Why Did Michael Jordan Sign With Nike?

michael jordan

Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the best basketball player ever to play the game. Jordan captured six NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls, along with six Finals MVP awards, and he never lost a series in the NBA Finals. In 1984, Jordan's rookie year, sneaker companies such as Adidas and Converse were dominating the basketball market. Converse had superstars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird under contract, and Adidas had signed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a few years prior. Even Michael Jordan wore Adidas and Converse in college.

Ultimately, Jordan signed with an up-and-coming sneaker company by the name of Nike. Jordan helped turn Nike into the powerhouse brand they are today, eventually getting his own sub-brand of Nike, Air Jordan. Nike offered Jordan a five-year, $500,000 per season deal, which was the biggest sneaker deal in history at the time. Even Jordan had his reservations about Nike. He famously told Adidas if they could get anywhere close to the amount Nike offered, he would sign with them. Adidas opted not to match Nike’s offer, citing Jordan’s lack of size.

Marketing Plan

Part of the reason Jordan was so willing to sign with Nike was their extensive marketing plan for unveiling his sneakers. At the time, NBA commissioner David Stern had a rule that players must wear all-white sneakers, regardless of what brand of sneakers they were. Nike’s plan was for Jordan to wear his sneakers with the Bulls’ team colors, red and black. Jordan would then be fined $50,000 per game. Jordan wore the non-white shoes, but Nike told Jordan they would pay the fine for him, because the exposure was far more beneficial to the company.

Nike’s Persuasion

Before signing Jordan, co-founder Phil Knight invited Jordan to Nike headquarters, where they showed Jordan around and explained their vision for Jordan as a Nike athlete. Top Nike executive Rob Strasser showed Jordan two die-cast Mercedes cars, subtly implying that Jordan would receive them if he signed with Nike. Nike executives did not know how the meeting went, as Jordan was mostly emotionless during the conversation. The next day, Jordan called Nike and explained he didn’t want to take any meetings with other companies.

What Happened When Jordan Signed With Nike?

Though Nike’s deal with Michael Jordan was a gamble, it paid off spectacularly, mostly due to Jordan’s exceptional skill on the court. In his rookie year alone, Michael Jordan won the Rookie of the Year Award, was named to the NBA All-Second Team, and participated in the All-Star Game for the Eastern Conference. Jordan’s rookie year of 1984 coincided with the release of the first Air Jordan sneaker line. Nike had set a goal of making $3 million off of the shoes in their first year on the market. Instead, they were treated with an astonishing $126 million in sales in the first year alone.

Since the release of the first Air Jordans, Michael Jordan’s Nike shoes have dominated the markets, with new releases regularly selling out even during pre-orders. In 1997, Nike expanded its deal with Michael Jordan by launching JordanBrand, and since then, the brand has consistently stayed at the top of the market. To showcase just how much Nike’s Jordan deal has exceeded expectations, as of 2022, Nike made the same amount of money as their initial 1984 goal, $3 million, in only five hours of sales.


Why did Michael Jordan choose Nike?

Michael Jordan signed with Nike because he was offered a five-year, $500,000 per season deal with the up-and-coming sneaker brand. Although Jordan preferred Converse and Adidas, they simply could not match the offer Nike made. Jordan also signed with Nike because he loved the way they wanted to market him, with the banned colored shoes. Nike promised to cover the fine Jordan would receive from the NBA.