Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan sneaker series is probably the most iconic shoe line in history. Since their release in 1984, Nike has released a new edition nearly every year. The shoes have long transcended basketball, leaving an indelible impact on the fashion and music world. Nike was able to ink Jordan to a five-year deal worth $500,000 per year, with the opportunity to earn more in stock options and other bonuses.
Were it up to a 21-year-old Jordan in 1984, however, he never would have signed with Nike. His preferred choice? One of Nike’s main rival companies: Adidas.
“Do you have a shoe company that you wanted to go with?” Jordan is asked during episode five of The Last Dance documentary. “That was Adidas,” he replies.
In archival footage from Jordan before his NBA career began, Jordan is seen saying “I like the Lakers, I like Marques Johnson, and I like Adidas. I like Adidas shoes.”
During this segment of the episode, Adidas is portrayed as being disorganized, and unable to support the creation of a signature basketball shoe at the time Jordan was entering the league.
“Adidas was really dysfunctional by that time,” says Jordan’s agent, David Falk. “And they had just told me, ‘Look, we’d love to have Jordan, we just can’t make a shoe work at this point in time.’ I wanted Michael to go with Nike because they were the big upstart.”
At the time, Jordan was so dead-set on signing with Adidas, he told Falk, “I have no interest in going (with Nike). Just do what you need to do to get me with Adidas,” according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell.
In hindsight, no price would have been too exorbitant for Adidas to offer Jordan in 1984. Nearly three decades later, Air Jordans are still considered royalty among sneakerheads everywhere. Had Jordan gotten his wish and signed with Adidas, who knows how different the basketball shoe landscape would look today.