Open Mic: MJ Is Still The King of America

Joe GSenior Writer IJuly 9, 2008

Recognize that shoe?

Of course you do.

It's become an American institution much like McDonald's or muscle cars. I'm sure most of us have our own stories about that shoe, as well.

Mine is brief.

During my freshman year of high school, I was a spot starter/sixth man for my school's varsity basketball team.

Our starting small forward had a silky smooth jump shot and a pair of black and orange Jordan’s. His game was good, yeah, but the on-court style is what set our team apart.

In a league filled with black and white Reeboks that cost about $40, these shoes turned heads.

That was the year 2000.

Michael Jordan had been gone from Chicago for two seasons, and had yet to announce his planned comeback with the Washington Wizards. Out of the game, kids still wanted his shoes on their feet.

Jordan has been done playing professionally since 2003.

Nike is still putting out new Air Jordan’s, and people are still flocking to stores to buy them. In years, since their debut in 1985, Air Jordan’s have gone from high-end basketball shoe to a cultural phenomenon.

It's just a shoe.

You or I could put on an old pair of canvas Chuck Taylors, head out to the driveway, and hit a few lay-ups.

Most people would agree that the shoe does not make the athlete— why the clamor over these particular kicks?

It's the man behind them.

Michael Jordan is the best basketball player most of us have ever seen. Had he not decided to stink at baseball for a couple years, he could have realistically won eight titles in a row.

With all of our athletic heroes, there's a small part of us that wants to be them; to walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak.

With Michael Jordan, we finally could.

Nike saw this potential while he was still at North Carolina, and put everything they could into keeping him away from Adidas, who were also trying to sign him.

The rest, as they say, is history.

In an era when most basketball shoes were white, the black and red of the Air Jordan’s made a statement.

The NBA actually banned the shoes, but Jordan kept wearing them anyway. The shoe now had some attitude and notoriety, and a hugely famous athlete behind it.

I'll spare you the rest of the history lesson, but MJ's impact on American sports is undeniable.

Without him, Nike might not even be around today.

Until he came around, Nike was fledgling little company selling running shoes, without any serious concept of identity.

With Jordan's help, Nike has grown into a multibillion-dollar international corporation.

The company has expanded into every sport imaginable, and now boasts Tiger Woods and LeBron James among its endorsers.

Again, without Jordan, none of this would have been possible.

Jordan himself has expanded into many different ventures.

In addition to hoops, he's acted, gotten into golf and baseball, and sold Gatorade and McDonald's.

With his business savvy, kids who will grow up never having seen Jordan play will still be well aware of what he is.

Jordan's reputation as a basketball superstar and an international cultural icon will ensure that youngsters for years to come will want to "Be Like Mike."