It all started in 1984 when Nike signed a high flying rookie out of North Carolina named, Michael Jordan. Jordan fresh off winning back to back NCAA College Player of the Year awards and an NCAA Championship his freshman year seemed to be the unique player the brand needed. Nike released the Air Jordan 1 which got much needed publicity from the NBA due to banning the shoe from game play and fining MJ $5K every time he wore the shoe on the court, which Nike had no problem paying. Nike even used the banning in their commercial to promote the shoe which you can see down below.
The banning of the Air Jordan 1 was just the start of unique and famous ads that brought in millions of dollars in sales for their new superstar’s kicks! Their next move would create a legendary and edgy advertisement that would be remembered for years to come. Nike brought in an up and coming director by the name of Spike Lee, who just released his first feature film, She’s Gotta Have It. In the film, Spike plays a character by the name of Mars Blackmon who is a sports loving, New York Knicks fan much like Lee himself. Nike fell in love with the character and paired him with Michael Jordan in the new Air Jordan 3 commercial. In the commercial Mars introduces himself and the Air Jordan 3 to the world while Michael Jordan silently makes his presence known.
The relationship between the two stars continued as ads for the Air Jordan 4, 5 and 6 kept rolling out year after year.
Air Jordan 4
Air Jordan 5
Air Jordan 6
Not only did the two have a great relationship on set but they had a great relationship off the set. Jordan being the superstar athlete that he is and Spike being the crazy New York Knicks fan that he is, the two were bound to go at each other during games. Maybe not as intense as the Reggie Miller meeting but still fun and competitive. In 1996, Jordan was back from his baseball retirement, and took out Spike’s Knicks in the playoffs while waving bye bye to Lee in the process.
Spike Lee also had a Jordan plug in his latest film Do The Right Thing when a white guy from Boston stepped on a guy’s “brand new white Air Jordan’s”. The film and scene is a “Spike Lee Joint” classic and shows just how great the Nike, Jordan and Lee relationship was.
Even though the Jordan and Spike commercials were done with, you had to know there would be one last hurrah and that day came when Michael Jordan decided to leave the game of basketball for his 3rd and final time in 2003. Nike created this commercial featuring the dynamic duo with Mars trying convince Jordan to come back to the game.
It was an end of an era but the relationship of Nike, Jordan and Spike Lee continues to grow way after Michael’s playing days. Lee came back to promote the Jordan XX which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Air Jordan. The commercial tells the legendary tale of Michael Jordan and finishes with a challenge to a young kid becoming the next Air Jordan.
Michael Jordan is now the owner of the Charlotte Hornets but his sneakers continue to fly off the shelves in many retro releases. He also created an army of young superstars such as Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul who have signature shoes under the Jordan Brand. In 2006 Nike and Jordan gave their other king his own shoe, known as the Jordan Spizike. The Spizike has had many releases and even brought about another shoe known as The Son of Mars which released in recent years.
The relationship between 3 kings, Nike, Jordan and Spike is alive and well. It will be interesting to see how it continues to grow and what other legendary shoes, ads, and events will come about as the 30th year of the Air Jordan approaches. One thing is for sure, it will be something unforgettable.