When coming up with a short list of basketball shoes that changed the sport, undoubtedly the Air Jordan I will be on that list. If not at the top then very close to it. Think about it, without the very first Air Jordan there would be no IV or XI. The whole Air Jordan series gone. No shoes for Chris Paul or Carmelo Anthony. In all likelihood there would be no sneaker releases either and – on a more positive note – no riots and mass panic in front of malls. At least not because of sneakers. The Air Jordan I was a true game changer in the athletic shoe industry and it influenced how we view basketball shoes today.
You see, back when the Jordan I came out in 1985 Nike was still known primarily as a running shoe company. Michael originally wanted to sign with either Converse or adidas both of which he wore during his college days in North Carolina. He really was not interested in Nike at all. But Converse declined and according to a Wall Street Journal article published in 2015 so did Adidas.
Adidas distributors wanted to sign Mr. Jordan, says someone who was an Adidas distributor then. But executives in Germany decided shoppers would favor taller players and wanted to sponsor centers, the person says, adding: “We kept saying, ‘no—no one can relate to those guys. Who can associate with a seven-foot-tall guy?’” – Wall Street Journal
In what would turn out to be one of the biggest mistakes ever (Portland picking Sam Bowie instead of Michael in the ’84 NBA Draft being one of them), the table was set for Nike simply by self-elimination of its main competitors. Still MJ was not convinced.