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The fact that Michael Jordan was hoping to land a shoe deal with adidas instead of Nike is now basic history among basketball fans and sneaker collectors. But in Jack McCallum’s new book, Dream Team, the author reveals more details about the negotiations between Air Jordan, his agent David Falk and Nike. One particularly interesting point, the shoe behemoth better thank MJ’s mother, Delores Jordan, for making sure he didn’t skip out on the meeting. 

At Nike, by contrast, executives such as Rob Strasser saw in Jordan a new horizon for the endorsement game. Plus, Nike needed to make a major move since the running boom of the 1970s had petered out. It was a company that prided itself on taking chances, so it had decided to blow its entire marketing budget, $500,000, on advertising that would feature Jordan, plus what it would have to pay him to wear the sneakers. Still, Jordan was resistant to Nike, which he had never worn and knew very little about. The night before he, his father, and Falk were to fly to Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, Jordan told his mom that he wasn’t going. But she wouldn’t hear of it.

“You will be on that plane, Michael,” said Deloris Jordan. So he was on the plane.

At that first meeting, Peter Moore, Nike’s head designer, showed Jordan and Falk the sketches he had made of Air Jordan shoes, warm-up suits, and apparel, all of it in black and red—”devil’s colors,” as Jordan told Falk. Jordan never blinked, never smiled, never said much of anything, and everybody in the room figured that he was underwhelmed. But after the meeting he admitted that he was swayed, and Falk negotiated a five-year $2.5 million deal that, like so many deals over the years, was supposed to bring the world to an end.

Besides being cool on the red & black colorways because they’re “devil’s color,” Jordan also said he’d “look like a clown” wearing them. Safe to say most of the world ended up disagreeing with that prediction.

Read the rest of the excerpt at Deadspin. McMallum’s Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever is in stores now.


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Photo: Nike