The complex negotiation of the first half of the 80s between a then little-known clothing company and a university basketball player who was preparing his leap into NBA is the texture axis of airthe film directed by Ben Affleck which made its debut this Thursday in Argentina and which reconstructs the first steps of a bond that changed the history of sportswear and which cluttered up various current accounts: the one that united Michael Jordan with Nike.
That three-way dispute began in early 1984, when Jordan was closing out his cycle at the University of North Carolina (he had played three seasons there and won the NCAA national championship in 1982) and was preparing to be one of the most coveted youngsters for the NBA Draft which would take place in June of that year and in which he would be selected in third place by Chicago Bulls.
At that time, not only was the perceived basketball potentialbut also the commercial potential of the escort But this was the accusation against him by the two main sportswear companies of the time: adidaswhich was also a reference in urban fashion, e conversewhich since the 70s was the queen of the NBA and had in its ranks the two most important players of that time, magical johnson AND Larry Bird.
Nike, which was founded in 1964 by Phil Knight, a young University of Oregon athlete, and his coach, Bill Bowerman, who each contributed $500 to start a company that was initially called Blue Ribbon Sports. Two decades after its genesis, the brand was looking for a figure to reposition itself. The chosen one was Jordan. The initial problem was that the player seemed to have made a different decision.
in the documentary The Last Dance, Jordan revealed that his desire was to sign a contract with Adidas. But one of his aspirations was to have an exclusive shoe model, which was not so frequent at the time and which neither the German company nor Converse could guarantee. Then Nike appeared. “We wanted to convince him that this still young company was capable of doing something that had never been done before,” said Sonny Vaccaro, the executive who led the management and who in air is played by Matt Damon.
Vaccaro and Jordan first met in mid-1984 in Los Angeles, where the shooting guard was playing the United States team at the Olympic Games where the North American team would win the gold medal. The executive’s risk bet was to allocate the two million dollars that Nike had planned to sign young players to a single talent.
From that first meeting came the proposal to hold an extended meeting at the company’s headquarters in Beaverton (Oregon). However, one day before embarking on the flight that would cross the country from east to west, Jordan (embodied as air Of Damian Delano Young) stood up: he did not want to participate in the conclave. Era Delorishis mother (played in the film by Viola Davis), the one in charge of convincing him. “He told me: ‘Even if you don’t like them, you will listen to them,'” said the former player The Last Dance.
Eventually he made his way to Beaverton and participated in the meeting, even if with little interest. Instead, it was his family who sensed that there was a huge opportunity there, mostly because of a clause that included the draft proposal: the player would receive 5% of his shoe line’s annual sales. “After the meeting, my father told me I must be crazy not to accept. It was the best deal” Jordan recalled, who ended up saying yes.
His NBA debut came on October 26, 1984, in a game the Bulls won 109-93 at Old Chicago Stadium against the Washington Bullets. That night, in which he added 16 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals, wore a pair of white Nike sneakers with red details that went up for auction in October 2021 and for which a collector paid $1.47 million.
His first exclusive model, the famous red and black Air Jordan I, came to light at the end of 1984, began to be marketed in 1985, recorded sales that year for 126 million dollars and had several reissues. Many others followed that design which facilitated a renewal practically year after year, which allowed to increase sales (and profits of the company and the player) even more.
Since that first agreement in 1984, The paths of Jordan and Nike have never separated. The most complicated moment of the link was in 1988, when the first contract was about to expire and the player threatened not to renew it and to sign with Adidas. To prevent the blood from reaching the river, the intervention of the designer Tinker Hatfield was fundamental. His Air Jordan III model and his proposal to break the boundaries of footwear and expand the universe to a line of sportswear ended up convincing the escort.
The alliance has been and continues to be extremely beneficial to both parties. In 2022, Nike had revenues of $46.9 billion, including $5 billion from the Air Jordan brand, and profits of $6.1 billion. Phil Knight, who retired as chairman in June 2016 after 52 years with the company, has an estimated fortune of $46.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, which ranked him 25th in its 2023 billionaires list. .
While, Jordan holds a fortune of 2,000 million dollars (it’s 1516th in the Forbes ranking), who made it the richest athlete in history. During his 15 NBA seasons, he earned a salary of $90 million. and in only two of those seasons was he the highest paid player in the league. However, he received 1,800 million from his sponsors, mainly Nike, who paid him 100 million last year, when he had been retired for almost two decades..
Jason Root is the go-to source for sports coverage at News Rebeat. With a passion for athletics and an in-depth knowledge of the latest sports trends, Jason provides comprehensive and engaging analysis of the world of sports.