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Misha Hyman Headshot

What If Nike 'Air Jordan' Were Adidas 'Air Jordan'?

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Getty Images/AP
Getty Images/AP

What would the world be like today if Michael Jordan signed with Adidas instead of Nike coming out of college? I know that seems like a silly question to ask, but Michael Jordan would have changed the course of basketball pop-culture. Since he came onto the scene as a rookie with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, Nike has exploded into one of the worlds most recognizable brands. Jordan Brand is a symbol, Jumpman is a logo. But Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player to ever lace up a pair of basketball shoes turned the swoosh sign into the worlds most famous athletic company. When Nike advertises, they don't spell their name. They are, just like Jerry West, a logo.

When Jordan came out of college, he was only allowed to wear Converse basketball shoes because the University of Carolina Tar Heels had an already withstanding sponsorship relationship with the original basketball shoe company. However, Jordan was all about Adidas growing up and he even considered himself an Adidas-head.

Coming out of college in 1984, Jordan was not the hottest commodity on the market. That title rested with Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon who was the incumbent number one overall pick by the Houston Rockets. Jordan slid all the way down to the third pick after the enigmatic Sam Bowie was taken by the Portland Traiblazers. After the players were drafted, various sneaker companies began to poach the top talent in order to have them sport their shoe so consumers will be encouraged to buy the shoes their idols wear.

Jordan was planning on signing with Adidas because that was his favorite shoe growing up and it would have been a dream come true for him. However, his first meeting with a shoe company was with Nike. When they sat down with Jordan, they told him that he would be able to have as much input as he would want on the shoe in terms of the totality of the shoe including the design. Since he was loyal to Adidas, he went to them after his meeting with Nike and asked if they could match the offer.

After much consideration, Adidas was not willing to match the offer made by Nike. Back in 1980s Adidas was primarily a European brand and they did not think it would have been worth it to them to let Jordan have as much as say he wanted on the product which would ultimately have his name and logo on.

What would have been the byproduct of Jordan signing with Adidas 28 years ago?

Well first things first, Adidas would be one of the world's largest brands -- exponentially larger than it is today.

I think people fail to realize how of an impact Jordan had on Nike. Since 1984, there have been countless commercials put out by Nike to promote sports and physical activity, but without the Jordan commercials in the mid 1980s and early 1990s highlighted by Spike Lee portrayed as Mars Blackman, Nike would not be where it is today. The slogan, "It's gotta be the shoes" became a running catch phrase that never seemed to die. Basketball players all around America started to wear Nikes because they wanted to be just like their favorite player. The commercials actually gave credence to the idea that wearing Nikes makes one a better basketball player. An entire generation was swept up by the movement and Nike became one of the most iconic brands in the world within a few years.

In 1983, the year before Jordan came to the NBA, Nike's total revenue from sales was $867,212. In 2007, Nike's total revenue from sales was $16,326,000 -- that was six million more than Adidas. That increase is almost unfathomable. But mostly all of the credit can be given to the six time NBA Finals MVP, Michael Jordan. When winning championships becomes synonymous with your brand, people will begin to flock towards the product. Winning brings consumers. If Jordan was wearing Adidas, the correlation would have been the same.

If Jordan did not sign with Nike and signed with Adidas, the sports landscape most likely would have been different. You would not have top-flight talents trying to sign with Nike because their idol did before them. For example, when LeBron James came out of high school in 2003, he wanted to follow in the same footsteps as his childhood idol. He wore number 23, just like Jordan, and he also signed with Nike, just like Jordan. James signed a $90 million dollar contract before even stepping foot on a professional basketball court. If Jordan signed with Adidas, I guarantee James would have followed suit.

Jordan was, and is, the ultimate trend setter. Whether by wearing baggy shorts, jumping over opposing players, dazzling the crowd with mid-air-magic, sticking out his tongue on his way to the basket or his lethal fade away, no one was a trendsetter quite like Jordan.

That's why we can thank "His Airness." If he wore Adidas, we would all be rocking the triple stripes. Thank you Jordan for making the swoosh go universal and setting the trend for all of the hoopers out there. We all "wanna be like Mike."

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