'Winning Time' Episode 6: Why did Magic Johnson turn down deal with Nike?
Instead, the point guard inked a deal with Converse that gave him roughly $100,000 a year. But he still wishes he signed with the swoosh though
One of the major storylines of 'Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty' was Earvin 'Magic' Johnson (Quincy Isiah) turning down a deal with Nike after meeting founder Phil Knight (Olli Haaskivi). The Los Angeles Lakers prodigy was one of the most sought-after athletes during his time, and that saw deals pouring in. One of them was Converse which eventually signed him, but there was also one helluva deal on the table with Nike, only that Johnson had his reasons not to go for it.
The episode sees Nike make a sample of the shoes they would supply Magic, with his name on it, It was white, sleek, and had Magic's name in purple signifying his time with the Lakers. Instead, the point guard inked a deal with Converse that gave him roughly $100,000 a year.
Why did Magic Johnson turn down a deal with Nike?
For starters, Nike was still finding their feet in the sports shoe circuit and didn't really have the money to make Johnson a solid deal, but what they thought was to bring him on board as a partner. Plus, the brand was all about track and field in its nascent stages, and instead of cash, Knight offered him a stock-based deal, something that Johnson didn't really have a clue about. Instead, he signed for Converse because his childhood idol Dr. J (Julius Erving) sported the brand’ during his career. On a side note, unlike the show, Johnson did not sign with them until 1981.
Over the years, Nike's evaluation grew exponentially. In the first Nike IPO, they sold off their shares for only 18 cents each, and at the time of writing, the sneaker giant is valued at upwards of $219 billion. Johnson still has a tinge of regret not to be signing with the swoosh. “I’m still kicking myself. Every time I’m in a Nike Store, I get mad. I could have been making money off of everybody buying Nikes right now,” he opined.
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. Roll back 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.
But then, there's a story everywhere.
'Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty' airs Sundays at 9 pm on HBO.