Be Like Mike: My Love Affair with NIKE Shoes and Michael Jordan

Being an avid sports fan and also a lover of various types of shoes, I feel quite fortunate to have grown up at a very special time. As a child of the 1980s, I was lucky enough to witness the merger of sports and shoes courtesy of the NIKE brand and NBA superstar Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan as the face of NIKE

Take a quick flash forward from the days of the 80s to the present day and you'll find that shoe companies and high profile athletes share in a perfect marriage. Today, in 2015, it is more than commonplace to see an athlete pitching a specific shoe for a high quality household brand. If you're somebody, in essentially any capacity of professional sports, then you likely have a shoe deal.

However, reversing fields to the days of my youth, the concept of a professional athlete literally changing the face of a shoe company and helping to make that company the biggest brand in the world was a foreign concept. Michael Jordan, the face of basketball from the mid 1980s until his retirement in 2003, was also the face of NIKE and helped to transform the company, most notably the sneaker/basketball shoe line, into the stratosphere from both a monetary and popular culture standpoint. Ironically, before partnering with NIKE,  Michael wanted a sponsorhip from Adidas, but the German company declined, and today they have surely regretted this hige mistake.The partnership that NIKE and Jordan shared, especially during the 1990s, is something that wasn't seen or done before and hasn't truly been duplicated since. Where would NIKE be, in terms of overall success, had Michael Jordan never been in the picture? That's certainly a question worth asking.


NIKE and my school days

I'd be remiss if I didn't share my own personal stories concerning Michael Jordan and the NIKE brand and how the entire phenomenon impacted my choices and decisions when it came to trying to look hip and cool during the 90s.

Being born in 1980, I hit high school in 1995 just in time to see Jordan return to the NBA after a brief stint in professional baseball. Jordan's return to the NBA marked yet another addition to his personal shoe line with NIKE. Since the mid 80s, Jordan's personal relationship with NIKE included a new shoe, bearing his name, that seemed to come out every calendar year if not every other year. Long story short, like most kids, I wanted the latest and greatest shoe.

I can remember being in high school and seeing my friends walk through the halls with the brand new works of art that were the latest from the NIKE/Jordan line. During this time, the Air Jordan XI (black and white) was the shoe that Jordan was wearing on a routine basis and it was simply amazing. I had two friends during my freshman year who worked at a local shoe store and they made it a point, the day after they bought the new Jordan's, to parade around school in grand fashion as if they'd won the lottery. It seems beyond comical today, but no price was too expensive for those high profile shoes. I feel certain that many young people across the nation made every empty promise to their parents in an effort to receive the latest NIKE/Jordan creation.

The NIKE/Jordan foundation for success

  • The most popular American athlete.
  • American sneaker company.
  • The coolest shoe designs.
  • The best marketing.

Those four qualities, among many, are what enabled the NIKE brand to catapult to new heights in the late 1980s and 90s. The marriage of NIKE and Michael Jordan laid the foundation for the type of endorsement deals we see today.