“Adidas Air Jordans?” It could have happened, according to Michael Jordan.
In episode 5 of The Last Dance, broadcast on ESPN May 3rd, His Airness revealed that the landscape of sneakerdom might have been very different but for his dad’s good common sense and Adidas‘s near collapse as a business.
In the fifth episode, the docuseries took a closer look at Jordan‘s journey to superstardom and becoming one of the most successful brand ambassadors in history.
The whole thing really began with Nike, and Jordan finally let it be known in Last Dance that his first endorsement deal signed his rookie year was not his first choice at all.
At the time of Jordan’s entry into the NBA, Converse was the number one name in basketball shoes. And Converse was above having a mere beginner pro fresh out of college, according to Jordan. “Converse had big players,” Jordan says in Last Dance, “And told me, ‘We can not envision you being put ahead of them.'”
Jordan wasn’t hurt. “OK, fine,” he said. He was an Adidas man, anyway.
Jordan wore Adidas at UNC and the clip above even shows old footage of him talking about it. But Jordan’s agent, David Falk, said an Adidas sponsorship was not to be, for a possibly surprising reason. “Adidas was real dysfunctional at the time,” Falk said, “They told me, ‘We’d love to have Jordan, but we can’t make a shoe work at this point in time.”
Social media users had a lot of fun with Adidas’s loss.
David Falk went on to say that he “wanted Michael to go with Nike, cause they were the upstart.”
Jordan, who has morphed into equal parts hero and villain–sometimes more the latter–in Last Dance, wasn’t about to do it. “I couldn’t even get him to get on the damn plane and go visit the campus,” Falk said, “so I called his parents.”
Jordan admitted that did the trick. “My mother said to me, ‘You’re gonna go listen. You might not like it, you’re gonna go listen.’ She made me go on that plane and go listen. Going to that meeting and not wanting to be there…Nike made this big pitch. My father said, ‘You got to be a fool to not take this deal.'”
Nike paid Jordan $250,000 upfront and said the Air Jordan line would happen. According to Falk, they expected maybe $3 million in sales over four years. Air Jordans sold like hotcakes, though, making $126 million in the first year alone.