in company history.

There was hesitation from Jordan. But he took the meeting with the company after some push from his mother. It worked out tremendously in his favor as he signed a multi-year deal worth $250,000 that included a shoe deal to have his own line.

That opened the door for Jordan to have his personal brand, which has taken off tremendously since 1984. The company has become arguably the most recognizable sports apparel business globally, worth nearly $30 billion.

Meanwhile, Jordan has continued to rake in a boatload of endorsement cash over the years. That saw him earn $130 million from Nike in 2019, more than four times what LeBron James received over that span. The entire process may not have unfolded as he initially hoped, but it worked out in his favor.


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