KEY POINTS

  • Nike launched the "Air Jordan" in 1985
  • Michael Jordan wanted an Adidas deal back in his rookie year
  • Nike had three conditions Jordan needed to fulfill as part of the contract

Nike's Jordan Brand, named after all-time basketball great Michael Jordan, is one of the most successful ventures of the sports company.

Even amidst a global pandemic, the footwear line recorded a 15% revenue increase to $3.6 billion for 2020, assisted by the Netflix documentary "The Last Dance" and the Chinese market, Forbes noted.

Always interesting is the fact that Jordan did not even want a shoe deal for Nike during his rookie year in the NBA.

A piece by ESPN's Darren Rovell shed more light on how Nike landed the superstar and made an unlikely partnership that is now unbreakable.

Growing up an Adidas fan, Jordan had his eyes set on wearing the German brand, but the 1980s wasn't a good financial time for the shoe brand.

Converse also had a $100,000 pitch for Jordan, though it would have been difficult to offer him more as the decade's basketball stars such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Julius Erving were all under contract.

Then came Nike, a rising star in the industry during those years. In his 2020 documentary, the Chicago Bulls legend even bared almost refusing a meeting with Nike until he was convinced by his mother Deloris to consider even just listening to their pitch.

He simply had no interest in the shoe company. But Nike gambled and offered the six-time champion $500,000 for five years, which would swell to about $7 million including other parts of the deal.

It was a ridiculous amount at the time and a risk that would have backfired otherwise.

Nike added three major contract stipulations that Jordan had to fulfill in order to keep the deal: win Rookie of the Year, become an All-Star, and average 20 points a game.

If Jordan wasn't able to accomplish one within his first three years, the deal will be cut short.

As a counter-offer, Jordan's team asked if the star's ability to generate sales would be a good enough bargaining chip.

Nike challenged a $4-million shoe sale by Jordan's third year in the league.

In 1985, when the Air Jordans were released, Nike made $70 million worth. He won Rookie of the Year honors, averaged 28.2 ppg, and became an All-Star the following year.

Jordan Brand became one of the most famous shoe lines until now—a staple in popular culture that has made its mark.

In hindsight, it's always funny how it almost never happened.

Basketball player Michael Jordan's sneakers, worn during his 1984-1985 debut season, are the star items of the sale Basketball player Michael Jordan's sneakers, worn during his 1984-1985 debut season, are the star items of the sale Photo: AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI