How Adidas, Converse screwed up with Michael Jordan: 'He didn't even want to be at Nike'


“The Last Dance” has delivered on insight into the Chicago Bulls’ locker room and front office during their rise with Michael Jordan.

On Sunday, it dished details about how Jordan transformed the sneaker game. It must have been a painful watch for Adidas executives. The folks at Converse probably won’t be rewatching this one either.

During Episode 5, Jordan revealed that not only did he not intend to sign with Nike, but he didn’t even want to visit the campus for a pitch. His agent, David Falk, had to call his parents to talk him into to visiting with the apparel company.

“I couldn’t even get him to get on the damn plane and visit the campus,” Falk said.

Michael Jordan didn't want meet with Nike, much less sign with them.(Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)
Michael Jordan didn't want meet with Nike, much less sign with them. (Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)

Jordan said that he relented when his mom talked him into taking the visit. When Nike offered Jordan $250,000 for his first endorsement contract, shoe history was made.

Jordan’s first choice

Had Jordan had it his way and Adidas been better prepared, the shoe game would have looked entirely different.

“Do you have a shoe company that you wanted to go with?” Jordan was asked.

“That was Adidas,” Jordan responded.

Falk then went on to talk about exactly why Adidas wasn’t the right fit.

“Adidas was really dysfunctional by that time,” Falk said. “They had just told me, ‘We’d love to have Jordan. We just can’t make a shoe work at this point in time.’ I wanted Michael to go with Nike. They were the upstart.”

Converse screwed up, too

Converse didn’t exactly play its cards right either, according to Jordan. It had Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Julius Erving all signed to deals when Jordan was shopping. And they weren’t ready to make him the priority.

“Converse had big players,” Jordan said. “They told me, ‘We cannot envision you being put ahead of them.’ OK, fine.”

Even Nike representative Howard White knew Jordan didn’t want to be at Nike.

“In the early 80s, Nike was, for the most part, a track shoe company,” White told “The Last Dance.” “Michael didn’t even want to be at Nike.”

Of course, Jordan Brand went on to become the biggest in the history of the shoe business, while Converse and Adidas became relative afterthoughts in basketball.

While sneaker heads have long believed that Jordan originally wanted to join Adidas, the blunt terms of its mistake in 1984 revealed on Sunday must be painful to digest.

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Originally published