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Thought exercise time: Jordan Brand doesn’t exist. Trippy, right? Saturday mornings will be more encouraging and perhaps less frustrating. Bank accounts will be filled more. A closed space will be stronger. Clothes become more pocketable. The relationship with other sneakerheads won’t be as strong. Memories are inadvertently incomplete. The game will be completely different.
Gratitude Exercise Time: Just pause for a moment and celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jordan Brand.
Flip the calendar to September 9, 1997 at 62 degrees in New York City. Michael Jordan held a press conference to announce the Jordan Brand. Yes, Brand Jordan is not Jordan Brand. Brand Jordan.
Flanked by Ahmed Rashad, Vin Baker, Ray Allen, Eddie Jones, Michael Finlay and Derrick Anderson, MJ stood on stage in an oversized beige suit to share with the world that he was embarking on a new adventure. He is leaving the house that Nike built, ready to live alone in his own gear.
He was five titles deep at that point, in 12 signatures, three kicks already retro’d and Air Jordan XIII announced at that same press conference. His commercials were all hits and he was only a year removed from acclaim Space Jam. Nike’s goal for Brand Jordan was only $250 million. It was all that victory, positioning, that he had already accomplished. And it has been a setting. But not a layup on a regulation hoop with a 29.5-inch ball. It was a 4-foot child’s pose on a hoop like a marble ball. That’s how he succeeded.
Michael Jordan has earned over a billion dollars from the Jordan Brand over the past 25 years.
Here we go to recap: Michael Jordan has earned over $1 billion from Jordan Brand over the past 25 years.
That’s numerical proof that adventure pays off in laziness.
Another piece of evidence is not exactly measurable. It’s about knowing more. Jumpman is cursed everywhere. From Pole to Pole, Hong Kong to Beaverton, this quarter century has proven that Jordan sneakers are still the most desirable, most wearable and most popular of all basketball shoes.
In the year What started out as the Airship in 1984 (Jump to Page 9) evolved into the Titan. Michael became the soul of our shoes. Longtime agent David Falk likes to tell the story of how Nike’s goal was to reach $3 million in sales in the first three years of Jordan’s first five-year contract.
Air Jordan 1 earned $126 million in the first year of this deal.
II was not a financial success, but it was still influential (continue to page 90). III smashed the door off its hinges with incredible force. IV-VIII XI kept rolling in hits until it came as the ultimate masterpiece.
Money has always been very involved with Nike and Tinker Hatfield. He was clear, quickly grasping sneaker technology and knew what he wanted from III and beyond. With his fingerprints on the blue prints, XIII’s arrival coincided with this Mike Wise quote. New York Times Profile released on Jordan Brand Launch Day:
“It’s part of me; it’s part of the creative personality that I have,” Jordan said of his burgeoning sneaker empire at ’97.
Verse 23 stuck to his word. Now that the Air Jordan 37 is gone (Continue to page 70), he hasn’t done any coaching and is rarely seen on TV talking about the hoop. But he is still active with the brand. It still has the final approval on what the brand’s designers call “gaming shoes.” This major shift in the sneaker business has kept the legend alive nearly 20 years after he last played. The youth know Leviathan like sneakers know goats. At a low level, this seems to be what he meant, in another quote from the wise section by Times:
“I’ve been away from the game, I’ve been away from the city, I’ve been into things like that,” he said, scanning his own shoes in front of him. “I did a lot of basketball camps this summer, staying with kids who love the game. I think that’s fun.
The players who joined him on stage that day became sneaker legends in their own right. Anderson helped pioneer the Air Jordan XI Low. Finley has sported several retros with his Mavericks and Spurs jerseys. Jones and Baker led Jumpman Pro Fast and Jumpman Pro Strong respectively. And we have…that two-time champion has a level 0 Jordan sneaker collection. He saw it, he could confirm.
The brand continues to be associated with players in the NBA, WNBA, MLB and NFL after the first five. He rocked Jumpman the best of the best and also the best of the rest.
The current roster, led by Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson and Jayson Tatum, holds the future of the league in their hands.
These past 25 years have been characterized by flying. Gravity was decided to be optional and ultimately unnecessary. Taking a few steps in his Air Jordans, MJ was long gone. There is no return date for this surge and all we know about the future of Doncic, Williamson and Tatum is that the Jordan Brand is definitely there and the only way is higher and higher.
Photos via Getty Images.