Michael Jordan and Nike are almost as inseparable as peanut butter and jelly, but that wasn’t always the case. That’s one of the attractions for a rare pair of Jordan’s sneakers up for auction through Sotheby’s beginning later this month.
The sneakers in question are from Jordan’s time with USA Basketball during the 1984 Olympic trials, shortly after he played his third and final season at the University of North Carolina. Nike was still a relatively new player on the sports footwear stage, and another, more established brand had secured the rights as the official shoe for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Sotheby’s expects Jordan’s old kicks, which bear his autograph on both shoes, to command a pretty good price for a pair of slightly used basketball shoes. But it’s almost hard to imagine Michael Jordan not being in Nikes.
Michael Jordan signed with Nike as an NBA rookie
After the Olympics in LA, Michael Jordan began negotiating his rookie deal with the Chicago Bulls, who had selected him third overall in the 1984 NBA draft. In those days, professionals couldn’t participate in the Olympics. Even signing a professional contract before collecting any money was enough to render a player ineligible.
Jordan’s initial deal with Nike led to the iconic Air Jordan sneakers. That later morphed into the Jordan Brand. And those deals have been good for Jordan — incredibly good. He’s personally made more than $1.3 billion, and the Jordan Brand’s valuation is more than $3 billion.
But Jordan didn’t wear Nikes while he played at North Carolina. Instead, he was in Converse during his three seasons in Chapel Hill. And Nikes weren’t in the lockers for the 1984 Games, nor were they available for the trials leading up to the Olympics.
‘The Official Athletic Shoe of the 1984 Olympic Games’
When the group of 72 players arrived at Indiana University in April 1984 to begin forming the team USA Basketball took to the LA Games, the shoes in each locker were Converse. Nike had made inroads, particularly in the college game, by paying coaches to use their shoes.
Michael Jordan headlined the field of players as he was the consensus National Player of the Year in 1984 at North Carolina. There were 69 other collegiate stars and two high schoolers, including future star Danny Manning.
Three of the 1984 Olympic team players went on to play with the famed Dream Team in Barcelona in 1992. Along with Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin played in the 1992 Games.
In 2017, Jordan’s shoes from the gold-medal victory over Spain went for $190,373, according to The Washington Post. This time around, Sotheby’s is estimating a purchase price of between $80,000 and $100,000 for the shoes Jordan wore at the trials.
Michael Jordan led the 1984 U.S. team to the last gold medal won by collegians
With Michael Jordan leading the way, USA Basketball rolled to the gold medal in LA. Their closest contest was in the quarterfinals in a 78–67 win over West Germany. Team USA went 8–0 in the tournament, including a perfect 5–0 in the group stage.
They finished with a 78–59 semifinal win over Canada and a 96–65 thumping of Spain. The players who didn’t make the roster for LA are possibly more interesting than some of the ones who did.
Among the cuts were Dream Teamers Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and John Stockton. The only future NBA All-Star on the team aside from Jordan, Ewing, and Mullin was Arkansas guard Alvin Robertson.
Indiana’s Steve Alford was on the team as a 19-year-old. (It had nothing to do with Bob Knight being the coach, right?) He was the youngest member of Team USA in LA. Everyone on the roster spent some time in the NBA after being drafted in the first round.
The rest of the team included Vern Fleming, Joe Kleine, Jon Koncak, Sam Perkins, Wayman Tisdale, Jeff Turner, and Leon Wood.
The 1988 team was the last time the U.S. used amateur players. That group, coached by Georgetown legend John Thompson, won the bronze medal. Future Dream Teamer David Robinson led the squad. The Seoul Games marked the first time USA Basketball did not make the gold-medal game.
After that, the Dream Team was born, and Michael Jordan led a new group to Olympic gold. But this time around, he did so in Nikes.
Information courtesy of USA Basketball.