In 1985, Nike gave Michael Jordan his own signature sneaker. Lean on the fast-forward button, and today, in 2017, Jordan Brand has become a focal point for all things Swoosh.
Over the years, MJ's signature sneakers have evolved from being worn strictly on hardwood and asphalt to becoming a staple of the NFL gridiron. A Jumpman logo imprinted on your cleats symbolizes greatness, regardless of the field of battle. Some of football's most dynamic players have donned MJ's crest during their playing days, helping Jordan's cultural legacy make the leap from basketball to football.
So with a new season underway, we here at Bleacher Report have taken five of the best Air Jordan cleats ever worn on an NFL field and explained how each athlete was able to capture a little bit of Jordan's essence while sporting his legendary footwear.
In true Air Jordan fashion, Randy Moss most embodied greatness by making an impact in the game. His 156 career receiving touchdowns rank second all-time to Jerry Rice's 197 despite finishing his career with fewer receptions than Hines Ward, Isaac Bruce, Anquan Boldin and Reggie Wayne, just to name a few. It's rare for any athlete in the National Football League to make the game look easy. Moss achieved that on a weekly basis.
Leadership, to some, is a trait that can't be taught. Like Jordan, Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas was born to put the weight of his teammates on his shoulders. As a five-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl champion and a leader of the defensive force known as the Legion of Boom, No. 29 is the perfect Air Jordan ambassador. He possesses the same fire Michael did, making every minute of every game feel important.
Blessed with unflappable confidence, combustible levels of swagger and a killer instinct, Deion Sanders is a close comparison to MJ. Like Jordan, Sanders crossed over and infiltrated pop culture. As a multisport star, he not only has two Super Bowl rings, but Prime Time also played in the 1992 World Series. When the lights turned on, Sanders channeled his inner Jordan by rising to the occasion.
Jordan was many things, and being an X-factor was certainly one of them. For Dez Bryant, perhaps the NFL's leading advocate for all things Jordan, he too possesses the X-factor trait. Bryant isn't the fastest wide receiver in the league, but he gives defensive backs migraines with his smarts, route running and sheer strength. At the end of the day, Bryant handles his business. He's already No. 2 on the Cowboys' all-time receiving touchdowns list, just five away from passing Bob Hayes. All of this adds up to one simple fact: Few athletes are better representatives of the Air Jordan line than Bryant.
Michael Vick's blazing "cheat code" speed was like strapping a finely tuned Ferrari engine onto an NFL quarterback. He was—literally, when talking about the Madden video game series—a game-changer. Much like Jordan, Vick was a trailblazer. He secured his own shoe deal with Nike, created a grassroots movement of excitement in Atlanta and became the face of a franchise. With all the tools needed to turn a defense upside down, Vick also single-handedly carried his team offensively—something MJ was pretty familiar with early on in his own career.