July 31, 2021

Michael Jordan and Nike, an incredible saga | NBA

On April 1, 1985, for $ 65, it was possible to wear the first Air Jordan in history, the Air Jordan 1. The start of an adventure that has become legendary between the comma brand and the future best player of all. time whose success, 35 years later, is no longer to be proven. Jordan continues to accumulate millions of dollars year after year from the sales of his shoes.

However, at the start of his pro career, Michael preferred to sign with Adidas and he had not even wanted to go to Portland, for the first working meeting with the Nike team, led by CEO Phil Knight and Sonny Vaccaro. This is what we learn in the river biography of Roland Lazenby Michael Jordan, The Life, released in France in June 2015, of which here are some excerpts.

Sonny Vaccaro, a nom de mafia

The man behind this adventure is called Sonny Vaccaro. Michael Jordan was reluctant to work with him, to say the least. “The first time Nike representatives met Sonny Vaccaro, they wondered if he was not part of the Mafia. He had the profile with his name, his accent and his manners. And he seemed to be steeped in secrecy about things normal people don’t know. Michael Jordan had the same impression as he sat down with this chubby little Italian with heavy eyelids. Michael later admitted to thinking: “I’m not sure I want to commit myself with this kind of shady character. “

Mike keeps repeating: “I want a car”

The first meeting between Jordan and the leaders of Nike? Epic! “Michael later admitted that at 21 he was still pretty immature. He didn’t know anything or was too interested in the sports shoe business. (…) The first impression was not very good, on both sides. Jordan thought Vaccaro looked suspicious. Vaccaro thought Jordan was a spoiled child. It was obvious to him when Michael, seeming to ignore the conversation about the product line, asked him for a car. “If you sign this deal, you can buy yourself all the cars you want, he said Vaccaro. – I want a car “, insista Jordan.

Jordan prefers Adidas!

“Michael was a real bitchadded Vaccaro. First, he wasn’t calculating the money. Deuxio was still a kid straight out of North Carolina. A contract for shoes meant nothing in the 1980s. So it left him completely indifferent. He didn’t want to come to us. He wanted to sign with Adidas. In the 1980s, Adidas had the finest tracksuits. “

Jordan asked about the money and Vaccaro told him not to worry about it. If the deal went through, Michael would be a millionaire. Jordan’s main interest remained the car. Vaccaro came to realize that if this was a car that was going to bring Jordan in, then he had to provide him with one. “We will find you a car”, he promised her. Jordan smiled, but that didn’t reassure Vaccaro.

A bet that could sink Nike

Nike representatives knew that Michael’s agent David Falk was also in talks with Adidas and Converse, but Rob Strasser’s good relationship with Falk made them feel confident. In September, the agent finalized Jordan’s contract with the Bulls. Nike knew their plan for Michael was far more ambitious than Adidas or Converse envisioned. Vaccaro and Strasser were sure Jordan would realize he was being offered an incredible contract. (…)

This deal represented a huge gamble. After all, Jordan was joining a very poorly managed team, in a League that still had a reputation tarnished by the image of its unbridled parties and its use of cocaine, inherited from the culture of the 1970s. Bulls who had just signed Jordan featured several players who strongly conveyed the idea that things were better with Coke. If Nike had done a risk assessment, that would most certainly have been enough to nip the deal in the bud. However, it was not a question of a business plan but of Sonny Vaccaro’s intuition.

Michael refuses to go to Portland

The evening before Jordan and his parents were scheduled to take the flight to Oregon to hear Nike executives tell them about their vision for the Air Jordan campaign, Michael called his parents to tell them he wasn’t coming. He was tired from his last travels and the last thing he yearned for was taking another trip across the country for a shoe he didn’t even like. Deloris Jordan insisted that his son be present at the airport the next morning. It was like that and not otherwise. Jordan arrived at Raleigh-Durham Airport early the next day.

Strasser, Vaccaro and all the people from Nike were present at the meeting. Among them was Howard White. The former University of Maryland basketball player is said to play a long-term role in the firm’s relationship with Jordan. Phil Knight had also moved, a rare thing for the CEO. Vaccaro and the other Nike representatives were immediately struck by the timeliness and professionalism of Deloris Jordan. “I can tell you that she is one of the most awesome people I have met in my life. Because she was able to negotiate this life for her son ”Vaccaro said.

MJ does not like red, the color of the devil

Jordan sat expressionless during the presentation, as if he didn’t care. He hadn’t wanted to be there and was determined not to be impressed. He looked at the black and red sneakers and had this comment: “Red (was) the color of the devil”. Really too bad, he added, that he is no longer in North Carolina. Otherwise, these sneakers could have been covered in sky blue.

Despite Michael’s attitude, Vaccaro couldn’t take his eyes off Deloris. He watched her expression as his son was told that he would receive royalties on every pair of sneakers sold. Vaccaro told the Jordans that Nike was playing its “all-in” in this engagement. “I said that and I’m so glad I said it, he reminded. “We’re playing all-in.” I bet my job. Nike was betting its future. It was unbelievable. It was our entire budget. For Michael’s mom, if we were willing to stake all of this, it was because we were like family. It was like saying, “We want you so badly.” And on his part: “You are going to make my son the future of this firm.” It was like we said, “Michael, if you screw up, we go bankrupt.” That was basically what I was telling them. Everything was played out on that. “ (…)

Mom Jordan wears the panties

Timing was everything. The affair was far from being concluded but Vaccaro felt himself gained by the confidence by seeing the look which displayed on the face of Mrs. Jordan. “It was Deloris’ reaction, he remembered. Someone was making her an associate instead of paying her a salary. And that’s what pleased him. This woman was everything. Michael adored his father, really. But it was Deloris who wore the panties. “ It was immediately perceived that way, but this meeting illustrated a moment of “black power”, even if it was not the black power born of protests against social injustices and racial prejudice. (…)

Vaccaro releases miniature cars

These early negotiations with Nike would bring Michael Jordan the beginnings of life-changing economic power. Before that happened, however, Nike executives and Deloris Jordan still had to persuade his grumpy son that the deal was in his best interests. His immediate response was to remain silent as a grave. Then he looked at Vaccaro and repeated his request for a car. Vaccaro pulled two miniature cars out of his pocket and rolled them across the table, toward Michael. Years later, Vaccaro was sure one of them was a Lamborghini. “Here are your cars, Michael”he replied. He told her again that this deal would allow him to buy any car he wanted.

In fact, Jordan was going to be paid more by the sports shoe company than by the Bulls. Everyone in the room was smiling except Jordan himself. Phil Knight joked that the firm was buying cars from Jordan before he even agreed to the deal. Then the CEO apologized for having to be absent. Vaccaro remembered having said to him: “Michael, at some point you have to trust people. “At that moment, with those words, I wanted to tell him – and he knew it: ‘We bet as much on you as you bet on us.’ “

Mike ends up seducing

Michael Jordan - The LifeAs the meeting drew to a close, the Nike team had no idea what Jordan thought of this presentation. Afterwards, he told Falk that he was just fed up with all these meetings. It wasn’t until later that evening, over dinner with his parents, Strasser, and other Nike executives, that he began to relax. The young star made a strong impression that evening, elegant and charming, moving at ease among the clientele of this chic restaurant. His personal aura reassured Nike executives that they had made the right choice. This young man had indeed something special, an ability to communicate with people from all walks of life.

The phrase “post-racial” hadn’t entered the vocabulary yet, but it could describe how they felt about Jordan. They had prepared a video of Jordan’s great moments in North Carolina that he could watch on the limousine’s VCR on the way back to the hotel. It was the perfect finishing touch. He took a second look at the video of the Air Jordan product line that could become his own. The contract was not yet signed but links had been created, impressions had been felt. “He listened to herVaccaro says of Jordan and his mother. She had the final decision. She told him: “They want us as partners.” She convinced him. Really. I will never forget that day. “