'The Last Dance' Episode 5: The inside story of Michael Jordan's signature Nike Air Jordan shoes

According to the docuseries, Nike wasn't really Jordan's first choice, but the deal led to unprecedented success


                            'The Last Dance' Episode 5: The inside story of Michael Jordan's signature Nike Air Jordan shoes
(Getty Images)
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Nike's Jordans are an all-time classic. From celebrities to fans, just about everyone has a thing for the sleek and funky shoes, and Episode 5 of 'The Last Dance' gave the inside story of how Nike and their Jordans came to life. Perhaps it's that time when we say, "It all started..."

And it did when Jordan was fast-becoming a universal brand. According to the docuseries, Nike wasn't really Jordan's first choice. Rollback the years to 1984 when Nike was predominantly known for selling track shoes, and at the same time, Converse was one of the leading brands and the NBA's official shoe partner. It was worn by all-time greats Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Isiah Thomas. And for Jordan, this was the kind of endorsement he needed. Converse, on its part, didn't really see or know his destiny then. 

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Jordan then hoped for Adidas, another cult sports brand. However, basketball shoes weren't a possibility for them at the time and that meant Jordan was to sit in a meeting with Nike. The star recollects that it was a meeting he didn't like being a part of. His agent, David Falk, explains in the episode that he wanted Jordan to go with Nike as they were the upstart. "I couldn't even get him to get on the damn plane to visit the campus, so I called his parents."

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It took a fair bit of convincing from his folks for Jordan to hear Nike out and Falk reveals that the legend getting a signature shoe was part of the deal. He used the example of tennis star, Arthur Ashe, who had his own racket and shoes.

"Our firm ProServ had a lot of very high profile tennis clients like Jimmy Connors, Stan Smith, and Arthur Ashe. He [Ashe] had his own shoes and tennis racket. So the strategy was to try and take a team sports player and treat him more like a golfer, boxer, or tennis player, and the very first deal was shoes."

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A deal was made. Jordan would have his own signature shoe and a $250,000 contract. What followed was a rise in sales beyond belief as Nike sold $126 million Air Jordans' as opposed to their plan of $3 million, as per Falk. 

Air Jordans became a household name with celebrities using it in their projects. And as the saying goes, the rest is history. 

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