The story of how the Nike Air Jordan 1 came to be has been told severally. According to High Snobiety, it all began in 1984 when Michael Jordan was the Chicago Bulls' third overall pick in the NBA draft, after Hakeem Olawajun and Sam Bowie. Jordan negotiated a seven-year deal worth $6 million with the Bulls. Nike could also see the potential in the young basketball player; hence, they also tried having him on their side. Since there would be no Nike Air Jordan 1 KO Chicago without the Air Jordan 1, let us take you back to how Jordan agreed to endorse Nike shoes.
History Begins with Jordan’s Contract with Nike
Jordan confessed that he had preferred getting a deal with Adidas or Converse. Since these two shoe companies were not ready to make him an offer, Jordan’s parents advised him to fly to Nike’s headquarters and listen to their proposal. Although so many people like taking credit for pushing the deal between Jordan and Nike, the basketball player disclosed that it would have been impossible were it not for George Raveling. Raveling was an assistant coach and had been with Jordan during the 1984 Olympics. The coach advised Jordan to go for Nike. Since Sonny Vaccaro had secured a deal for Raveling with Nike, Raveling figured that Vaccaro would do the same for the upcoming basketball player. Besides, Vaccaro had requested Raveling to set up a meeting with Jordan so that Vaccaro would convince Jordan to sign with Nike. Thus, Raveling introduced Jordan to Vaccaro in Los Angeles, but Jordan was still not ready, saying he was an Adidas guy. Consequently, Raveling advised Nike to continue pressing Jordan, and when he went to Nike’s headquarters with his parents and David Faulk, his agent, there was no turning back. As a result, Nike offered Jordan $500,000 each year for the next five years, a deal that neither Converse nor Adidas could match. Vaccaro insisted he was the one behind this mouthwatering deal but what matters is that Jordan agreed to sign the contract. Until that point, Jordan had never worn Nike shoes.
Enter Air Jordan 1
The design of Air Jordan 1 is due to the creativity of Peter Moore. According to Sneaker History, he wanted to break the color barrier since, in the 1980s, bright colors were reserved for women’s aerobics sneakers or running shoes. Therefore, even when Jordan wore the Air Ship before the Air Jordan 1 debuted in 1985, he was fined $5000 for breaking the rule of uniformity in uniform. Nike did not mind paying the fine, and Moore continued working on the iconic Air Jordan 1, getting his inspiration during a flight. He drew wings on a napkin and placed a basketball in the wings; that Wings logo was stamped on the sneakers that would become the Air Jordan 1. Jordan wore the Air Jordan 1 for the first time in November 1984 and again in February 1985. Not many people would tell he was interchanging Air Ship and Air Jordan 1 since they both had the same black/red colorway. However, the NBA Commissioner's office was still unhappy with Jordan’s disregard of the uniform and sent letters warning him not to wear the shoes. As a result, the Air Jordan adopted a new colorway, the Chicago colorway, to avoid fines, but the fines had already generated hype for the Air Jordan 1. Nike expected sales of the sneakers to be massive and produced so many Air Jordan 1 sneakers in anticipation.
The Nike Air Jordan 1 KO Chicago Debuts
Unfortunately, as Finish Line published, Nike had overestimated how well the shoes would do in the market. Therefore, they overproduced the sneakers resulting in many unsold shoes in various stores. Nike came up with a way to ensure that the shoes would still turn a profit. Since they had also offered the shoe in almost every colorway the Chicago colorway was the only one left to be attached to the sneakers. They also needed to knockoff a certain amount from the price; hence, the Nike Air Jordan 1 KO Chicago debuted. However, that is only one of the stories that explain why the Nike Air Jordan 1 KO Chicago exists. According to an Instagram Post, Nike Kicks Vault posted that by July 1985, the sales of the Air Jordan 1 were astronomical. Nike predicted that other brands would want a share of the profits by selling knockoffs of the sneakers thus decided to be proactive and make Nike knockoffs. After all, Honors from Targets was about to hit the stores. Therefore, before the other brands started selling their knockoffs in August 1985, Nike released their knockoffs, in the summer of 1985 ahead of everyone else. The shoe had a Vandal outsole, and AJKO replaced Air Jordan on the wings logo. Nike also replaced the leather upper with canvas, enabling the price to go down from $64.99 to $34.99 and fetching a higher profit margin. To recover their losses, Nike created an iconic shoe that was more preferred by basketball fans due to the breathability of canvas and is light compared to leather. When it debuted, it was in so many colorways, and it made a return in 2011, 2012, and 2014. It was again released in 2021 as part of the Jordan Spring collection and was available in black, white, and red Chicago colorway. To this day, Nike has never disclosed what “KO” stands for, and the public continues to believe it means “Knock Off” while others opine it represents “Knock Out.” Whatever “KO” means, the fact remains that it has come to be a beloved sneaker that Nike appreciates with its revival once in a while. Unlike when it debuted in 1985 for $34.99, in 2021 it was going for $140, showing that it is no longer regarded as a knock-off, but one worthy as any other Air Jordan sneakers.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
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