Looking back, few people in 1984 could have predicted just how successful Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers would become. The man who popularized the shoes was just a rookie, albeit one picked third in the draft. So, when Nike signed him up, it was cautious and proposed all sorts of conditions. But Michael Jordan had other ideas.
Jordan was an extremely popular player from the beginning – loved by fans for his rampant scoring. His 28+ points a game won him the title of Rookie of the Year in 1985. Furthermore, the shoes that he wore went like hotcakes, and by 2012 Air Jordans reportedly made up more than half of all basketball shoes sold. Youngsters wanted to, in the words of a 1992 Gatorade commercial, “Be Like Mike.”
Though Jordan had wanted to wear Adidas at first, Nike didn’t waste time. It promised the star that he could have the lower-to-the-ground style of shoe that Adidas offered. It also offered him flash cars and big money. The deal on the table was for $500,000 a year – more than three times the previous record for a sneaker promotion campaign.
But how did Michael Jordan come to be made such a lucrative offer? Well, simply put, he was extremely good at his chosen sport and was right from the very beginning. Seeing as how he excelled at basketball, his dad James – with whom he has always been close – built him a court in the family’s backyard.
It seemed clear that the young Jordan would go on to have a career in basketball. In 1981 he started at the University of North Carolina and joined the basketball team there. And he quickly became one of their star players – winning NCAA College Player of the Year on two consecutive occasions.