In 1985 Nike launched the Jordan 1. While all of his team mates were partying and doing cocaine, this era was widely known as the cocaine era in the NBA, Jordan spent his rookie season putting up numbers. A one man scoring machine averaging 28 odd points.
Nike were not the brand we know today, they were the struggling upstarts. Adidas and Converse were the big players on the court, Larry Bird and Earvin Johnson rocked the Converse Weapon and fast break.
Nike went all out, put together a presentation with Jordan at the centre of the Nike basketball brand giving him his own shoe, the Air Jordan. The shoe broke the mould in a number of ways. Firstly, before the Air Jordan no one really wore basketball shoes apart from when they played the game. This shoe was actually cool. Secondly, the NBA banned it. The rules have changed a lot now, as of 2018-19 players could wear any colour shoes they want to. In 1984, 51 percent of the shoe had to be black or white with minimal accent colors. The Jordan 1 in black/red did not meet the NBA’s criteria prompting the NBA to ban the shoe. Nike used this as a marketing opportunity. Jordan went on chat shows to promote the fact the NBA wrote this letter. It was free marketing. Thirdly, Jordan was cool, had mega hops, played in a big market, and was a walking bucket. In an era when you had to be there to see it when Jordan came to town it was the only ticket in town.
Was it luck? Hakeem went #1 in the draft, Jordan was a wing in an era when the paint was a traffic jam. No one had worked out the mathematics of the three. Daryl Morey didn’t run teams, hand checking was a thing, Bill Lambeer was still a thing, and Jordan was a rookie getting a signature shoe deal. The risk paid off, the shoe did $126 million in its first year and started a brand that is synonymous with the man, the greatest player of all time so far…And if you want to argue about the GOAT and you want to give it to LeBron, fair enough, he has had a longer career, he will end up with a statistical case that cannot be argued, but Jordan at his peak was the best sportsman in the world, not basketball player, sportsman…And if this counts, and it should, Jordan had better shoes and that is definitely not a debate.