Nike set to release 23rd Air Jordan
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.
BEAVERTON - It's gotta be the shoes, right?
No other basketball shoe has changed the face of business, athletics and marketing like the Air Jordan. This month, Nike releases the 23rd edition, and it is expected to be just as venerated as its predecessors.
The sleek design and link to Michael Jordan's jersey number make it a touchstone in the line. It's also Nike's first basketball shoe designed under its "Considered'' ethos, which aims to reduce waste and use environmentally friendly materials wherever possible.
The Air Jordan XX3 will be released in three hyped-up rounds from January to February, starting with a limited edition to be sent to only 23 retailers to be sold for $230, and concluding with the national launch at $185.
There had been talk at Nike about retiring the shoe at No. 23, because of his iconic jersey number. But company officials won't say whether this will be the last of the line. Neither will Jordan.
Before launching the first shoe in 1985, Nike had just signed Jordan for $2.5 million over five years. Nike won't say what Jordan's current contract with the company is worth.
Jordan's deal with Nike opened the door for sneaker manufacturers to chase after athletes, signing them up - sometimes just out of high school - for multimillion-dollar contracts in hopes of being able to cash in on the next superstar. It sent sneaker prices to new heights, which has since generated a backlash against selling pricey shoes to basketball-loving kids.
"The Air Jordan franchise created the most coveted basketball footwear in the world and changed the basketball landscape forever,'' said Nike Brand President Charlie Denson.
Unlike most basketball shoes to date, which were often white and utilitarian, the Air Jordan was a shock of black and red. It was initially banned by the NBA for not conforming with other players' shoes.
Jordan continued to wear them and was fined $5,000 a game, which Nike paid.
"Nobody expected the mass hysteria created by its release,'' Jordan, who has been a part-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats since 2006, said in an e-mail.
A new edition was launched each year, and release dates had to be moved to the weekends to keep kids from skipping school to get a pair.
The frenzy got dangerous. People were mugged and even killed for the shoes.
The Air Jordans helped spawn a subculture of collectors, who line up at stores to buy the shoe's latest edition.
Jordan said he never expected that the shoe would become an icon.
"Like every kid growing up, I dreamed of making winning shots at the buzzer and I was fortunate to live out that dream, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever entertain the idea of the success of the Air Jordan franchise,'' he said.
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