Michael Jordan‘s time in the league was the stuff of legends. He shot for 32,292 points, he’s 3rd on the all-time scoring list, holds 6 NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls, and was one of the greatest clutch players in history. While Jordan’s on the court success is the stuff of legend, his business success is not far behind. #23 has earned millions in salary, endorsements, real estate and business holdings, and partnerships with NBA franchises. However, MJ’s biggest business asset may be his shoes, the Air Jordans. The Nike Air Jordan I, ‘Notorious’, was first used by Jordan in 1984, released to the public in 1985 and quickly gained popularity right alongside of its namesake. The importance of owning a pair of Jordan’s for the average teenager is the equivalent of the Rolex for the wealthy businessman. It’s a status thing that earns respect and envy. It is about being the best and flaunting it, much like Michael himself.
For the average Joe, a basketball shoe is simply a basketball shoe. One puts it on, laces it up, and gets onto the court, but Air Jordans are a bit different, they’re more special. People have said that basketball is not a sport, it’s a culture, and the same can be said for Air Jordans. These kicks live comfortably both on and off the court. People buy them in certain colors to match with certain outfits. They are priced on the higher end, which itself brings a feeling of quality and richness. They are created with cutting edge designs and flamboyant styling, and are often kept as clean as the day they first came out of the box. They are fashion and function combined, worn by arguably the greatest basketball athlete, personality, and businessman of all time. These are Air Jordans.
8. Believe it or not, Jordans Were Not the First Basketball Shoe
Prior to the 1960’s, it was all about Converse and the Chuck Taylor All Star basketball shoe. They only came in black and white, everyone in the league wore them, and you were nobody on the streets of NYC if you did not have a pair in your repertoire. They were a very basic shoe that by today’s technological standards did not offer much in the way of performance, but they were the only shoe on the market. In, 1969, Adidas snuck in with their ‘Superstar’ basketball shoe, and it wasn’t until the 1980’s when Nike debuted the Air Force 1.
7. Nike Air Jordans Almost Didn’t Happen
The two prominent basketball shoe companies at the time were Converse and Adidas. Nike was still a relatively new company, that was known for its running shoe and not much else. They weren’t on top of the market in any sense and were looking for a ‘game changer’ to help take them to the next level. Along comes one Michael Jordan, a young standout that Nike felt was the answer to their sales woes. According to sources, “Michael agreed to fly to the Nike headquarters in Portland, Oregon to view a special video presentation and proposal. Michael would later agree that he went with no intention of signing a contract with Nike”. However, the future Hall of Famer was swayed by a moving video presentation and would later admit that he did want the deal; the rest is history.
6. Who Designed the First Jordans?
Many people would like to believe that athletes and celebrities who endorse products are actually involved in their design and production, but this is rarely the case. Generally speaking, endorsers are lending a face and a reputation to help promote the product. In the beginning, this was no different with Michael Jordan in his partnership with Nike. Peter Moore was the actual Nike designer responsible for the design and creation of the original Air Jordan 1 in 1985. In regards to the first Jordan 1, Tinker Hatfield, the man who would work with Jordan on later designs stated that, “The first one wasn’t even designed for Michael. It was a shoe that was already in the basketball line that had been re-colored with the “wings” logo stuck on it”. However, all of that would change by the time of the third installment in the Air Jordan franchise. Speaking of his collaboration with Michael on the Jordan III shoe, Tinker Hatfield states, “I wanted him to think like he was a designer on the project, an equal part of the team”. Tinker continues, “He was able to speak on a very high level about inspiration, performance, and his own personal interests…I remember listening to him and thinking to myself, this is going to be great.”
5. The Original Air Jordans were Banned by the NBA
The National Basketball Association pre-Jordan era was quite different from the NBA that we know and love today. While the hard court game was becoming very popular, it had a long way to go to compete with other sports like baseball and football. The NBA was not as much about flash. There were the big dunks of course, and it was fast paced, but there was still an air of conservatism to it. Something that remained for decades were the plain white basketball shoes that were the norm of the league. However, this would all change with the presence of one Michael Jeffrey Jordan and his new Nike Air Jordans with the very brash black and red color scheme. The National Basketball Association was so taken aback by this affront, that they immediately took action. According to sources, “The NBA banned the shoe from the league in response, but Jordan wore them anyway, racking up serious fines of up to $5000 a game. Nike, of course, was more than happy to pay these to keep the shoes on Jordan’s feet and in the public eye. All this controversy and Jordan’s spectacular numbers that year served to put the Air Jordan line on the road to becoming a household name.”
4. The “Dunkman”
Back in the 1990’s, Shaquille O Neal came out with his affordable #34 Dunkman basketball shoes in response to a mother who complained to him that she could not afford to buy her son Air Jordan’s. The Sun Sentinel reported, “O’Neal wears his own brand on the court, but his performance shoes previously have not been for sale. That will change on Dec. 1, when O’Neal’s first performance Dunkman shoe will be available at Payless ShoeSource for $39.99 for men and $24.99 for kids”. However, while they were beneficial for all of the mothers who wanted their child to have some nice kicks, no-one was ever arrested for rioting at the latest release of the new #34 Dunkman.
3. People are Robbed for Their Jordans
“The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said a young man, 22, was shot Dec. 21 as he tried to escape armed robbers who wanted the newly released Air Jordan XI “Bred” sneakers he had purchased earlier in the day. The shoes retail for about $185.” It is a difficult task to speculate as to why young men are robbed, assaulted, or even murdered over their Air Jordans. One thing is for sure, neither Michael Jordan nor his prized basketball shoes are to blame. Air Jordans are a representation of status, wealth, and success and so make a desirable target for those who would already commit crimes. It doesn’t make this kind of story any less sad.
We can no more blame rioting on Michael Jordan and his shoes than we can blame robberies on Michael Jordan and his shoes. In 2012, some not so scrupulous groups decided that the whole Christmas spirit thing was overrated. According to USA Today, “The release of the $180 Air Jordan XI shoe before Christmas caused a riot at a mall in Indianapolis, fights in Seattle and a stabbing in Jersey City.”
It was also this wonderful Christmas cheer that led other areas of the country to follow suit. The Daily News also reported that, “The highly anticipated release of the Nike brand’s new design, the Gamma Blue 11, sparked brawls in shoe stores from California to the Bronx as customers battled each other to buy the $170 sneakers”.
While the general public loves a good scapegoat for all of this unruliness, Michael Jordan and Nike are only in the business of playing good basketball, and selling good basketball shoes. The riot mentality is basic; if a group wants something desperately, and the supplier does not make enough of the product available, then conflict can occur. Once conflict begins to build, it builds quickly and thus the riot is born.
1. Other Athletes Wear Jordans
Air Jordan’s are not just for Mike. As a testament to the quality and popularity of the shoe, and the reliability of the brand, Jordans have crossed over to not only other basketball players, but also baseball players, football players, and even NASCAR drivers! Forbes states, “Nike signed up current NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, as well as non-NBAer’s like Derek Jeter and Nascar’s Denny Hamlin”. This demonstrates that the Air Jordan franchise has grown beyond Michael Jordan and taken on a life of its own, helping to build on an entirely different fan base and to be part of the creation of new legends.