Most people consider Michael Jordan to be the greatest player in NBA history and for very good reasons. Scoring average and individual accolades aside, Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominated the league like no one else at that time, made the game global and took basketball to every single corner on earth.
The Jordan brand instantly became one of the most lucrative in sports. Up to this day, His Airness continues to pocket absurd sums of money thanks to his apparel business and his world-famous Air Jordans.
Nonetheless, even though he helped Nike get to a whole new level in terms of sales, it seems like Jordan didn't even want to join the Nike family in the first place, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.
Michael Jordan Didn't Want To Sign With Nike
(Transcript via Darren Rovell)
"All Michael Jordan wanted to wear was Adidas in the NBA. Although he wore Converse at North Carolina, because his coach Dean Smith was getting paid about $10,000 a year to put the brand on his players, the German make was his dream.
But Adidas wasn’t making an offer. It wasn’t that they thought Jordan wasn't worth anything; they were just caught at a bad time. After company founder Adi Dassler died in 1978, his wife, Kathe, took over the business. But she had her son, Horst, and her four daughters each running separate divisions.
Converse and Adidas weren't ready for Jordan, but all of a sudden, Nike needed him. If the company could only get him on the plane. He had just come back from the Olympics, and after a full college basketball season, he told (his agent David Falk) he was exhausted.
'I have no interest in going there,' Falk said Jordan told him. 'Just do what you need to do to get me with Adidas," the report read.
Nike Cave Into Jordan's Demands
Jordan didn't want to sign with Nike because of their current shoe designs. He told them with a straight face and, to his agent's surprise, the company actually agreed to change their designs to please His Airness:
"Jordan said that one of the reasons he liked Adidas was because they were lower to the ground than the higher shoes that Nike was making. Moore said he could tailor them to Jordan’s liking. No one was doing that at the time. You were given what the company gave you.
'They really made a great effort of trying to have my input on the shoe,' Jordan told me five years ago, adding that he had never put on a Nike shoe to this point in his life," the report continued.
Nike Had Several Conditions For Jordan's Shoe Deal
However, Nike wasn't going to risk losing money, and considering that Jordan had yet to prove his worth in the NBA, they established a set of conditions that could lead to an early-termination for their deal:
"Nike offered Jordan $500,000 a year in cash for five years, which was a ridiculous number at the time. The previous highest contract was James Worthy's deal with New Balance, an eight-year deal worth $150,000 a year. Adding stock options and other parts of the deal, Falk said Jordan would earn $7 million over those five years, as long as Nike didn't sever the contract.
In order to protect the company, Nike included a clause in Jordan's deal that said if he didn't accomplish one of three things -- win Rookie of the Year, become an All-Star or average 20 points per game -- in his first three years, it could end the deal two years early. Falk then asked, "What happens if he doesn't do any of those three, but still sells shoes?" Nike's response, according to Falk, was if Jordan sold at least $4 million worth of shoes in his third year, he'd get the final two years of the deal," the story concluded.
Well, no one reaches the top by just playing it safe. It's clear that Nike were pretty high on Jordan long before he became the superstar he eventually was. They took a huge risk on him but it's safe to say it paid off.