Episode five of “The Last Dance” featured several revelations about Michael Jordan’s history with sneakers, with key players including longtime agent David Falk and Nike exec Howard White and the basketball icon himself leading the storytelling.
In the first of two episodes that aired May 3, Jordan and other key figures discussed topics including the infamous “Republicans buy sneakers, too” comment, MJ’s desire to sign with Adidas, covering up the Reebok logo at the 1992 Olympics and more.
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Below are some of the most powerful revelations from episode five of “The Last Dance.”
Adidas Was Jordan’s Brand of Choice
During episode five of “The Last Dance,” Jordan revealed he wanted to be an Adidas athlete. But Falk said that was not possible. “Adidas was really dysfunctional by that time and they just told me, we’d love to have Jordan but we just can’t make a shoe work at this time,” Falk said during the episode.
Converse Wasn’t Going to Give Jordan Much Attention
When Jordan entered the league, Converse had some of the biggest names in basketball on its roster including NBA champions Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. According to Jordan, he wouldn’t have got the attention from Converse that the other players did. “Converse had big players and told me we could not envision you being put ahead of them,” Jordan said during episode five.
Jordan Didn’t Want to Sign With Nike
It’s hard to imagine Jordan with any brand other than Nike. But if he had it his way, he would have been an Adidas athlete. White, who is now the SVP of Jordan Brand, said Jordan had no interest in Nike because of its ties to track and its reputation as a track shoe company. “I couldn’t even get him to go on the damn plane and go visit the campus,” Falk said during the episode. Jordan’s agent wanted him to sign with Nike because they were “the upstart.” To get him to the Nike campus, Falk said he called Jordan’s parents. “My mother said, ‘You’re going to go listen. You may not like it but you’re going to go listen,” Jordan said during the documentary. After the pitch, Jordan said his father told him, “You’ve got to be a fool for not taking this deal, this is the best deal.”
Nike Was Giving MJ a Signature Shoe, Without a Doubt
“When I negotiated the Nike deal I said to them, ‘You’re a small company, and if you want Michael Jordan he’s got to have his own shoe line,” Falk said during the episode. According to Falk, Nike’s expectation that was at the end of year four of the deal that they hoped to sell $3 million worth of Air Jordans. He then stated, “In year one we sold $126 million.”
Covering the Reebok Logo at the 1992 Olympics
For the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Reebok outfitted the U.S. teams. Jordan was not happy about that, and stated during the episode that he was told he couldn’t accept the gold medal if the uniform wasn’t worn. “Michael decided that he didn’t want to display the Reebok logo that was on his uniform,” then NBA commissioner David Stern said. Jordan’s response was to hide it. “They said they are going to try to hide the Reebok on it. But they can’t hide it like I’m going to hide it. They in for a big f**king surprise,” Jordan said. So, when he accepted his gold, he did so with an American flag draped over his shoulder covering the Reebok branding.
Wearing the Air Jordan 1 During His Final Game at Madison Square Garden With the Chicago Bulls
On March 8, 1998, Jordan took the court for the final time at Madison Square Garden in to face the New York Knicks, the arena he said was his “favorite place to play.” To commemorate the occasion, he wore the Air Jordan 1, which he said was the first shoe he wore in the Garden and will be the last one he wore as well. “By halftime my feet are bleeding but I’m having a good game, I don’t want to take them off,” Jordan said. Further into the documentary, he said, “I couldn’t take those shoes off fast enough and when I took the shoes off my sock was soaked in blood.” Jordan scored 42 points against the Bulls’ then biggest rival.
Jordan Confirms the “Republicans Buy Sneakers, Too” Comment
Jordan stayed away from political commentary for much of his pro career and maintained a largely clean image. However, he faced criticism when he did not endorse Democrat Harvey Gantt from North Carolina in the 1990 U.S. Senate race, who would have been the first African American from the state to serve. Jordan’s often reported “Republicans buy sneakers, too” comment further fueled people’s public disappointment in him. In the documentary, Jordan confirmed the comment was made and added some context. “I don’t think that statement needs to be corrected because I said it in jest on a bus with Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen. It was thrown off the cuff,” Jordan said during the documentary.