Former University of Central Florida basketball player Marcus Jordan, the son of NBA legend Michael Jordan, opted to wear his father's "Rising Sun" Air Jordan XIIs during a 2009 exhibition game, which cost the school its $3 million Adidas sponsorship.
Jordan described the situation to Complex's Matt Welty in an interview that ran Monday. The beginning of Jordan's account outlined a saga that extended from his initial visit to the school in Orlando, Florida, to Adidas corporate offices overseas:
One of the things they told me on my visit is that I was going to be able to wear Jordans, and it wouldn't be a problem. They had already spoke to their regional Adidas reps, and it wouldn't be an issue. They understood, with me being Michael Jordan's son, it would only make sense that I wear Jordans.
I ended up committing and came in the summer, worked out all summer. We started the fall semester and heard rumblings that Adidas was mad. Adidas was trying to make me wear Adidas, so I had a meeting with the school and the AD at the time, Keith Tribble, and my coach, Kirk Speraw. They sat me down and said, "We're gonna honor what we told you, because the people we were dealing with told us it wasn't an issue." But when it got to Adidas in Germany, the higher ups, it didn't sit well with them. They told everyone back in the States—or at least the regional people that my school was dealing with—everyone was going to have to wear Adidas or they were going to drop the school. The school didn't want to go back on what they told me, because it was definitely a deciding factor on why I committed to UCF. Had I been told on my visit that I would have to wear Adidas, in all honesty, I probably wouldn't have come to [the school].
Adidas ultimately did drop the Knights from the $3 million sponsor deal, but Nike promptly picked up UCF as a sponsor.
Once Adidas dropped UCF, Jordan explained the transition to Nike, per Welty:
To be honest, it was more of an inside joke, because they literally dropped the school. Nobody in any sport was getting any product. There were no more tees, there was no more anything. The athletes joked that adidas dropping the school was all my fault. You know we had to be very, very cautious about what we said or what we did, because we didn't want to give the idea that I was doing this on purpose to have Nike come in, because then there would be some legal repercussions about it. UCF would essentially be breaching their contract, and it wasn't something, like, I sat down and said, "Hey, we need to make this school Nike.” It just kinda happened. Nike ended up coming in and taking over the school. I think it was a five-year deal, but it was pretty crazy once all the products stopped [coming in].
The Air Jordan footwear rationalization makes complete sense from Jordan's perspective. That Adidas wound up dropping UCF because of his choice goes to show the power and influence of the Jordan brand.
Everything ultimately worked out for UCF and Jordan, who scored the school an exceptional merchandise deal by unintentionally igniting a controversy between two big-name rival brands.
"When I heard that Nike was going to pick up the school, I was excited and, to be honest, every kid in the school was excited—even the ones that didn't play sports, because it meant that they would have Nike apparel in our bookstore," Jordan said, per Welty.
Although he never lobbied the school to take on Nike as a sponsor, Jordan spoke to his father throughout the whole ordeal, who told him, "You know you're not wearing Adidas."
Even from a distance, the Chicago Bulls' six-time championship winner was ensuring his preferred side of Nike was winning.
Jordan specified that UCF and Nike agreed to terms on a "generic" contract and that the specific Jumpman apparel wasn't part of the deal. Some of Jordan's teammates were given Jumpman merchandise, but those were gifts from the young Jordan to his peers, not a part of the school's contract.
Per Sports-Reference.com, Jordan, now 25 years old, averaged 12.3 points per game across three seasons with the Knights, ending his college career in 2012.
Jordan mentioned to Welty that he has a relationship with Disney and is preparing to launch his own shoe store, named the Trophy Room, in the Orlando area where he still resides.