Why Michael Jordan's Fancy New Sneakers Cost $5,000 Per Game


Who doesn’t love Air Jordans? They’re favorites of everyone from basketball players to the fashion conscious. When the shoes first hit the market, though, they had a high-profile naysayer: NBA Commissioner David Stern.

Nike released the first design of its instant-classic line of Air Jordan sneakers on September 15, 1985. On October 18th of that year, Stern officially barred Michael Jordan from wearing his signature kicks during games. Stern wasn’t just being an arbiter of fashion, though. He banned the shoes because their vibrant red-and-black color scheme didn’t match the shoes and jerseys that the rest of Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teammates were wearing.

If anyone could defy the most powerful commissioner in American sports, it was Jordan. His Airness continued to take the court in Air Jordans. Stern responded by fining Jordan $5,000 for each game he wore the shoes. A $5,000 fine sounds like pocket change in today’s NBA, but over an 82-game regular season it would add up to $410,000 in fines against Jordan’s salary of $630,000.

The fines really didn’t matter to Jordan, though, because Nike paid them. The hoopla around Stern’s smackdown on the shoes helped propel their sales to previously unimaginable levels. Nike even used the ban as the basis for an ad:

Needless to say, Stern eventually relented, and the Air Jordan became the most popular basketball shoe of its generation.