Michael Jordan’s website describes him as the best basketball player ever. Well, that might still be debatable for some. An irrefutable fact, however, is that he is, by far, the richest basketball player of all time.
His legendary deal with Nike 20 years ago has given him a multiple of his basketball salary. It’s no doubt that Air Jordans are still one of the most popular sneakers around. There are countless different models and collaborations of this same silhouette to date.
Michael Jordan’s Beginnings
Michael Jeffrey “MJ” Jordan was born on February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn. His parents moved to Wilmington, North Carolina when he was just a child. He is the fourth out of five children.
He went to Emsley A. Laney High School and played basketball, baseball, and football. He tried to get on the high school basketball team in 10th grade, but was told that he was too short for it at 6’3″.
To prove the opposite, he became a star of the junior high school basketball team and played some 40-point games. The following summer, he grew 10 centimeters tall and made it into the high school team. In his last year, he was allowed to play in the 1981 McDonald’s All-American game and scored 30 points.
He received a lot of offers from colleges for basketball scholarships and chose the University of North Carolina.
First Moving Moments in Michael Jordan’s Career
During his time in college, he played for the North Carolina Tar Heels. As a newcomer, he received the ACC Freshman of the Year Award. He then scored the winning goal in the 1982 NCAA Championship final against Georgetown—a moment he later described as a turning point in his career.
In both his second and third year, he was selected for the NCAA All-American First Team. Later in his college basketball career, he won the 1984 Naismith and Wooden Award for Best College Player of the Year and helped lead his team to gold at the 1983 Pan American Games.
Jordan left college a year before graduation to volunteer for the 1984 NBA draft. He was selected as the third player in the first round by the Chicago Bulls. He returned two years later to complete his bachelor’s degree in Cultural Geography.
Michael Jordan’s First Round with the Chicago Bulls 1984-1993
Shortly after the draft, Michael Jordan already played for the basketball team at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Together with other strong players like Patrick Ewing, Sam Perkins, and Wayman Tisdale, he won the gold. They were in fact the last amateur team in the USA to win a gold medal in men’s basketball.
Already in his first season, he became a fan favorite even of the opposing camps. In December, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the title, “A Star is Born” and was then voted Rookie of the Year.
In his second season, he broke his foot and was unable to play 64 games. Nevertheless, the Bulls had made it to the playoffs and Jordan was back on top of the game, scoring 63 points in the match against Boston Celtics—a definitive record!
Michael Jordan continued to deliver great results ,and in his third season, became the second player to score 3,000 points in one season. In return, he became the first player to record 200 steals and 100 blocked throws in one season.
The next season followed his first MVP Award, a prize for the best player in the league. He was also named Defensive Player of the Year. However, despite playing well in seasons 87-90, the Bulls lost every time they encountered the Detroit Pistons.
Three Championships in a Row
In the next season, which was the 90/91 season, Jordan won his second MVP and the Bulls made it to the final of the Eastern Conference, where they once again met the Detroit Pistons. This time, however, they won and entered the NBA final.
In the final, it was LA Lakers versus Chicago Bulls. The most famous part of it was probably Jordan’s mid-air rally in the second game, when he tried to make a dunk and changed his mind at the last moment. The Bulls won the NBA Finals and Jordan won his first NBA Finals MVP Award.
The Bulls again dominated the next season. Jordan won his second consecutive MVP Award and the Chicago Bulls made it to the NBA Finals, this time with the Portland Trail Blazers as their opponents. In the first half of the first game, Jordan scored a record-breaking 35 points and the Bulls also won this trophy. Jordan won the NBA Finals MVP Award for the second year in a row.
Just over a month after the finals, it was already time for the Summer Olympics. Michael Jordan was on the team again that year. Together with some players from his first Olympic basketball team, they formed the so-called Dream Team. Again, they brought home the gold.
The next season should be Jordan’s last for the time being. This year, he did not get the MVP Award, but Charles Barkley from the Phoenix Suns emerged as the better player. The Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns then met in the final, with the result being the Bulls winning the championship for the third year in a row. Michael Jordan again became NBA Finals MVP and became the first player to receive this award 3 times in a row.
Michael Jordan as a Baseball Player
On October 6, 1993, Jordan announced his retirement from basketball. The reason he gave was that it was no longer fun, but something else prompted that same decision. This was because just over 2 months earlier, his father was murdered by 2 teenagers.
In 1994, he signed a minor league baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox as a baseball player to fulfill his father’s long-time dream of becoming a baseball player. He played for the Scottsdale Scorpions and Birmingham Barons, among others.
On November 1, 1994, the Bulls retired the number 23 player he had for the Chicago Bulls. As a tribute, a statue called “The Spirit” was dedicated to Jordan, which now stands in front of the United Center Hall.
His baseball career did not last very long. On March 18, he announced his return to basketball with his two famous words, “I’m back”.
The Second Time for the Chicago Bulls on the Field
The Bulls had quite a struggle in the 94/95 season. But, on March 19th, Jordan came back and the game against the Indiana Pacers became the most watched NBA game since 1975, this time on Jordan’s 45 jersey, just like what he had in baseball.
Although Jordan hadn’t played an NBA game in a year and a half, he played a good game and the Bulls made it to the semi-finals of the Eastern Conference. In Game 1 against Orlando Magics, Nick Anderson took the last ball from him and made the winning basket.
“The 45 just doesn’t bounce as well as the 23 did,” he said later.
In the next game, Jordan put on the jersey with the number 23 again and scored 38 points, allowing the Bulls to win the second game. The team had to pay a $25,000 penalty for not announcing the change of number. In the end, Orlando Magic won, but Michael Jordan was definitely back.
In the next season, the Bulls set new records with Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman. At the end of the season, they set a 72-10 winning record. Michael Jordan received the All-Star Game MVP Award and the MVP Award of the regular season.
Three Championships Won, the Second
In the final against the Seattle SuperSonics, the Bulls won 4-2, making them the fourth championship winners. Michael was then declared MVP for the 4th time.
Also in the next season, the Bulls put on a good performance. Again, they made it to the NBA finals, where they met Utah Jazz. Michael Jordan made the decisive basket in two of six finals and the Chicago Bulls took home the title. Jordan also received the Finals MVP Award for the fifth time.
The 97/98 season was to be Jordan’s last season on the team. The Bulls were once again top of the league and awards rained down for Michael Jordan, including two MVP Awards. In the NBA finals, it was a rematch against Utah Jazz.
It was the sixth game and the Chicago Bulls had already won three games prior. If they won this game, they would be champions once again, if not, there would be a 7th game in the final.
With 41.9 seconds left in the game, the score was 86-83 for Utah Jazz when Bull’s coach Phil Jackson called for a time-out. Following the time-out, Jordan made a basket and the score changed to 86-85 for Jazz.
The game’s decisive moment followed with 5.2 remaining seconds when Michael, in a fantastic throw, led the Bulls team to the 6th title. All of the 6 Bulls championship titles were won with Michael Jordan on the team.
Jordan was once again declared Finals MVP, which makes him the NBA player with the most Finals MVP awards by far, with 6 awards in total. All players in 2nd place “only” have 3 Finals Awards compared to Jordan.
Michael Jordan and the Washington Wizards
With the retirement of long-time Bulls coach Phil Jackson and the changes announced about Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan retired from basketball for a second time on January 13, 1999. At that time, he was 35 years old.
A little more than a year later, he returned as manager of the Washington Wizards. He kicked out some highly paid, unpopular players and chose Kwame Brown in the 2001 NBA draft, which later turned out to be a failure.
On September 25, 2001, he announced his return as a player and said that he would donate his entire salary to the victims of September 11. In both seasons, Jordan played for the Wizards, but they didn’t make the playoffs. He publicly criticized the players’ commitment several times, especially that of Kwame Brown.
At his absolutely last game in Philadelphia on April 16, 2003, it rained a standing ovation for him. The spectators of the First Union Center started chanting, “We want Mike, we want Mike!” This gesture from the audience allowed him to be replaced within the remaining 2 minutes and 35 seconds. He was fouled, made two free throws, and then went back to the bench. Jordan received a three-minute standing ovation from spectators as well as from both the opposing team and his very own.
Michael’s Basketball Career in Review
Michael Jordan is one of the most successful basketball players of all time. Not only did he win countless awards, but he was also named Best Sportsman in North America by ESPN in 1999.
He is one of the best defensive players ever and has been instrumental in helping the field of basketball achieve worldwide fame. This included his appearance in the famous movie Space Jam, where he helps Bugs Bunny in a basketball game against a team of aliens.
He now owns the Charlotte Hornets, to which he is a manager. But, Jordan has not only helped basketball’s fame reach greater heights. In the early years, he was also instrumental in the success of Nike Air Jordans, a shoe that was originally produced exclusively for him.
Michael Jordan x Nike Air Jordans
Michael Jordan has had a lot of sponsors in his time. The deals were all brokered by his agent David Falk, to whom he also credits the invention of the Air Jordan concept. The name Air Jordan, by the way, comes from Michael’s ability to make slam dunks from the free-throw line.
Nike made a deal in 1985 that had never been seen before. At the time, the highest marketing deal with an athlete was $150,000 a year for eight years—between James Worthy and New Balance.
The amount Nike offered Michael Jordan broke that record and was astronomical by comparison. Michael got $7,000,000 over five years for his deal with Nike. In addition, there was 5% of the net wholesale price of each Jordan sold—a percentage that would make him rich over the course of his life.
Unlike the classic white sneakers that dominated the market at the time, the first Air Jordans came in red/black. While they displayed the colours of the Chicago Bulls, they did not match the colours of his team’s shoes. For this reason, the NBA basketball official of the time banned the shoes.
But, Michael Jordan and Nike had no problem with that and he still chose to put them on. The consequences? A $5,000 fine every time Michael came on the court with them. In one season, this added up to $410,000 that Nike solely had to pay for penalties. But, this ban itself was what made the shoes even more popular. Nike even used the ban for their commercials.
Nike’s Air Jordans were popular shoes of the ‘90s and ‘00s and even in 2012, it was still the best selling basketball shoes in the US. These are shoes with a lot of history and the silhouette is often used as the basis for many collaborations.
A Brief Overview of Air Jordans’ Development
Although the Nike Air Ship, the template for the Air Jordan 1, was only designed in black and red, white quickly found its way into the colourways of the Jordan. Blue was also introduced in 1985, the year of its release, in the Royal Blue colourway.
Since then, the shoe was always being developed further and new versions were launched almost every year. When it was his turn for the Air Jordan III, Michael Jordan’s contract with Nike was already finished. But, the Air Jordan III motivated him to stay with Nike. It was in fact the first Jordan that had trapped air.
A few years later, the Air Jordan V followed. Designed by Tinker Hatfield, it had a completely new look. Much chunkier and with a transparent sole, the inspiration for this shoe came from World War II war planes.
The Air Jordan IX came out after Jordan’s first retirement and was inspired by the baseball shoes Michael wore as a baseball player. Although he never wore them during an NBA season, this shoe was chosen as the shoe worn by “The Spirit” statue.
In his last season as a basketball player, he wore the Air Jordan XIX. The design was inspired by the Black Mamba and theoretically allowed the wearer to play without laces. Nevertheless, Nike delivered the shoes with laces, just to secure the shoe better.
The 2009 Air Jordans were the first Jordans to deviate from the Roman numeral system. Inspired by Jordan’s ability as a defensive player, the shoe incorporates a certain joint drive technology that is otherwise only known for the Paralympics.
The latest Air Jordan is the Air Jordan XXXIII, and unlike all previous Jordans, it is the first one to do without laces. Instead, it has pull-on loops on both the heel and tongue.
Air Jordan Collaborations
Over the years, the Jordan brand has entered many collaborations with other brands and artists. Initially, Jordan’s collaborations only occasionally trickled into the market, but the last 5 years have seen a sudden flood of massive collaborations.
Jordan’s first collaboration with another brand was with Undefeated in 2005. Together, they launched the UNDFTD x Air Jordan 4 with its olive green exterior. In matters of style, it was completely different from the regular Jordan 4, and was released in a limited edition of just 72 pairs.
One of the most expensive Jordans is the 2005 Eminem x Air Jordan 4, released in a blue colourway exclusively for Marshall’s friends and family. This shoe is readily available on the market for $30,000.
First Air Jordan Collaboration with a Woman
Jordan’s first sneaker collaboration with a woman came in 2010, when they designed the Vashtie x Air Jordan 2 together with Vashtie Kola. As a result, they came up with a very feminine sneaker in lavender nubuck. Only selected shops received the shoe and it sold out very quickly.
In 2013, Jordan teamed up with designer Don C to design a Snapback and Air Jordan 1s to celebrate the 37th anniversary of Black History Month. Wrapped in black with slight orange accents, only 37 pairs were made. These were auctioned on eBay and the proceeds went to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program.
It was not only with designers that Air Jordan would create his sneakers. In addition to those designs, a sneaker was also released in cooperation with TED. Together with the section from Portland, they developed the TEDxPortland x Air Jordan 1 ‘Perfect’ in two colourways. Why the name “Perfect,” you would say? This was because the sneaker was considered by many to be just that—almost perfect, both in terms of design and cultural relevance.
Simple and Chic, Dover Street Market x Air Jordan 1
The Dover Street Market is known for its simple designs and this is also quite visible in this sneaker. In 2015, a Jordan with an obsidian leather exterior as well as a white sole and a white Nike Air logo on the tongue was released. Originally, the shoe fetched high prices for resellers, but with repeated releases, the supply increased and the price dropped.
The most unknown collaboration of Air Jordans is probably the one with Trophy Room. The silhouette used here is not from the classic sneakers, but the Jordan Hydro 5 Slide, or better known as “regeneration sandals” for wearing after the game. Available in black and white colourways, a gold Jumpman adorns the upper of the shoe and a Trophy Room logo in gold decorates the side.
Michael Jordan’s Fortune
Michael Jordan is the highest paid athlete of all time. Although he earned less than $100 million in his entire career in basketball, his wealth is still estimated at around $1.9 billion.
He is the third richest African-American after Robert F. Smith and Oprah Winfrey and the first billionaire in the history of the NBA. Although much of his wealth comes, as is often assumed, from his deal with Nike, his basketball career has also contributed a considerable amount to his prosperity.
It is a known fact that Jordan earned $90 million in his NBA time, about $63 million of which was made in his last two seasons.
Through his deal with Nike, he receives 5% of the net wholesale price of every Jordan sold year after year. Figures from 2015 show he can easily make $100 million a year just from this deal alone.
In addition, he has been advertising Gatorade, Upper Deck, and Hanes for nearly 30 years. He also owns numerous restaurants, including the Michael Jordan Steakhouse and Restaurant.
Michael may call many other ventures his own. But, a large part of his fortune comes from another basketball related source.
In 2010, Michael Jordan bought the Charlotte Hornets for 175 million dollars. The team is now worth more than $1 billion and Jordan’s shares account for 90% of that.
With all that money, Jordan has also made some acquisitions. He has his own private jet and golf course, along with 2 villas.
But, besides these many acquisitions, Jordan also donates a lot of money, especially to children in Chicago. He also likes to donate to other causes. His most recent donation is $2 million to victims of Hurricane Florence.
Michael Jordan, the Sneaker King
Michael Jordan has not only earned millions with sneakers and billions with basketball, but he has also definitely inspired them. Basketball’s ratings during his active time were at the highest ever. And, since he stopped playing, basketball had started to lose its popularity in the US.
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2016, which, along with the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, is the highest civilian honour anyone can ever receive. Obama jokingly presented it to him saying, “Michael Jordan is more than just an Internet meme.”
Even though Michael Jordan hasn’t played basketball for a long time, his legacy will probably remain with us for a long time to come. Jordan’s sneakers are and will always remain stylish and popular, and we certainly owe their fame to Michael Jordan.