Michael Jordan: The Jumpman

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It's a bird, a helicopter... no, it's a pair of Air Jordans.' published a headline The sporting world went nuts as Michael Jordan set off for a dunk from the free-throw line. He was no longer Jordan; he had changed his name to Jumpman. This is the logo for the shoe company named after the best basketball player of all time, Air Jordan. Right after, his then-recent line of streetwise basketball shoes took off, ushering in a new wave in sneaker culture. The story of Air Jordan isn't about a shoe; it's about a legend. As a talented rookie who had just signed for Chicago Bulls, Jordan wanted a deal with his favorite shoe company, Adidas. However, they couldn’t agree terms and he ended up at Nike; their loss. The first two designs of Air Jordan didn't impress Jordan. Enter genius designer, Tinker Hartfield and everything changed. He incorporated Michael’s lifestyle and feedback into his state of the art designs and the modern-day Jumpman was born shoe. A combination of Jordan’s achievements on the court, Nike’s incredible marketing campaign and Tinker Hatfield’s genius is responsible for the shoes success as a luxury brand (Carducci 43).

The Symbol of Black Excellence

Air Jordan is not just a status symbol. Black Americans identify with the brand because it symbolizes black excellence. As one of the greatest athletes in sports history, Michael Jordan is just as important as Michael Jackson, Mohammed Ali, Malcolm X and other icons. Jordan’s motto ‘go hard or go home’ still resonates with many sports fans. The modern sneaker culture can trace its roots to the first Air Jordan released in 1985. Fast forward, in 2015, two of the biggest stars in hip-hop, Drake and Future collaborated on the latest song about Air Jordan, Jumpman. A few years before Wiz Khalifa and Miley Cyrus also had a hit song known as ‘23,’ a reference to Jordans jersey number. Air Jordans have become part of the pop culture.

The Rise to Success

Before Air Jordan, a shoe was just a shoe. Jumpman changed that. Sneakers became cool; they became a culture. And to think they almost never took off. The shoe was banned on the court by the NBA at the brands inception for having ‘non-regulation’ colors. Jordan did not let that get in his way. Despite that, Michael still wore Air Jordan on court and Nike had no problem paying off the fines he was slapped with by the NBA. Being banned on the court was a blessing in disguise, Michael wearing Air Jordans despite the fines he accumulated was an act of defiance resonated strongly with the spirit of a champion and the ability to succeed even when the odds are clearly stacked again you. Previously, Air Jordan was part of the Nike brand. In 1987, the shoes, alongside other Jumpman merchandise was released under the Air Jordan brand.

The Design and Marketing Success

Jordan’s feats on the court forever immortalized his brand of shoes. Whether it is the fact that Michael was banned from wearing designer shoes on the basketball court, or the fact he dunked from the free-throw line; Air Jordan took off and never came back down even after Jordan retired. Most of the shoes in the Jordan brand are a collector’s dream. So, why so much hype the Air Jordan sneakers? First the design of the shoe is state of the art, that’s in term of quality and style. Not only are the sneakers by Air Jordan made by experts with special attention to comfort and with the best materials, their design or look is always forward-looking and stylish. A shoe like that was bound to flourish in today’s climate of consumerism. The information age has shifted the balance of power from retailers to consumers (Kehl 215). This is because consumers can access and share information in real time. Brands such as Jordan use techniques such as viral marketing and contextual marketing to target potential consumers. This is in addition to the roster of athletes such as Russell Westbrook keeps the brand trendy and relevant. By tapping into the spirit of the time, the brand is able to design a sneaker unlike any other from year to year.

The Battle of the Sneaker Giants

The craze around the shoe seems to have gotten bigger with the emergence of a new wave of sneakerheads. Air Jordan has the sneaker game by the proverbial chokehold. People line up for days just to get themselves a pair of Air Jordan sneakers. Enter Yeezy to try and jump the Jumpman. When it comes to the sneaker game, Air Jordan’s biggest rival is Yeezy; a shoe brand owned by Kanye and designed in collaboration with Nike’s competitor Adidas. According to Kanye West, he is the ‘greatest rock star’ of the 21st century. A bold claim but one he can back up, nonetheless. Kanye has won 21 grammars and is one of the greatest innovators currently in the music industry. The story of Yeezys also starts at Nike. After collaborating on a number of projects, Kanye left Nike disgruntled. Even though Air Yeezy were highly popular, he felt Nike didn’t not share in his vision and were limiting his creative and financial freedom. He decamped to Adidas and his success story began. Yeezys sell out long before they hit the shelves. Currently, a pair of the latest Yeezy Boost 350 v2 retails from $750-$2000. Kanye’s story is also that of black excellence. So we have two celebrities, each known for his achievements on the world stage. Each of them has luxury shoe brand and they are backed by the R&D departments of two of the biggest sports giants. Yeezy boosts enjoys more hype around it due to Kanye West’s highly publicized lifestyle. Kanye West stays relevant by trending; whether it’s through providing fans with the best music or throwing shade on social media, Kanye is always a hot topic. Comparing Air Jordan and Air Yeezy has to take into account the fact Jordan retired approximately twenty years ago while Kanye is in his prime with no signs of slowing down. Air Jordan draws its competitive advantage from its rich history (Kozinets 693). With more than 30 years in the sneaker game, the brand has amassed a legion of fans who are willing to spend a pretty penny on pair of the latest or retro-fitted Air Jordan. Air Jordan’s were successful long before consumerism gripped United States and the world. Kanye West, on the other hand, debuted in the music industry in 2004, he joined the fashion industry in 2007, and capitalized on the hype around his celebrity status to come up with a worthy competitor for Air Jordan.


In conclusion, Air Jordan is a shoe brand that can be referred to as a class act. The brand has a rich history going back over thirty years. This, compounded by Michael Jordan achievements on the court and a good design team at Nike have allowed the brand to withstand the test of time.

Works Cited

Carducci, Vincent. The aura of the brand. Radical Society: Review of Culture & Politics. Oct-Dec2013, Vol. 30 Issue 3/4, p39-50.

Kehl, Maria Rita. Advertising, perversions, neurosis. International Forum of Psychoanalysis. Sep2005, Vol. 14 Issue 3/4, p210-216.

Kozinets, Robert V.; Handelman, Jay M. Adversaries of Consumption: Consumer Movements, Activism, and Ideology. Journal of Consumer Research. Dec2004, Vol. 31 Issue 3, p691-704

October 20, 2021

Life Sports

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