There is no doubt that the Jordan brand is one of the most successful and powerful shoe lines in apparel history. Everywhere you look since the controversial day the NBA banned the Air Jordan, there has been a non-stop market following Jordan's shoe evolution. Over the years, Jordan's shoes have fallen into controversy due to the very high demand and expensive prices. Many people buy these sneakers and resell them at exorbitant prices while others wait in long lines just to pre-order them.
There is no doubt the Jordan Brand is wildly successful, but who exactly started this shoe phenomenon? Who was it that convinced Michael Jordan to sign with Nike and start his own shoe line in an era where an industry like this did not even exist? Well it is one person or another depending on who you listen to, even Jordan himself has his own take on it, so lets take a look:
Phil Knight– Nike Founder
The signing of Michael Jordan, yeah, success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan. A lot of people want to take credit for signing Michael Jordan, most obviously Sonny Vaccaro, but he wasn’t the MVP in that process.
There were certainly more people involved in a deal of this magnitude, but two of the most important players in this deal don't seem to agree with one another on the inception. Neither Sonny Vacarro nor Michael Jordan seem to be too ecstatic about each others take on the man behind the deal.
Michael Jordan – Jordan Himself
In all honesty, I never wore Nike shoes until I signed with Nike. I was a big Adidas, Converse guy coming out of college. Then actually my parents made me go out to (Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.) to hear their proposal.
Prior to all of that, Sonny (Vaccaro) likes to take the credit. But it really wasn’t Sonny, it was actually George Raveling. George Raveling was with me on the 1984 Olympics team (as an assistant coach under Bob Knight). He used to always try to talk to me, ‘You gotta go Nike, you gotta go Nike. You’ve got to try.’ Sonny didn’t influence me to go to Nike. He got a deal proposed.
When I got a chance to play in the Olympics, I became very good friends with George Raveling. He’s the one, in all honestly, that really persuaded me to look at Nike, because I wasn’t ready to look at Nike.
It's hard to argue with the one who signed the papers, wore the shoes during games, and did all the Nike commercials. While there is no way to tell him that his views are incorrect, but Vaccaro feels much differently about the situation.
Sonny Vaccaro– Sports Marketing Exec
Michael is delusional. George Raveling is crazy. Phil Knight is sinful. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever had. It’s the most illogical, dishonest thing. The reason they are doing it is why … I’m still the biggest pimple on their ass. Just so we understand this … the whole thing is so ridiculous. Raveling has been lying his whole life… But for Jordan to say that, just for the record , I stayed at his home. I traveled to Europe. I was the co-director and producer of ‘Salute to Michael Jordan’ … I traveled the world with Michael. I asked George to drive Michael to Tony Roma’s. Michael by his own admission in books he has written … he didn’t want to sign with Nike. I picked him, just so we understand. Nike didn’t want him. Just so that’s all embedded here. It’s stupid.
Those are some very strong words from Sonny Vaccaro indeed. He further revealed that Nike wanted to give the money to three other players but he was the ultimate person who told them to give all the sponsorship money to Michael Jordan. Overall it is likely that everyone involved made this shoe deal a reality, but they are all too stubborn to admit it. One thing is for sure, it has influenced generations of players to secure and market their own shoes and create a unique income avenue that never existed until Michael Jordan donned the Air Jordan.