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“Michael Jordan Won’t Sign With Nike Even With A Mercedes 380SL”: George Raveling Explained Why $40,000 Car Wasn’t Nearly Enough For MJ

Samir Mehdi

“Michael Jordan Won’t Sign With Nike Even With A Mercedes 380SL”: George Raveling Explained Why $40,000 Car Wasn’t Nearly Enough For MJ

Michael Jordan joining Nike over Adidas and Converse was one of the most unprecedented moves by an athlete at the time. This was due to the fact that Nike was not known for being a basketball centric company, focusing more so on track-and-field athletes and also because the UNC alum didn’t want to sign with Nike in the first place. He wanted to be with Adidas with Converse as a second option. A man who wanted him to be at Nike far before Sonny Vaccaro was George Raveling, a coach for Team USA in the 1984 Olympics.

While Sonny gets most of the credit for putting in the work to sign Michael, George usually gets forgotten when in fact it was the latter who got the idea of Nike into his head during the ’84 Olympics. Jordan has even credited Raveling for convincing him to look beyond Adidas.

At the time that MJ was tasked with choosing between the 3 companies, Raveling revealed that Nike didn’t have a chance in signing him in the slightest, even if his one stipulation was agreed to.

George Raveling told Sonny Vaccaro that Michael Jordan wouldn’t sign with them

George Raveling was the best man at Sonny Vaccaro’s wedding and so it’s obvious that the two had a great relationship with one another. In the movie ‘Air’, it was depicted that Vaccaro (played by Matt Damon) and Raveling (played by Marlon Wayans) met at a California bar and the latter explained to the Nike talent scout just how much MJ wasn’t looking to sign with them.

“He [Michael] did say if somebody was to buy him a red Mercedes 380SL, he would sign a shoe contract for life with anybody. Except Nike.”

Fast-forward just a couple weeks and Jordan became the face of Nike basketball with the ‘Air Jordan 1s’ flying off shelves, bringing in $162 million in revenue in its first year alone when the goal was $4 million. And as expected, Nike did buy him that red Mercedes 380SL.

Sonny Vaccaro bet his job on Michael Jordan

Sonny Vaccaro was initially told that Nike had $250,000 to pick and sign 3-4 players from the 1984 NBA Draft. However, after watching Michael Jordan highlights, he knew he had to use the lumpsum all on him and brought the idea to Phil Knight.

Knight was skeptical and said that if he were to fail at this, he wouldn’t know what his place at the company would be. Luckily for Sonny, they bagged MJ and the rest is history.

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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