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Michael Jordan hasn’t played basketball against NBA competition since he retired in 2003. Despite that, Michael Jordan is blowing away the competition like Steph Curry and LeBron James when it comes to shoe deals and it’s not even close. What’s more impressive, Jordan makes more money annually from his deal with Nike than the highest paid athlete in the world makes in total earnings.

Michael Jordan’s initial shoe deal 

In 1984-85, Michael Jordan’s rookie season, he was a fan of Adidas shoes. Unfortunately for Jordan and Adidas, the shoe company wasn’t prepared to develop a shoe tailored to Jordan’s needs. 

Jordan’s agent, David Falk, recommended that they explore other opportunities. They visited with Converse first. Converse represented big stars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Dr. J, and Mark Aguirre. Michael Jordan liked the shoes, but his father was looking to the future and asked if they had any new innovative ideas. They didn’t.

Up next was a visit to a company in the Pacific Northwest, Nike, which had been known for its track shoes, but was interested in working with Jordan. Jordan initially refused to meet with Nike. After some urging from his parents, Jordan relented, and the family and Falk visited Nike’s offices in Oregon. 

After lengthy negotiations, Nike signed Jordan to a deal that would pay him $500,000 per year for five years. The numbers were astronomical. No other athlete was even close. The previous highest-paying contract belonged to James Worthy with New Balance, which was an eight-year deal worth $150,000 a year.

Air Jordans hit the market and are a huge success

In October 1984, before Air Jordans were available to the public, the NBA banned the shoes because they weren’t mostly white and they didn’t have a uniform color scheme. Nike paid the fines, then proceeded to make a commercial focusing on the ban. In March 1985, the shoes were available in stores nationwide selling for an expensive price of $65 a pair. 

The Michael Jordan shoes flew off the shelves as the Chicago rookie flew through the NBA averaging 28.2 points per game and earning Rookie of the Year honors. By May, just three months after their first release, Nike had sold $70 million in shoes. By the end of 1985, Air Jordans had generated more than $100 million in revenue.

Since the launch of the Air Jordan franchise in 1985, it hasn’t slowed down. In 2012, the brand sold $2.5 billion worth in retail and made up 58 percent of all basketball shoes sold in the U.S. and 77 percent of basketball shoes for kids.

Jordan makes $130 million a year from shoes

Today, 17 years after retirement, the Air Jordan brand is as strong as ever. In 2018-19, the brand generated $3.14 billion in revenue, a 10 percent increase over the previous year, and a record year for the brand. 

According to Forbes, Jordan pulls in $130 million annually from his shoe deal with Nike. Despite being retired and out of the spotlight since 2003, Jordan’s deal is worth more than double the contracts for the two current biggest names in basketball in LeBron James and Steph Curry.

Curry has a deal with Under Armour for $20 million per year, and James, who has a lifetime contract with Nike for $32 million a year. To put it in even more perspective, Jordan receives more annually from his shoe deal than Lionel Messi receives in total earnings (salary and endorsements) at $127 million. Messi is the world’s highest-paid athlete.

Some may debate who the GOAT is on the court, but there is no doubt who the GOAT is off the court when it comes to shoe contracts.