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David Falk on why Nike didn't allow Michael Jordan to have a signature shoe with his full name - "I literally wanted to strangle him"

When you talk about Air Jordan, it’s undoubtedly the most successful shoe of all time. 

Since its launch in 1984, it has released a total of 37 signature models, including the latest one - Air Jordan 37, which debuted in September 2022. That’s not counting the revival of older models and their most popular colorways, which also happens very often.

The bottom line is that Air Jordan keeps releasing new models or reviving older models year after year and keeps on selling. That’s impressive.

We all know that the shoe was originally made for But do you know the reason behind its name? MJ’s longtime agent David Falk revealed the real story to sports writer Darren Rovell in a 2020 interview.

Falk said the name was decided during a meeting in Washington with former Nike Executive Rob Strasser and designer Peter Moore.

 Falk recalled.

 he added. 

 Falk concluded.

Michael “Air” Jordan

Before Michael became the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball, he started as a flamboyant young star who was known for his uncanny ability to score and his high-flying dunks.

MJ posted a 16-6-7 stat line against the Washington Bullets in his NBA debut on October 26, 1984. However, it was in his second NBA game that he displayed his ability to play above the rim.

Jordan scored 21 points in his second game for the Bulls but it was his three dunks against the Milwaukee Bucks that stood out that night. The first two dunks were from alley-oop passes and the third one was MJ’s version of the ‘cradle dunk’, which he would display during the NBA Dunk Contest.

MJ first captured the imagination of basketball fans with his hangtime, flying motion, and leaping ability. He won the NBA  in 1987 and 1988, sealing both wins with his iconic free-throw line dunk.

MJ more than doubled his career earnings in 2022

Just as Michael Jordan evolved from a slam-dunking star to one of the most dominant players in basketball history, so did the Air Jordan metamorphose. On September 9, 1997, the Air Jordan 13 was released, and along with it, the Jordan Brand.

At that point,  decided to let the Air Jordan line operate 100% independently from the mother company. Aside from being its top seller, the shoe company thought it needed to do something big to let it be known to the consumer that the Jumpman logo was going to stay, even if Michael Jordan would be retiring. That decision was a stroke of genius.

In the past five years, the Jordan Brand has brought in $19.4 billion in revenue for Nike. For the fiscal year 2022 alone, it raked in a whopping $5.1 billion. With MJ’s share in the sales of Jordan Brand reported at 5%, it’s safe to say he’s more than doubled his career earnings in 2022 alone—Jordan made $90 million in salary over the course of his NBA career.

Mike's first deal with Nike paid him $500,000 annually. That was an insane amount of money at that time. It’s crazier what he makes now. That’s the Michael Jordan effect and with no signs of slowing down, it’s scary for the competition, just like the player was when he was still in the NBA.

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