Why is Nike Air Jordan 1 so popular? Sneaker model's history explored

Nike Air Jordan 1 (Image via Nike)
Nike Air Jordan 1 (Image via Nike)

Nike and Michael Jordan's co-owned label kick-started its journey with the Air Jordan 1 sneaker model, which has a complex backstory full of intricate details. The shoe model has continued to reach new heights of popularity among fans and gained pop-culture relevance in society over the years.

The name Air Jordan 1 has become the epitome of streetwear sneakers and they can be regarded as the start of the sneaker culture. The impact of Michael Jordan in the basketball world alongside Nike's tactful advertising became a few of the reasons that made the sneaker model so popular.

Now, as the sneaker culture continues to flourish as a multi-billion-dollar phenomenon, we take a look at how a simple sneaker model influenced and permanently altered the worlds of basketball and sneakers.

Michael Jordan signed a lucrative deal with Nike in 1984

History of Nike Air Jordan 1 sneaker model explored (Image via Sportskeeda)
History of Nike Air Jordan 1 sneaker model explored (Image via Sportskeeda)

When Michael Jordan was looking for athlete sponsorship, the swoosh label offered him a great deal, which stated they would tailor a shoe perfectly according to his needs. The label further offered Jordan $500,000 a year over five years and gave him the largest sponsorship deal of those times.

Michael Jordan also talked to both Adidas and Converse, but they weren't willing to match Nike's offer. Thus, the legendary basketball player went with Nike's deal.

Nike and Michael Jordan signed the deal in 1984 and the swoosh label's veteran, Peter Moore, was given the duty to create the first signature shoe for the legendary basketball player. The Jordan sneaker model was released by Nike in 1985.

Along with $2.5 million over five years, for every sneaker sold, Jordan would receive royalties. The Swoosh label sold around $70 million worth of Air Jordan 1 in the first two months alone.

The duo's partnership pushed boundaries from the get-go and instead of opting for white shoes, the label asked the player to wear black and red sneakers, breaking the "uniformity of uniform" rule in the NBA league.

The rule stated that all players must wear matching shoes to their teammates. Thus, when MJ wore red and black Nike basketball shoes, he was fined $5000 every time, with Nike picking up the tab.

While Jordan himself was skeptical about the sneaker's colors, Strasser asked MJ to stick through the plan. Initially, the Jordan shoes didn't feature the Peter Moore-designed winged-basketball sign and instead featured the "AIR JORDAN" wordmark in its place.


Once the winged logo came into being, it was stamped onto every Jordan silhouette and became highly recognized. The journey of Jordan sneaker colorway started with the "bred" hue, which was later developed into the "Chicago" color scheme after multiple fines.

Michael Jordan took the iconic Air Jordan 1 sneaker model to the court on November 17, 1984, against Philadelphia and since then, it has continued to be the top sneaker model in the industry. The shoe's "Banned" controversy led the sneaker to become even more popular.

The shoe was pushed by the label as an act of rebellion, letting the sneaker's sale fly through the roof.

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Edited by Prem Deshpande