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SNEAKERS

Nike x Michael Jordan: timeline of an iconic brand

Words by Rob Chilton

The new Jordan store at The Dubai Mall seems a good moment to chart the beloved partnership

When a gangly Michael Jordan lit up the college basketball scene as a star player for North Carolina Tar Heels, his NBA future was certain. Pretty soon, sportswear companies with dollar signs in their eyes began to circle, eager to secure the signature of the exciting point guard. Here’s what happened next.

1984

Nike sign Michael Jordan for $500,000 per year and cautiously predict shoe sales of $4m by the end of the third year of the deal.

1985

Designer Peter Moore’s first Air Jordan shoe performs better than expected: in the two months after its release in April, Nike record astonishing sales of $70m.

1988

With Moore now off the campaign, rookie designer Tinker Hatfield is hired to helm the brand. His mid-cut Air Jordan III in 1988 is the first to feature the Jumpman and persuades a hesitant Jordan to extend his contract with Nike, winning his first NBA MVP award that season.

Jordan nails a jumper

1989

Air Jordan cements its status as a footwear icon when the IV appears in Spike Lee’s movie Do the Right Thing.

1991

The VI shoe is released, with heel pulls that mimic the spoiler of Jordan’s Porsche 964 Turbo.

1992

Jordan wears the VII model to win gold with the USA Dream Team at the Barcelona Olympics.

1993

Jordan shocks the world by retiring from basketball.

Photo by Netflix Jordan laughs with Dream Team teammate Magic Johnson

1995

Jordan announces he’s coming out of retirement and wears the X Air Jordan shoe. The XI Concord follows with its black patent bottom half and sparks fights in shopping malls upon its release.

1997

Nike establish the Jordan division within the company and launch the XIII sneaker.

1998

Jordan’s fondness for his Ferrari 550 is the inspiration for the XIV, the last shoe he wears as a Chicago Bull and also the last from Tinker Hatfield – for a while anyway.

The iconic Jumpman logo

2001

Designer Wilson Smith III takes over and makes the XVI, plus the XVII the following year that retailed for $200 and was worn by Kobe Bryant as well as Jordan at his new team, the Washington Wizards.

2005

Tinker Hatfield returns with the XX anniversary shoe that presented the IPS (Independent Podular Suspension) on the sole and the controversial and ankle strap.

2008

Hatfield is drafted in to create the all-important XXIII that coincides with Jordan’s iconic jersey number. Featuring advanced sole technology, the shoe has outsoles that resemble Jordan’s thumbprint, as well as his initials hand-stitched on the upper.

2021

Today, 37 years after its launch, the Air Jordan brand pulls in around £3bn a year.

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