Mr. Jordan, you have 1 year to go to the big Six Zero. You are an Aquarius, which means you have high energy and aspirations. You are a quick-to-move and quick-to-think individual who stands out in a crowd: a perfect set of skills for a 6’6” basketball player. But you are so much more than a basketball player.
I believe the tipping point in your life was when you decided to have 33-year-old David Falk represent you.
Largely influenced by his brilliant mother, who also had a penchant for the New York Knicks, it was in Long Island, New York, where Falk’s unwavering determination was born. It also helped that Mr. Falk was one smart cookie, eventually earning degrees in economics and law.
David was relentless in securing an internship with the ProServ sports management agency. While studying he worked unpaid, learning the craft, and when he graduated from law school, the firm offered him a full-time job. Just 1 year after graduating, he signed the #1 NBA Draft pick. ProServ had several UNC basketball alumni on its roster; with the door already open there, two breakaway ProServ partners signed the #1 and #2 Draft picks, leaving Falk to sign #3: Michael Jordan. What good fortune.
After signing Jordan, the now famous Nike sneaker deal quickly happened. The mainstay of basketball, Jordan had worn Converse as part of the UNC Tar Heels contract. The Company was already committed to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird; it wasn’t clear where Michael Jordan would fit in this star-studded line-up. Rookie Jordan sported Adidas off court, but with his paltry 6’6” height compared to their 7’2” star (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) a deal was not going to happen. Nike was a relatively unknown brand and a suitor with whom MJ’s mother and Falk had to force him to meet.
“I have no interest in going with Nike. I don’t even know what Nike is. No way I’m going.” (Michael Jordan)
“We decided to stretch the envelope. Instead of calling up the companies and asking them how much they would pay Michael Jordan, we called them up and asked them to make a presentation and explain what they could do to promote him.” (David Falk)
The Company’s initial offer was $250,000, a Michael Jordan shoe line and a percentage of the revenue from shoe sales. They eventually settled on $500,000 a year for 5 years, and a smaller cut of sales. This was the first time a basketball player would share in the royalties of a shoe brand. Sales and athletic performance targets were set; if any were not met, the deal would come to a screeching halt.
“We wanted to treat him like a tennis player. Tennis players and golfers typically use their own line of products. That’s the way it works in golf. That went against the grain of what everybody was thinking in 1984 in the NBA … Back then no one had a brand in basketball, no one had any endorsements in basketball, basically.” (David Falk)
“If I could do it again, and I knew exactly what was going to happen, I would have signed him with Nike for a dollar a year and a 50-50 royalty split.” (David Felt)
The Jordan-Falk duo also removed MJ from the NBA Player Association group licensing program, and changed Michael’s contract to permit off-season playing without having to seek permission from the League.
The Air Jordan 1 was the first shoe in the rookie’s line-up. MJ was reportedly fined $5,000 per game by the NBA for wearing shoes that were not primarily white. Nike decided it was great exposure for the brand and chose to pay all of the fines as Michael continued to wear his iconic red and black sneakers – whether they were Air Ship’s or Air Jordan’s remains a controversial topic. Either way, the “banned” shoes made for an instant marketing hit, and Air Jordan 1 sales topped $125 million in Y1 – a quantum leap beyond the initial $3 million target.
Apparently, Jordan gets 5% of the sale price of each piece of Nike footwear and apparel that bears his name. In 2021, 5% of $5 billion in Jordan-branded Nike sales netted him $250 million. Michael Jordan is the top ranked athlete on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, with an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion. With his fingers in the incredibly lucrative DraftKings pie, while also dabbling in cryptocurrency and virtual trading-cards (NFTs), 2022 will be another slam dunk.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot … and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” (Michael Jordan)
Mr. Jordan, we wish you the best on this day, your 59th birthday.
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