Story by Anthony Costa / Illustration by James Rogers
The thought of Michael Jordan flossing Three Stripes seems about as likely as Donald Trump in a Jheri curl. But it’s not as far fetched as you might think. There was a time when Jordan’s heart wasn’t stuck on the Swoosh. Much like the vacuum cleaner fluff dangling from Donald’s ginger dome, the young MJ wavered awkwardly when Nike first wooed him. You see Jordan was an adidas man, and he was stubbornly set on wearing his favourite sneakers when he cracked the big show. All of which begs the question – what would the sneaker game look like had Michael followed his heart to adi’s Herzogenaurach headquarters? Yep, it’s time to wind the shot clock back and drop some Sliding Doors type shit as we ask what would have happened if Mike didn’t like Nike?
The year is 1984 and business isn’t great at Beaverton. The Swoosh has been shaken up after suffering its first ever quarterly profit slide the previous year. Once a brand for hardcore jogging kooks, Nike is now stretched thin. Court sports are their biggest seller, but sales are declining, particularly in basketball. The share price is plunging and Wall Street’s message to twitchy Nike stockholders is ‘Just sell it!’ Reebok now rules the roost with their Tubbs and Crockett approved all-white garment leather Freestyles. Nike needs to find the next big thing and soon.
Nike’s college hoops guru Sonny Vaccaro has an idea. A natural hustler and basketball promoter with impeccable connections, Vaccaro has been watching a kid called Michael Jordan come through the ranks. He knows the kid’s going to be something and convinces Nike bigwigs to make an all-or-nothing bet on the flubber-footed rookie. Instead of scattergun player endorsements across the NBA, they devise a plan to put all their chips on the single chosen one. Their pitch is seductive. They will market Jordan as a brand in his own right, complete with his own line of sneakers. Everyone agrees it’s a brilliant, ballsy play that could redraw the sports marketing map.
Everyone, that is, except MJ.
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