He came to the NBA dunk contest in 1985 wearing a warm-up suit that wasn’t accessorized with a pair of thin gold chains looping around his neck like Saturn’s rings, and he was wearing sneakers that were banned.
This immediately caused a commotion. It then became an uproar, and soon enough, a perfect storm.
Jordan Michael, a rookie named as the first star-certified player, wanted to do all that in Indianapolis over the weekend, fitting in quietly.
“I didn’t want to be seen as having a conceited demeanor,” he stated.
Once more, they never needed him in the league and they wanted to dominate the industry he represented. Before he unintentionally began this particular revolution, he developed the company spectacularly in every metric, just like Jordan.
When you begin to chart how the biggest player in the sport, Nike, helped make their game shoe successful, it’s evident that motion is put into everything, especially on weekends when the pitchman is pushing their game.
The Freeze-Out) theories: a conspiracy in the NBA that led to the clumsiness caused by the outfit contest dunk during the All-Star Weekend. It’s also about the cred of basketball, which had bigger stars like Larry Bird, Julius Erving, and Magic Johnson, catapulting Jordan’s young entry into the stratosphere. This moment in 1985 goes deeper than Nike and Jordan.
More than 20 years ago, social media was not as prevalent as it is today. ESPN showcased strongman competitions, which were not the celebrity-infused spectacles that the All-Star weekend is now. After the birth of “Jam” and “Space,” anyone from a foreign country would then understand that the world of basketball was completely different.
Initially, Jordan had no desire to be associated with Nike. What’s even more astonishing is that no one could envision him becoming the basketball equivalent of Babe Ruth or a groundbreaking figure in product endorsements. However, it was undeniable that Jordan was on the path to stardom. This information is crucial to understanding the context.
Adidas desired him and other shoe manufacturers to meet the demand for Jordan, who was a player for the 1984 Olympic team and was also loved by Adidas after being named the college player of the year. Ironically, Jordan now wears Brand Jordan, while he played for a different school, Converse, at North Carolina.
Among NBA stars such as Magic and Bird, several athletes likely sported the Converse Weapon, the popular basketball shoe during that period. Although the market was saturated, the company required a prominent figure to gain influence in the basketball community. Jordan, who developed a close relationship with Howard White, a Nike executive, proved to be the solution.
White stated, “Converse was the dominant footwear brand. Converse: Magic, Bird, Isiah [Thomas], anyone who was someone wore.” Then Nike emerged. We still required more, but only a few players acquired them.
Jordan recently tried to convince David Falk, a 33-year-old tennis player representative, who he recalled as someone he worked for at an agency, that he was not soon to become the powerbroker.
Said Falk, “Nike didn’t want him.” “He didn’t even want to meet with Nike or get on the plane. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip. It was important to him that his parents appealed to me and finally talked him into going on the trip.
Nike created a college montage highlighting Jordan’s young days when he actually watched music videos, particularly the versions of “Jump” by Van Halen and the Pointer Sisters. These songs played in the background while the montage showcased Jordan’s time in college.
Falk stated, “He adored it.” “He expressed his reluctance to embark on any further journeys once the meeting concluded. However, we disregarded his wishes and convened with all of them. Subsequently, I informed Nike that they must introduce a collection of footwear and garments. They inquired about the desired name for the collection. Suddenly, the name ‘Air Jordan’ materialized in my thoughts, and I pondered it for approximately half a minute.
The NBA game was still dominated by big men, such as David Thompson and Jordan’s idol, Erving, who were challenged gravitationally. In the case of Jordan, it was a better fit. The nickname “Coryell Air” was borrowed from the San-coached Chargers’ coach, Don Coryell, who often threw the ball.
“Suddenly,” the fantasy of tapping into a culture that was demographically changing and being able to fly happens in a spectacular place where a congregation dreamed of being suspended high above, with “Air Jordan” being the shoulders and heads above.
Nobody had a clue he’d make the kind of impact he made in marketing. Nobody.”
David Falk, Michael Jordan’s agent
Spike Lee’s commercials featuring Mars Blackmon, his alter ego, were cleverly executed and timed perfectly. In these commercials, some people can be heard yelling, “Gotta be the shoes!”
If Nike had not sold $4 million worth of shoes by the third year, they could have voided the deal. There was a catch: if any NBA player earned more than $500,000 in endorsements in a year, Nike would have to give Jordan five times that amount for five years.
Nike generated $70 million in sales from Air Jordans during the initial three months they were available in stores.
Falk declared: “During the inaugural year, they achieved sales of $126 million. They exceeded the sales of all basketball sneakers in the first year.”
The soaring sales meant that it appealed to rebellious teenagers. The ban on shaking hips like Elvis was initially refused to allow Jordan Air to wear the color-coded style of the Jordan. The league had strict dress code rules applied to sneakers, then back.
For the second time, Jordan went against the trend and chose to represent his team, the Bulls, by wearing a warmup. Instead of catching heat from the league, Jordan wore shoes without the NBA-sanctioned logo during the dunk contest.
Falk stated, “Would it be cool to wear Nike? So he asks, ‘What should I wear?’ Because no one else had their own stuff. There were no rules, so you didn’t have to wear a team warmup.”
He promoted the product enthusiastically. He enjoyed using it and it was an informal competition. He liked it because it met his expectations.
A newcomer provoked envy among other experienced All-Stars due to the magnitude of his endorsement contract, the success of his footwear sales, and his choice to don a Nike warmup during the competition.
“He received a great deal of criticism from the men. However, none of those individuals possessed that. He was deviating from the usual. It was unusual for a man to appear in his own attire,” expressed Howard White.
Dominique Wilkins, like Jordan, was the most loved and admired player in the dunk contest, surpassing even younger generations.
Wilkins expressed, “In my perspective, Michael did not commit any wrongdoing, my friend. However, I can comprehend if certain individuals from the older generation had reservations about it. It deviated from the conventional norms. Some might argue, ‘Why didn’t I come up with that?’ Occasionally, when you are the pioneer in a certain action, this is likely to happen.”
The contest dunk was a perfect laboratory for introducing something fresh because it was all about excitement, improvisation, and soaring. It used a vehicle to exploit Erving’s ability to relate to everyday fans, catering more to the normal-sized players and also discouraging big men. The league stole the contest dunk from the ABA earlier in the year, as it was a fan favorite.
This all worked perfectly for Jordan and Nike.
However, it was Jordan who eventually won the title in 1985, which brought him greater exposure. On the other hand, Wilkins went to the trophy, but he didn’t win.
“It was something greater than all of us coming together,” said White.
Among the starters in the East, Jordan took the fewest shots, but he appeared to be a forward who excelled in dunking, and he was set to play in the next day’s All-Star Game in 1985.
The theory of a conspiracy, where everyone loves to put rest, because it’s always Isiah and Jordan about the game and it’s never linked to a road trip in Minneapolis, is never a “freeze-out” in basketball. Within hours after the game, the word circulated among the media that Jordan was a victim of payback with Isiah Thomas as the ringleader.
However, it is widely known. No, it cannot be proven as a definite truth. Can you provide evidence of a freeze out occurring? Isiah consistently withheld passing the ball to him, and they relentlessly targeted him on offense. On defense, he constantly analyzed the game in his thoughts, as Michael possesses an exceptional ability to remember details. The moment the reporters posed the question to him, Falk is convinced of its validity, even now.
“White believes that they were either excluding him or imparting a valuable experience to him. It’s like they were saying, ‘This rookie, who does he believe himself to be?'”
Believing this, Jordan first declined when prompted by journalists. He later stated: “I believe Isiah made the right decision. It’s difficult to explain why Isiah didn’t pass me the ball more frequently. Perhaps I didn’t have the simple opportunity to shoot at that moment. I’m not doubting that.”
Cummings Terry took fewer than 16 one shots, with Bird Larry and Thomas saying that East players were trying to feed the ball to Jordan. When he faked to Malone Moses and passed on fast breaks, Jordan ignored only Thomas, who was odd and suspect. It was never evident among broadcasters that anything was out of place, and this bears circumstantial evidence. There has always been collective effort to deny any embarrassment to Jordan, and Isiah has always called it baloney.
“I dare anyone to discover locations where we as teammates intentionally decided not to pass the ball to Michael,” Thomas stated.
Whether the freeze-out was real or imagined, Jordan used it anyway as rocket fuel and held a grudge against Thomas for years.
Falk stated, “Michael accumulated a total of 49 points and coincidentally, the initial match after his return was against the Pistons. While we were enduring the freezing temperature in the apartment, akin to a sauna, I advised him, ‘Instead of being angry, seek retribution.’ Unfortunately, upon our arrival at his apartment, we discovered that the pipes had burst due to him having turned off the heating system.”
The launch of Empire had a domino effect. Nike’s marketing couldn’t buy the kind of response the Pistons had against Jordan, so they called off the wardrobe contest dunk.
He was a highly competitive player with a cerebral degree. He learned the basics under Dean Smith, who taught him how to play. He was an athletic player with a high degree of competitiveness. There were a lot of great players who had everything but the flair that Michael had. They signed the right guy and were just looking to expand the business. Phil Knight, the owner, was a track guy, not involved in running the company’s basketball history. Nike was just trying to grow at that time.
Nobody had a clue how great of a player he was. People probably thought he’d be an exciting marketing impact, he’d make kind of the impact he’d probably thought. Nobody had a clue he’d be shooting people and questioned his pick as the number 3 player. LeBron wasn’t he.
Jordan, a billionaire, has established himself through his own brand, Jordan Brand, and is considered a sports legend. Additionally, Nike has become a dominant global powerhouse, possibly due to the widespread popularity of their shoes, as affirmed by Spike Lee and many others.
While in college, Jordan sported and adored Converse, the sneaker that Falk likens Jordan to. Even after 15 years since his retirement and over 30 years since the dunk contest that sparked a revolution, Jordan’s sneakers are still being sold. It’s quite amusing.
I told Michael many years ago that young people who will be buying his shoes one day have no idea he played basketball, said Falk.
“He believed I was insane.”
You can follow him on Twitter and find his email here. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for over 25 years.
The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily represent the perspectives of the NBA, its teams, or Turner Broadcasting.