Why 30 Years of Jordan Is Only The Beginning

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Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand are celebrating a milestone of 30 years of the Air Jordan line this year in 2015 and while many look to the past of his greatness, the future looks even greater.

For nearly a decade of writing about sneakers, I have heard the repeated question from fans, retailers, and even brands, “How much bigger can this get?”

More than a decade since walking off the court in Philadelphia where he played his last NBA game, Michael Jordan is still the greatest in the game and his legend continues to get even greater.  Today’s 16 year old Jordan consumer wasn’t even born when Mike hit the “Last Shot” as a Chicago Bull in the 1998 NBA Finals, but still his impression is felt.  Thanks to technology, YouTube, ESPN Classic, the new generation of sneakerheads and basketball fans can watch his greatness, but it is the stories told that elevate him and his shoes to iconic status.

Michael Jordan, Nike, and the game of basketball together created the perfect storm when he entered the league in 1984.  The world was changing with more televisions in homes than ever with nationally televised games.  Nike and Weiden + Kennedy created what many would argue to be some of the greatest marketing campaigns the world has ever seen, and well, Mike was just being Mike by being the absolute best while wearing his Air Jordans.

The Converse All Star, known to many as the Chuck Taylor, was one of the very first basketball shoes when it debuted in 1918 and despite never having played in the NBA, the Chuck Taylor is and always will be iconic.  Chuck Taylor brought the game of basketball to tens-of-thousands of athletes when he toured the US putting on clinics, but Michael Jordan took the game to heights that no one ever imagined.  Chuck helped spread the game of basketball around the US, but Michael Jordan elevated the sport globally.  And with the spread of the game, so too did his shoes come along for the ride.

If Chuck Taylor could withstand the test of time of nearly 100 years, why can’t Air Jordans?  For starters, Chuck Taylor never played in the NBA, there is no film of him in his coaching clinics, and even Hall of Famer Bob Cousy has joked that Chuck couldn’t even dribble behind his back.  It isn’t even fair to compare Chuck Taylor and his abilities to Michael Jordan.

As a kid, I remember talking baseball with my grandfather and all of the stories of the great legends.  Roger Marris, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, and of course Babe Ruth were all icons of the past that live on through the earlier generations talking sports with their kids and grand kids, but those stories were, for the most part, all that we had to share.  Limited film, blurry photos, and rare baseball cards was the only documentation that I had as a kid to learn about legends.

Contrast those stories of sports greats to Michael Jordan and yet again, you have something that is incomparable.  True, today’s generation of sneaker consumer didn’t ever get to watch Michael Jordan play live, but there are endless hours of footage of him and his epic moments and achievements on YouTube.  Photos capturing these moments are everywhere and with a quick Google search, they can be found in a flash.

Beyond the stories, beyond the film, and beyond the pictures, Jordan Brand delivers to us something we can hold in our hand and wear on our feet that bring those stories to life.  The bring back of classic Jordan shoes is great for those who had them before, but each time they return, there is a story to share and to be told even if it is a colorway that Mike never wore in a game.

In the ad and media world, I hear it frequently said that Nike is not a sportswear company, but rather a marketing company that produces a great product.  Applying the same logic to Jordan, you could argue that Jordan Brand is not a sportswear brand, but rather a story telling and history documenting brand with products that were part of those historic moments.

If you look at the lay of the land in footwear, there are many icons that have withstood the test of time.

A Yankee fitted, a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans, or even a pair of Chucks have all been staples in people’s lives for generations – why can’t Air Jordans be added to the list?

It is great to look back at 30 years of greatness, but it is even more exciting to think what the future holds for Jordan Brand and the Air Jordan franchise.

Here’s to another 30 years and many more.

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