Can We Ever Get Enough Of The Nike Air Jordan 1?

When Michael Jordan, THE Michael Jordan, was a new player in the NBA in 1984 he was looking for a sponsorship deal and keen to sign with Adidas but -in a last minute u-turn - went with Nike instead. What a historic decision that was.

Michael Jordan, as a young athlete, wanted to be different from his teammates, who were all sponsored as a group by Converse All Star. He, instead, wanted to have an individual sneaker deal. His preferred brand at the time was Adidas and when Nike asked for a meeting, Jordan refused. Nike after all was just known at the time for its running shoes and had no experience or recognition with basketball shoes; and anyway was so much smaller and lesser-known than Adidas.

But Jordan’s parents liked Nike though and convinced him to take a meeting and hear Nike out. What a great meeting that was and what a collab that turned out to be. Nike designed a totally new sneaker, the Air Jordan 1, in red, black and white – the colours of the Chicago Bulls. The sneaker was fabulous and became very popular with NBA fans. But its design and colours were immediately condemned and banned by the NBA as they allowed only white trainers and didn’t see a need for change or individuality. So, Nike and Jordan stood out. Just Do It.

Michael Jordan understood (early on) the power of being an influencer. He wore the Air Jordans in NBA matches anyway - despite the ban - and was fined $5,000 (about $15,000 today) every time he stepped on court in them. Nike of course loved this; it was the best ever advertising they could ever dream up and they happily paid the NBA fines for Jordan.

And people lapped it up. The Air Jordans stood for rebellion, for wanting to make a stand, for not bowing to the establishment and they started buying Nike Air Jordans in droves. There were long lines to get your hands on a pair, which was the beginning of Nike’s sneaker-drop marketing strategy, which is still used to perfection today.

This was hot and it still is a red-hot business today, almost 40 years later. Of the top 10 most expensive sneakers ever sold (almost all Nike) 7 out of 10 are Air Jordans. In 2020 alone, 2 pairs of the 1985 original (and worn) Air Jordans were sold in separate auctions for $560,000 and $615,000 respectively. But the most expensive Jordan sneaker EVER sold was a pair of the Jordan Nike Air Ships, which were bought by a collector in October 2024 for $1,472,000.

Michael Jordan and Nike were the mother of all partnership deals and the model for many other sponsorships with athletes that came after, both for Nike and for other brands. Sports in general became a huge business. Michael Jordan off court made $1.3 billion out of his deal with Nike, which is a multiple of what he made as an NBA player. And – lucky for him - people still love all his stuff and are willing to fork out tens of thousands of dollars to buy something that once belonged to this legend. And Nike? Laughing all the way to the bank and counting as Michael Jordan turned Nike from a small and unknown brand into the unrivalled powerhouse it is today.

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