Before becoming one of the most famous basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan was a skinny guard from the University of North Carolina that the Chicago Bulls drafted in 1984. Nike was a struggling athletic shoe company known best for its running shoes. Though Jordan was a newcomer to the NBA, Nike saw something in the charismatic, explosive guard, and the Air Jordan basketball shoe was born.
Nike signed Jordan to a 5-year contract worth $2.5 million. The first Air Jordans, released in 1985 with a price tag of $64.99, immediately stirred controversy. Their red and black design colors clashed with the NBA's uniform color scheme; up until that point, almost all basketball shoes were white. The NBA fined Jordan up to $5,000 a game for wearing the shoes, but Nike paid each fine because it knew that with more controversy, the more publicity they'd receive.
The initial Air Jordan logo wasn't the Jumpman that is so ubiquitous on the shoes today; it was a basketball with wings. It wasn't until the third version of the Air Jordans, in 1988, that the Jumpman was featured. Throughout its history, the Air Jordans have included innovations such as clear rubber soles, lace locks, and a metallic mesh for ventilation. Also, with a price tag that has stayed above $100 per pair for each version released since the Air Jordan II, the Air Jordans have consistently remained one of the most expensive athletic shoes in history.
The Air Jordan also helped revolutionize how athletic shoes were marketed. Combining an urban feel with Hollywood packaging, the Air Jordans leaped over the competition. In 1988, the Air Jordan III were marketed by Spike Lee's Mars Blackmon character in the "Mars and Mike" campaign. The campaign continued with future versions of the Air Jordan, with Blackmon uttering the famous phrase, "It's gotta be the shoes."
The Air Jordan didn't stop there, though, and even enlisted help from Bugs Bunny for the Air Jordan VII.
In 1997, the Air Jordan shoes got so big that they branched out into their own sub-brand of Nike. Shoes that followed under the Air Jordan brand did not feature the Nike name or swoosh logo.
The significance of the Air Jordan to the athletic shoe industry cannot be overstated. Aside from top basketball players as part of the Air Jordan team, other athletes, such as Derek Jeter (baseball), Terrell Owens (football), and Roy Jones Jr. (boxing) have endorsed their own line of Air Jordans. For 25 years, the Air Jordan has been one of the most popular athletic shoes in the world; remarkable when you consider that Michael Jordan has been retired from basketball for more than five years.
An unfortunate aspect of the popularity and high price of the Air Jordan is that it has become a prime product for counterfeiters. Counterfeit Air Jordans are sold all over the world and Internet for as low as $19, so customers interested in purchasing real Air Jordans should stick to reputable stores to ensure that they're getting the real deal.
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