Michael Jordan wanted to be an Adidas player, but David Falk intervened and made Nike their greatest endorsement deal ever.
1984 was a time of sea changes occurring in the NBA. The advent of David Stern meant that the league was now more focused on its marketing and image than ever. Stern also had to oversee the transition of the league from the crack era to the new age.
Michael Jordan proved to be the biggest shot in the arm that both the NBA and the sneaker industry could ever have gotten in that situation. MJ’s aesthetically pleasing game, athleticism and dominance proved to be a one-of-a-kind sales pitch.
America was never more interested in basketball than when #23 laced up his Concords and stepped on NBA courts. He could wow people with his mere presence and his exaggerated mannerisms before he ever touched a ball.
Nike built its brand presence worldwide by marketing Michael Jordan as the Jumpman. The Air Jordan 1 remains the bestselling sneaker of all time, holding its own through 37 years of shoe evolution.
Why Michael Jordan selected Nike over OJ Simpson and Spot-Bilt
At least 3 sneaker companies are known to have sought Michael Jordan’s endorsement as a rookie. Converse reportedly offered a contract for $100,000 annually – an amount that Nike beat substantially.
David Falk got Nike to promise Jordan $500,000 annually in cash, in addition to stock options that would raise his 5-year contract value to $7 million. Nike, in turn, took their own safeguarding measures. They made the final 2 years of the contract conditional on the Jordan sneakers generating $4 million in revenue.
OJ Simpson, then an NFL star and a national icon, had publicly lobbied for his shoe company Spot-Bilt to recruit Jordan: “This kid at North Carolina, he’s the next me. We should go for him.”
However, despite them offering some sweet financial incentives, Falk ultimately went with Nike. The rest, as they say, is history. As things turned out, Air Jordan 1 shoes sold like no other in history. Nike reported sales of over $100 million in just their first year