Michael Jordan is among a few Black billionaires in the world. The former NBA star per Forbes estimates is worth $2.1 billion. A large chunk of his worth comes from his paycheck from Nike, which has been his biggest financial and marketing backer.
Indeed, Nike’s deal with Jordan has not only made him a billionaire but has also made him a cultural icon. According to Forbes, it is the richest athlete endorsement deal ever but also arguably the biggest bargain due to the fact that Jordan helped Nike move from a relatively unknown brand to one of the most valuable in the world today.
Before Nike achieved its current status, the brand played second fiddle to leading brands like Adidas, Reebok, and Converse. In the mid-1980s, Adidas was 50 percent large by revenue and Reebok was doing well in the market than Nike. Converse, on the other hand, was the brand choice for many NBA stars, including Jordan, and upcoming players like Larry Bird, and Julius Erving, according to Forbes.
Now Nike is the most dominant in the sneaker business, with at least 80 percent of the market share. Since the 1990s, it has signed stars like the (late) Kobe Bryant, Zion Williamson, Luka Doncic, among others.
In his days at the University of North Carolina, Jordan wore Converse and was set to join Adidas when he was first drafted by the Bulls. However, his agent David Falk convinced him to join Nike owing to his close relationship with the brand.
Nike first offered Jordan a base pay of $500,000 per year, triple any other NBA sneaker deal, according to Forbes. The first Air Jordan sneaker was an instant hit, racking up $100 million in sales in the first 12 months. As the Jordan brand got bigger, so was his paycheck. In 2020, Jordan reportedly made $130 million from Nike, which Forbes estimates was four times bigger than what LeBron James earned. James currently has the biggest shoe deal among active NBA players.
“The Jordan Brand had revenue of $3.1 billion in the fiscal year ending May 2019—only 8% of company revenue—but likely represents a larger chunk of the market value because its 10% growth rate is faster than the company’s overall,” Forbes reported.
“The brand is easily worth north of $10 billion, in addition to the billions of dollars in profits it has generated over 35 years and its halo impact on sales of other Nike-branded products.”
The 36-year partnership with Nike has earned Jordan $1.3 billion and counting, according to Forbes.