On May 5, 1984, University of North Carolina guard Michael Jordan declared for the NBA Draft and a bidding war unlike any before it ensued. Jordan had his eyes on adidas out of the gate, but the company was in flux at the time due to numerous changes in leadership in a short period. Converse was interested and made a substantial offer on par with the deals given to its NBA superstar athletes at the time, but Jordan wasn’t impressed once it became apparent the brand lacked innovation. Finally Nike came along, and while Jordan was originally uninterested in signing with the Swoosh, the contract, which included an unheard of amount of cash as well as a percentage stake in the sneaker sales, was simply too good to ignore. Despite this, Jordan desperately wanted to sign with adidas—so much so, that after Nike made its final offer, Jordan went to adidas and asked Nike to counter with something close. The German brand refused, Jordan signed with Nike, and unbeknownst to everyone, marketing, basketball and sneakers would never be the same.
Jordan’s first shoe, the Air Jordan I, was an immediate smash hit that exceeded all expectations. Along with the Nike Air Ship, (another shoe Jordan wore early in his career), one of the Jordan 1’s initial colorways violated NBA regulations. The colorway commonly referred to as “Bred” for its completely black and red upper, didn’t meet uniform color guidelines and Michael Jordan was fined for wearing them. Nike turned its roadblock into an advertising campaign, creating commercials painting the shoes as an act of rebellion and paying Jordan’s fines as he wore the shoes. Almost immediately, Jordans became the basketball shoes to have, but behind the scenes, things were beginning to unravel.
Michael Jordan was not pleased with Nike in 1987. The company lost two of its most important employees who were a big part in recruiting Jordan to Nike, creative director Peter Moore and vice president Rob Strasser. The Air Jordan II wasn’t the hit the original was and with his contract nearing its end, Jordan was ready to explore other options. Once again, Nike went above and beyond to wow the Chicago Bulls superstar. Tinker Hatfield, designer of the Air Max 1, was tasked with designing the shoe that would either make or break Nike’s basketball program, the Air Jordan III. Hatfield’s unorthodox approach, which included seeking Jordan’s input and implementing the changes he wanted to see made, proved to be a success. Upon seeing the prototype, Jordan fell in love with the Jordan III and proceeded to have one of the best NBA regular seasons ever had by an individual player. Jordan stayed with Nike and together with Tinker Hatfield, went on to make many more sneakers now revered as classics. While the Air Jordan I’s initial impact set the tone, the Air Jordan III’s historical impact make it the most important in the signature line.
Jordan went on to be such a dominant force he became not only the face of the NBA but the face of the 1990s itself. In 1997, Jordan Brand established itself as a subsidiary of Nike. Today, Jordan brand makes up a significant portion of the sportswear market and is a major player in not only basketball, but in football, soccer, golf and other sports.
While Jordan Brand continues to release new silhouettes, its most sought after items are reproductions of the shoes MJ himself wore—commonly referred to as “retros”. Jordan’s first 14 shoes, the ones he wore as a Chicago Bull, make up the vast majority of fan favorites. Recent collaborations with recording artists like Drake and Travis Scott well as with brands like Off-White and Union are in high demand as well. In 2019, Jordan Brand reported its first billion dollar quarter, so it’s safe to say the Jumpman will continue to reach new heights for years to come.
Who owns Jordan Brand?
Jordan Brand is a subsidiary of, and thus owned by, Nike.
What athletes are signed to Jordan Brand?
Jordan Brand has been signing athletes since 1997, starting with NBA player Ray Allen. Today, the brand’s roster includes athletes from a variety of sports including (but not limited to): Roger Federer, Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson, Chris Paul, Jimmy Garoppolo, Golden Tate and many others.
Where are real Jordans made?
Most Jordans made in recent years are manufactured in China and Vietnam.