Considered to be the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan seems like the embodiment of the color blue. Ever reliable to bring home that trophy, the player worked hard to hone the skills that made him a legend on and off the courts. Starting young in honing his skills in the hoops, the Jumpman is on a league of his own. In the words of Larry Bird, “There’s Michael Jordan, and then there is the rest of us.”
It’s no wonder brands have been clamoring to sign the player with them. There is an exciting story of how the player got to collaborate with the American brand Nike despite his strong preference for the German-made Adidas.
How Nike Partnered with Michael Jordan
Tensions were high during Jordan’s negotiation process. Three brands–Converse, Adidas, and Nike–were up on the running. Converse was the earliest to go from the shortlist as the brand was losing their hold on the market then. They also did not need the athlete as they had a roster of star athletes already on their payroll. It was a difficult choice between Nike and Adidas.
Initially, the then-rookie was practically sold to the German-make. All it would have taken was an offer from the brand, and the GOAT would have been part of the Adidas’ flock. Luckily for the Swoosh, the company have had inner turmoil at that time as Adi Dassler just died. The family managing the organization was still straightening their affairs.
It took Jordan’s parents to get him on a plane to commence negotiations with Nike. It was well worth the push as the brand came up with a lucrative deal for the young player. The offer included five hundred thousand dollars a year for a five-year contract. This deal would bring Jordan a total of seven million dollars if you add other stock options and other parts of the contract–a humongous offer at that time. Although, some caveats were added to make sure that Nike gets their piece of the cake as well. While mulling over Nike’s proposal, Jordan was still loyal to the German brand. MJ even gave Adidas a chance to make a counteroffer. In the end, however, they could not measure up to the American make’s offer. Since the partnership happened, both Jordan and Nike were able to establish a variety of much-coveted models sporting a fusion of technologies that make you feel like you're the Jumpman himself.
Through the years, the Nike upped the ante in terms of shoe technologies and construction. Pioneering in the innovation front, it’s no surprise that the brand has created cutting edge footwear most especially with their Jordan basketball models. Up until now, the Jordan signature line remains to be one of the most revered and continues to represent what it means to be elite. Here are some of the notable technologies found in Jordan basketball shoes:
What does the color blue represent?
Blue is one of the most relaxing colors in the color wheel. Other than the sky, this shade is quite rare in nature. Looking at this color’s history, it’s fairly recent that it was named. Scouring dust-covered books from the Greek period; one would not be able to find the word ‘blue.’ The closest description perhaps is a passage from the Iliad with Homer calling the sea “wine-dark.”
The color was virtually nameless up until people started creating colorants. Highly popular among Egyptians, the first pigments were taken from Lapis which was an element mined mostly from Afghanistan. Gaining prevalence, it was then that the Egyptian word for ‘blue’ was created. After this, the shade’s popularity spread amongst the Persians, Romans, and Mesoamericans, as well.
Today, blue stands for strength, trust, and stability. It’s no wonder why this shade has a go-to among brands looking to project an air of trustworthiness and security. This association came about due to a significant move made by the Catholic church in the year 431 AD. During this time, the church decided to color code their saints and Mary was assigned to the now-known ‘navy blue’ shade. This hue was later adopted by the military and the police which brings a similar air of trust. Perhaps this is the reason why theNike brand makes use of this shade in several of their basketball shoe models.
Shoe technologies used for blue Jordan basketball shoes
In partnership with Nike, the Jordan brand has flourished over the years and remains to be one of the top-selling lines under Nike’s belt. A collaboration that almost never happened, it’s as if the stars aligned to bring the Swoosh and Jordan together to help give birth to a series of iconic releases. To top this off, Nike over the years have come up with cutting-edge innovations that have been a welcome addition into the construction of Jordan shoes. This not only made the collaboration better, but it also seems to be the perfect marketing pitch with every sneakerhead just clamoring for their pair of Js. The brand is not showing any signs of slowing down either. The Jumpman brand has continued to smash its sales quotas (even surpassing them) consistently even after all these years.
Of the numerous innovations have been the brainchild of Nike, here are some of the prime examples found in their premium Jordan basketball shoe roster:
Nike Zoom Air
The Nike Zoom Air technology is one of the innovations developed for a low profile cushioning. A technology applicable for a variety of footwear types, its snappy responsiveness has been especially useful for basketball shoes. The mechanism works through tensile fibers placed within a pressurized Nike Air Unit. This allows a cushioning which immediately springs back up after each step. This technology has been initially integrated into three Nike models including the Nike Air Marauder football boot, Nike Air Go LWP basketball boot, and the Nike Air Zoom LWP running shoe.
The Air Jordan Flight Plate is created to maximize the responsiveness of the Zoom Air technology. Placed below Zoom Air elements, this Pebax-based material bridges the forefoot and the heel area. Introduced in the Air Jordan XX8 model, this innovation is created with supportive carbon fiber plates. This system also aids in getting rid of the need to use foam in between the Air units and the player’s foot. Additionally, this technology has been incorporated into a blue Jordan basketball shoe model - the Jordan Melo M11.
The Nike Flyknit technology started as a response to runner’s pleas for a lightweight and breathable material that brings a seamless, second-skin like feel. It is also Nike’s answer to the knit craze that happened. The material took on a life of its own with several shoe collections incorporating it in their construction. Blue Jordan basketball boots, of course, took notice of this material. It has since been integrated it into several of their models including the Jordan Flyknit Elevation 23 and theAdidas Jordan XXX.
A bit of a classic element in footwear, Phylon is created with EVA foam pellets which are compressed and expanded through heat. The resulting substance is then placed into a mold to cool off. This material has been tried and tested over the years and can be found even in football boots. Due to its reliability to provide a low-profile and responsive feel, it’s not surprising to see it as one of the materials used in blue Jordan basketball shoe construction. Examples of which include the Jordan Fly Lockdown model.
Design inspirations for Jordan basketball shoes
For every Jordan basketball shoe release, the newly created pair brings its fresh take on the famed signature line. For every unveiling, one cannot help but wonder how the designers have come up with their newest creations and the inspiration behind them. Here are some of the Jordan basketball shoe models and their design inspirations:
Leather and the Jumpman logo: Air Jordan III
The Air Jordan IIIs served to be the pair which kept the GOAT under the American brand. With a contract that was almost up, Nike was desperate to keep the player under the brand. Here enters Tinker Hatfield, a relatively new shoe designer at that time. The designer took a new approach to make the third iteration of the Js. Paying close attention to the player’s personality and sense of style, Hatfield more than delivered with his first ever Jordans. The pair featured a concrete-elephant print lining which was inspired by the player’s proclivity towards leather shoes. This was also the first model to feature the official Jumpman logo. As the budding shoe designer was rummaging through the old design ideas of a past shoe originator, Peter Moore, he came across the silhouetted image. He liked the image and decided to place it on the tongue area. The famous Swoosh logo, which was commonly found at the side, was placed at the back. As the designer explained, it represented, “who was the forefront of the shoe- and the company.” This proved to be the start of a long-standing collaboration between Tinker and Michael whose partnership produced a total of nineteen Air Jordans.
World War II Mustang Fighter Plane: Air Jordan V ‘V for Victory’
Victory and flight are the buzzwords when describing the Air Jordan V. Specifically inspired by the Boeing P-51 Mustang Fighter plane, the impressive piece of machinery served during World War II and the Korean War. Quoted from the 1944 Truman Senate War Investigating Committee, they described the victorious plane as: “the most aerodynamically perfect pursuit plane in existence.” Of course, all the crucial elements from the war vehicle can be found in the Jordan Vs. Taking one look at the shoe, it is the colorway used is reminiscent of the jackets worn by fighter pilots. Optimizing the effect is the fact that the upper is created with a suede element. At the sides of the pair is are vents which echo the look of the vents found in its fighter plane muse. The impressive pair retailed at $400 during its 2017 Spring release.
Afropop Worldwide poster: Air Jordan VII
Famous for having unconventional design influences, Peter Hatfield’s design inspiration for the seventh Air Jordans were no different. It was in Portland, Oregon that the artist came across an African art poster of the radio program Afropop Worldwide. What was printed was a guitar shaped like Africa being played by a person. Hatfield described his want to design the seventh version of the Js as something “young and interesting while remaining sophisticated.” And indeed the end product was as described. Tribal patterns, which were taken from the poster, graze several areas of the shoe. Five colorways were created for this model.
Lawnmower: Air Jordan XI
The inspiration for the Air Jordan XI is proof that the most unlikely of things can inspire and get a designer’s creative juices flowing. This time, a lawnmower did the trick for the seasoned shoe connoisseur, Tinker Hatfield. The artist explained that part of the allure came from the ‘rugged effectiveness of a push mower.’ He was also quoted saying, ‘There are designers out there designing lawn mowers to look like sports cars.’ The pair was released in 1995 with three mid top and two low top variations. A very limited Space Jam version was also released for Jordan’s movie debut - only five pairs were created.
Ferrari 550 Maranello: Air Jordan XIV
A collaboration between Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith, the Air Jordan XIV is inspired by the Ferrari 550 Maranello. Several elements from the vehicle are evident in the shoe with a tread-like pattern placed in the midsole as well as the heel area. The Jumpman logo also adopted another look with the circular Jordan logo encased within the shield-like silhouette of the Ferrari logo. This model was released during the 1998-1999 NBA season.
Aston Martin and jazz notes: Air Jordan XVII
Wilson Smith III took notes from jazz music and the Aston Martin for his rendition of the Air Jordan XVII. Taking a closer look, jazz notes are molded into the shoe. When purchased, the pair comes in a metal carrying case with a CD. With the attention to detail used in the construction as well as the packaging of this pair, it is unsurprising to know that it is one of the most expensive Jordans to date. There were four colorways used during the 2002 release of this model with the option for low and high top variations.
Jazz era zoot suits: Air Jordan 2012
A partnership between Nike shoe designers, Tinker Hatfield, and Tom Luedecke resulted in the creation of the Air Jordan 2012. This time, jazz era zoot suits were the culprit for the unique-looking pair. As the Lueddecke was quoted saying, “The inspiration from the zoot era was important for us–as an anchor to focus on the Audacious, Confident and Daring Style that the Youth and entertainers brought forth during that time.” Ever trying to dodge the status quo, Nike also made available the option to make the model customizable through their Nike ID program. This allowed players the chance to tailor-fit their Jordans according to their specifications. This brought a whole new meaning to the word, ‘personalization.’
Fencing and diamonds: Air Jordan 2009
As the twenty-third version of the Jordan, it was a little-known fact that changes in naming the Jordan line were about to take place. Alas, when the shoe was released, it was called the Air Jordan 2009. This version, like previous models, got its inspiration from a unique source. For this model’s case, it was fencing and diamonds. It’s easy to spot how this design idea was translated into the construction of the shoe. Looking at its overall look, what is immediately apparent are geometric lines placed all over the upper. A metallic mesh element for the tongue is also highly visible with obvious reference to the netting commonly found in a fencing helmet. This is how the then-Senior shoe designer, Jason Mayden, conceptualized Jordan’s defensive skills.
Stealth: Jordan XX8
When MJ was asked to describe ‘stealth,’ he had this to say:
“Stealth is like a black cat. You never hear it coming, but it's deadly as hell. It's an automatic aircraft. You can't f*** with an automatic aircraft. It's like my game. When you see it, it's too f****** late.”
With a look that mimics that of a combat boot, zippers have been used in the design construction of these Jordan models. When unzipped, the Jumpman logo leaps into view, revealing the striking inner material underneath. During its time, the pair was marketed as the lightest Jordans available, weighing at 13.5 ounces.
The Jumpman logo
Jordan’s official logo first appeared on the Air Jordan IIIs. With MJ’s rumored dissatisfaction with the first and second Air Jordan releases, Nike’s solution was to bring in Tinker Hatfield. The designer was the one who opted to place the logo into the tongue area of the model. The famed logo is the player suspended halfway through his all-famous leaps. This pose is later dubbed as ‘the Jumpman.’ The name for the pose is quite accurate. While most people get the impression that the pro-baller was running or aiming for a dunk before taking the leap, Jordan was quoted saying, “I wasn’t even dunking on that one.
People think that I was. I just stood on the floor, jumped up and spread my legs, and they took the picture. I wasn’t even running. Everyone thought I did that by running and taking off. Actually, it was a ballet move where I jumped up and spread my legs. And I was holding the ball in my left hand.”
The player was initially photographed in this position wearing a pair of New Balance shoes for LIFE magazine before the 1984 Olympics. It was the 1985 shot with the athlete wearing a pair of Air Jordan 1s that stuck and became the outline for the now-famous official Jordan logo.
The popular silhouetted figure was not without controversy either. Nike was slapped with a lawsuit which came from Jacobus Rentmeester. The photographer claimed that the Swoosh unlawfully used his 1984 photo. The brand has since denied his claims.
Frequently Asked Questions
How did 23 become Michael Jordan’s jersey number?
When MJ was a kid, his favorite number used to be forty-five as it was his older brother Larry’s jersey number. When the Space Jam star started competing in high school, he had to pick another number for the court as the number forty-five was already taken. By halving the digit and rounding it out, the star athlete was able to come up with his jersey number. Only once in ‘95 did Michael Jordan use the number forty-five in court.
How many times did Michael Jordan from the NBA? What were the reasons behind his retirement?
Michael Jordan retired from the NBA three times. His early retirement was in 1993 at the peak of his basketball career. After doing so, he tried his hand in baseball. Not going as good as his career in playing ball, he returned to the hardwood in 1996. After roping in a few more awards including two MVPs, he left the courts a second time. This time, he took a shot at a new role in the basketball industry. He became an owner while testing his managerial skills for the Washington Wizards. An endeavor that, unfortunately, did not take off. The famed athlete retired for good in 2003.
Did Michael Jordan take part in the Olympics?
Michael Jordan did take part in the Olympics in 1984 and 1992. As part of the United States team, the NBA All-star scored an average of 17 points per game in ‘84. With an undefeated streak, team USA brought home the gold. It was a similar situation ‘92 with Jordan earning an average of 14.9 points per game. Another gold medal was added to the US collection that year.
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Dimitrije Curcic has been playing basketball for over 22 years. Like Manu Ginobili, he’s a left-hander whose moves led him to a better career-shooting percentage than the Argentine himself. After playing professionally for 10 years, Dimitrije moved to coaching for two seasons before he became a basketball statistician for StatScore, and FanSided contributor for the San Antonio Spurs. Dimitrije loves to tell hoop stories through numbers and graphics and has been featured on Fansided, FiveThirtyEight, Eurohoops, and TalkBasket among the others.