Michael Jordan signed with Nike after getting drafted by the Chicago Bulls and got his own signature shoe. The shoes were called Air Jordans, and they became the biggest hit of the late ’80s and the entire ’90s.
Jordan’s shoes were so popular that several NBA players wore them, even when they played against the Bulls superstar. When MJ saw other players wearing his shoes, he had a savage message for them.
Michael Jordan: Don’t embarrass my shoes
After winning his fourth championship in 1996, Jordan was asked by SLAM Magazine what he said to players who wore his shoes while playing against him. As expected, His Airness had a classic response.
“I tell them, ‘Don’t embarrass my shoes.’ [I say that to] everybody that wears ’em,” Jordan said.
During his Hall of Fame career, Jordan was a vicious trash-talker and rarely said anything nice to his opponents. While he may have appreciated his rivals wearing his shoes, he certainly wasn’t going to let them know that since he wanted to maintain a competitive advantage.
Thanks to Nike, Jordan has built a brand empire. However, if it weren’t for his mom, Black Jesus would have never signed with them.
Michael Jordan didn’t want to sign with Nike
Jordan wore Adidas shoes at UNC and was a big fan of their sneakers. However, his agent, David Falk of ProServ, knew that Adidas was too dysfunctional for his client.
Converse was the official shoe of the NBA when Jordan entered the league, so Falk was hoping they would offer the Bulls guard a deal and a signature shoe. However, they already had several high-profile players, including Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Bernard King, Larry Bird, and Isiah Thomas, and weren’t prepared to make a shoe specifically for Jordan.
Nike was an upstart company in the late ’80s, and Falk felt they were the perfect brand for Jordan. However, the All-Star had no interest in meeting with Nike at their campus, so Falk was forced to call in the big guns. He told Jordan’s parents that their son was making a mistake by not meeting with Nike and Jordan’s mom convinced her child to get on a plane to Oregon.
Nike had a sensational pitch for Jordan, and Jordan’s father told his son he would have been a fool for not taking the deal. The Bulls star signed an endorsement deal with Nike, and his first shoe was called Air Jordan 1.
Bulls legend has arguably most popular sneakers of all time
In episode 5 of The Last Dance docuseries, Falk said Nike expected to sell $3 million worth of Air Jordans by the end of year four. In year one, Nike sold around $126 million.
According to Forbes, Nike has paid Jordan an estimated $1.3 billion since 1984. In 2019, the six-time champion earned an estimated $130 million from Nike, four times as much as LeBron James, who has the biggest shoe deal among active NBA players.
The Jordan brand helped the Bulls icon become a billionaire. He has a net worth of around 2.1 billion in 2021, and that number will only increase moving forward since the Jordan brand shows no signs of slowing down.