Nike was “Disappointed” When Michael Jordan First Retired
Jordan’s First Retirement
The Chicago Bulls endured a significant blow to their franchise in ’93. Things were going well, as the Bulls reached the pinnacle of the NBA for a 3rd straight time. But, the best player or their team, and the best player of all time wanted to hang up his jersey. Michael Jordan was the NBA’s biggest superstar of the 90s. So, it was a major surprise when Mike told the Bulls that he’s moving on from the league. MJ leaving the NBA didn’t just affect his teammates and the Chicago Bulls organization. He also affected his endorsement deals, particularly with Nike.
Even today, Jordan is recognized as Nike’s greatest athlete. Although the Air Jordan signature Brand is a separate entity within the company. Today, Jordan Brand is worth a ridiculous amount of money.
Tinker Hatfield is a name that is synonymous with Michael Jordan and Nike. Hatfield was the innovative genius behind the retro Jordans that are so treasured today. In fact, Hatfield designed the legendary silhouettes of the Jordan III through XV, XX, and XX3. Combine Tinker’s innovative design with Jordan’s skillset and marketability, and one could understand why Nike wouldn’t be a fan of the G.O.A.T retiring.
Hatfield was in the middle of his creative process with the Air Jordan 10. The shoe served as a beacon to memorialize Nike’s decade-long cooperation with MJ. But, as we all know, Jordan announced his retirement. Which made Nike unhappy.
“So he says that there is going to be a huge press conference and he wants me and Howard White to be there. He was really, really sad. Phil was almost morose,” Hatfield recalled. He could sense the disappointment in Knight’s tone. “You could just tell in his voice that he was super sad, and to him, it was almost the end of an era.” Upon receiving the news, Hatfield wanting to get rid of it, just went back to his studio to continue with the designing process.
Tinker Hatfield and Michael Jordan
In a previous interview with Tinker, he stated that he felt he was beginning to know Michael as a human, more so a basketball player. And, from their time spent together, he had a feeling that MJ could use a break in his basketball career. Because of their connection, Hatfield continued to work on the sneaker, regardless of Jordan’s retirement.
“So, I was thinking to myself, we better have a shoe for him when he unretires. The whole thing can’t be a broken string, he’ll just wear the newest shoe that we’ve designed for him.”
In Retrospect, It All Worked Out
In retrospect, everything worked out for Nike with Jordan. Today, Nike is worth over $32 billion. Part of that is due to the legendary career that Michael Jordan was able to obtain. The real question would have been, “Where would Nike be today without Michael Jordan?” Which, is a question that we almost had to ask back then, when MJ was figuring out his shoe deal in 1984.