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Chicago Bulls

Michael 'Air' Jordan: A marketing, fashion, and sneaker revolution off the court

Michael Jordan not only revolutionised basketball, he also dictated fashion on and off the court and became a sports icon that has continued to reign over the years.

The premiere of the documentary "The Last Dance" made us all remember 'His Airness' and everything that influenced him. He was and is much more than a basketball player.

With the advancement of technology and science that take leaps and bounds every year, Jordan's sneakers were transformed and what happened a few years ago, is no longer today. Jordan's legendary sneakers today would be too heavy to play in for current players, however they became a cultural beacon that still resonate around the world.

How did the deal with Nike happen?

In 1984, there was no social media and television was the primary means of communication at the time Jordan arrived, quickly becoming a global phenomenon.

However, at the time, there were some doubts about Jordan's potential on the court, but after he won the NCAA National Championship and led the United States at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, brands were falling over themselves to endorse the next big thing, at a time when monster sports endorsements/contracts didn't exist, the same way they do today.

Jordan had offers from Converse, Adidas, and Nike in footwear, while McDonald's, Coca Cola, and Chevrolet lined up forhis signature to endorse their products.

Initially, Jordan leaned towards Adidas and when he went to the interview with Converse, he was offered to continue with the same path they took with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, but their aspiration was something more.

David Falk, Jordan's agent was inclined to Nike, but Michael did not even take them into account, so Falk turned to Jordan's parents to try to convince him. "Look, if we're going to represent your son, he has to trust me. I wouldn't ask for this if it wasn't worth it, " Falk told MJ's parents, in an excerpt from Basketball: A Love Story, so they convinced him to take a flight to Oregon.

When he arrived at the Nike offices, they put a video of his highlights from North Carolina and the Olympics with the background song Jump, by The Pointer Sisters. After that conversation with the managers of the brand, came Mike's conviction: "No more meetings. This is it."

But there were different ways to promote the image of Jordan, from sneakers, headbands, sweatbands, shirts, etc. Back then, no basketball player had his own line, as was the case with tennis players.

Falk spoke to his friend Rob Strasser, a former Nike executive, to inform him that if he wanted to sign Jordan, he needed to treat him as a tennis player. "We might consider giving him his own line of shoes and clothes. What do you want to call the line?' Strasser asked Falk. Days later the idea came to call it Air Jordan.

Although they were not 100% convinced, the brand stipulated a clause in the contract that if they did not sell $3 million, they could cancel the contract. Did he succeed? In its first year, it sold $130 million.

A total revolution

The first NBA star to have a sneaker line named after him was Walt "Clyde" Frazier, the two-time NBA champion with the New York Knicks in 1970 and 1973, who wore the 'Puma Clyde'. However, no one sparked a real revolution in this regard until Michael Jordan did so in the 1980s.

All the fuss started when Jordan showed up in a preseason game as a rookie wearing black and red Nike sneakers at Madison Square Garden. That red-black design of the sneakers was quickly banned by the NBA. At the time, league policy stated that the sneakers should match the dress uniform and the teammates' sneakers. That led to a rule, the 51% rule, stating that 51% of a sneaker must be white and still be in line with their teammates (that rule was only lifted in the late 2000s).

That model was not yet called Air Jordan: the banned sneakers took place in October 1984 and the first Air Jordan model went on sale only in 1985, with MJ about to be crowned the Rookie of the Year. The banned sneakers were a prototype, a design of the existing Nike Air Ship. That's the shoe that we see Jordan in during his rookie season, but in white and red.

What Nike did do was create a spectacular promotion around the ban, sparking the rumor that the NBA had banned that shoe because it gave Jordan an advantage over rivals. Enough for kids to think MJ was so athletic thanks to the sneakers. "It's gotta be the shoes", was then the slogan of a Jordan ad with Spike Lee (as Mars Blackmon, from his movie 'She's Gotta Have It') to promote a model of the line.

"When that commercial came out, I said, ' I want to be like Mike,' literally. It was everything to me," Allen Iverson confessed.

The story behind all of this is that MJ wasn't really convinced much by either the Air Jordan I or the Air Jordan II, or that they would succeed with the public. According to designer Tinker Hatfield, in an episode of the Netflix series Abstract, Jordan was unhappy and was going to abandon his contract with Nike.

In the book Showboat, Roland Lazenby said that it was a different reason: Peter Moore, designer of the Air Jordan I and II, explains that he and Rob Strasser, former vice president of Nike, had left the company over differences with co-founder and CEO Phil Knight, who didn't want his company to rely on the marketing of an individual athlete.

Whatever the reason, Nike couldn't allow Jordan to leave - he was already the new NBA megastar, on his way to becoming MVP for the first time. That is why Hatfield was commissioned to take over the Air Jordan III, a model that changed everything within the line: with a more luxurious look, they were the first to have the famous Jumpman logo. They also developed a whole clothing line around the sneakers, something MJ intended and that, according to Moore, was his idea together with Jordan and Strasser. Thus, #23 agreed to stay.

"I love it that Phil Knight thinks I saved Nike," said Hatfield, who chose a mid-height cut for those sneakers, something Jordan was calling for, in addition to innovation with new materials.

At the same time, Hatfield and Jordan weren't always on the same page. "I wanted something different, but sometimes Tinker thought of something extremely different and I said 'no, that's not my style,'" says MJ. With those Air Jordan IIIs, the Bulls' #23 was enshrined as a megastar at the 1988 All-Star Weekend in Chicago.

Today, Hatfield, a former pole vault athlete from the University of Oregon, is still associated with Nike and the line: "Tinker is a mad scientist," Jordan said in Abstract.

"He was pole vaulting and when I was playing basketball it was all about jumping, so it was easy to find that synergy. We complement each other very well. As a team, we were able to create a product that maintains itself. It reached the highest level athletes, who can wear that same shoe about 30 years later. "

Hatfield continued to design the line until the Air Jordan XV arrived, a particularly rare and criticised model that Jordan did not wear on court. They debuted in 1999, with the former Bulls player already retired.

It didn't matter that MJ didn't play anymore. The boom had crossed all limits and Air Jordan was already established as an independent brand of Nike, although it belonged to the company, with different collections of clothing and not only sneakers or clothing exclusively for sports.

Jordan was already a fashion icon, with releases of old models with new color combinations continuing to cause hysteria among collectors, lining up outside stores on release day to buy them.

Still at the top

According to a publication of Forbes magazine, taking into account data from the 2018-19 fiscal year, Michael Jordan, more than 15 years after his last retirement, remains the basketball player who collects the most money thanks to the clothing industry... by a lot.

MJ took home an estimated $130 million that year, $40 million more than he earned financially from all his NBA contracts and $98 million more than LeBron James, who is also contracted to Nike.

The other top-five members were Kevin Durant ($26 million, Nike), Stephen Curry ($20 million, Under Armor) and the late Kobe Bryant ($16 million, Nike).

Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson, the NBA's two biggest stars under 21 today, recently signed contracts with Jordan Brand, heralding a more successful and profitable future for the brand. In the case of the Slovenian, images of his Air Jordan 1 sneaker were recently revealed.

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Air Jordan 1 Mid SE - "Mindfulness" (Luka Dončić )👟🏀🔥 . Como parte del Pack Pregame que Nike lanzará en el mes de Mayo, les compartimos este Jordan 1 Mid Inspirados en el ritual de tranquilidad y modo Zen en el que trata estar antes de los juego el gran Luka Dončić de los Mavericks Dallas. . Este par llegará con un upper en piel blanca, suelas y swoosh mismatch que esto quiere decir que los colores del par izquierdo (Swosh verde y suela morada) son diferentes al del derecho (Swoosh Morado y Suela verde). . Otro gran detalle son las frases en la parte trasera del par que dicen "Breathe & Center" y "Center & Breathe". Este par saldrá el próximo mes y el precio retail será de $125 USD. . #SneakerGameMx #Jordan1 #JunpMan #NikeSportswear #Swoosh #Jordan1 #AirJordan1 #AJ1 #Jordan1Mid #NikeHoops #LosDeLosTenis #SneakerLover #Highsnobiety #HypebeastKicks #IGSneakerCommunity #Kicks #Kicks4Eva #Kicks0l0gy #KicksDaily #HypeBeastKicks #SneakerFreak #Sneaker shouts #SneakerFever #SneakerGame #SneakerLovers #Sneaker #SneakerAddict #ComplexSneakers #HSKicks

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Michael Jordan and the baggy shorts

jordan knicks

We have already discussed what Michael Jordan meant to the sneaker and fashion industry; now we pay respect to perhaps one of his most influential styles: the baggy shorts.

In old photographs or videos of games, NBA shorts barely reached the thigh, looking more like the Daisy Dukes shorts from The Dukes of Hazzard.

As Jordan's career unfolded, he wanted to wear his North Carolina tights underneath, so he asked for long shorts to make him feel more comfortable and they started producing them.

For the 1989-90 season, he rocked the longer shorts and was followed by his teammate, Scottie Pippen. From there, the baggy shorts were here to stay.

"To my knowledge, Michael Jordan is responsible for the long shorts," said David Moore, designer of the Air Jordan I. "He is the person and that's why they started to be worn. He probably doesn't want to talk about the story, but that's the truth.

"It's something that seemed more natural, more comfortable for me. they were great, " Jordan said.

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