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“Air Jordan Flies Over Boston”: Nike $500,000 Gamble On Michael Jordan Had Howard White Over The Fence Until Iconic Moment

Samir Mehdi

“Air Jordan Flies Over Boston”: Nike $500,000 Gamble On Michael Jordan Had Howard White Over The Fence Until Iconic Moment

Michael Jordan was the crown jewel of the 1984 NBA Draft for Nike. They knew they couldn’t afford him but due to a combined, valiant effort from the likes of Howard White, Sonny Vaccaro, and Phil Knight, Jordan ditched Adidas and Converse for them. MJ received every last penny of the $500,000 he deserved per year and what really sold him on the idea of coming to Nike was the shoe that Peter Moore had designed for him. The name ‘Air Jordan’ was just the icing on the cake that truly stuck with White after a particular moment in his early days.

MJ was slated to join Adidas from the get-go. He had rocked their gear all throughout his time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and only wore Converse during games because UNC was a school that had a tie-up with Converse at the time. However, the second the buzzer sounded on the games, Jordan was back in his Adidas garb.

The chances of Nike snagging MJ away from them was slim to none and yet they achieved what they set out to achieve. However, signing him was just the beginning.

Howard White on when he realized Air Jordan had stuck

Michael Jordan was sold on the idea of having a line of shoes dedicated just to him. Unlike Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Julius Erving who were all wearing the same model of Converse shoes, MJ stood out with his own ‘Air Jordan’ line of sneakers.

David Falk, MJ’s longtime agent, actually came up with the name ‘Air Jordan’. Howard White loved the name but didn’t know if it would stick. The fact that MJ lived up to his moniker only helped drive sales as Jordan played effortlessly in the air.

Howard White finally realized that the name stuck after he had read a headline where they referred to the UNC alum as ‘Air Jordan’ rather than his actual name after he had finished playing a stellar game against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.

“You never know when something is going to stick, and I remember when I really knew it took hold was when he had gone into Boston, and the newspaper headline said, ‘Air Jordan Flies Over Boston,’” said White during an interview with Nick DePaula.

Howard White had an incredible story about Michael Jordan and his competitiveness

Howard White once revealed how he went biking with Chicago Bears player, Richard Dent, for around 30-miles. After the bicycle ride, they told Michael Jordan about it. MJ kept this in his mind and after a year, he woke White up while on vacation in Hawaii to go cycling with him at 6am.

Jordan told White that their trip would be much more than ‘just’ 30 miles and he kept his end of the bargain. It goes to show just how competitive MJ is and how long he would hold a grudge over something as asinine as a cycling ride that happened over a year ago.

About the author

Samir Mehdi

Samir Mehdi


Samir Mehdi is a senior strategist for the NBA division at The Sportsrush. Ever since he was 13 years old, he’s been obsessed with the game of basketball. From watching Kobe Bryant’s highlights on YouTube to now, analyzing and breaking down every single game on League Pass, Samir’s passion for the game is unwavering. He's a complete basketball junkie who not only breaks down current games but also keenly watches ones from the 60s’ and 70s’ while also reading comprehensive books on the history of the league. Samir’s life revolves around basketball and he hopes that shows in his work. Aside from work, he loves to spend time in the gym and with his friends at social gatherings.

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