Nike (NKE) on Thursday unveiled the Air Jordan 35, the latest iteration of a shoe named after NBA legend Michael Jordan and unveiled all the way back in 1985. Since then, the Jordan Brand has become integral to Nike, which this week reported earnings that blew past analysts’ expectations.
The new Air Jordan 35 features certain stylistic components of previous Air Jordans, especially the Jordan V, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Nike touts the shoe’s “responsive cushioning” in the heel and forefoot.
"The coolest part about the Jordan brand and what Michael Jordan was able to do is he introduced a culture and a functional shoe and combined them together. The shoe is bigger than just a shoe, just like the brand is bigger than just Michael Jordan himself,” Craig Williams, president of Jordan Brand and a former Coca-Cola (KO) executive, told Yahoo Finance on Thursday.
The Air Jordan line is arguably the most iconic shoe series of all time, and UBS analyst Jay Sole said the franchise has been “a key component” of the shoe giant’s success over the years. In December, Jordan reported its first-ever $1 billion quarter. Its growth stems, in part, from the fact that it is no longer just a men’s basketball shoe.
“The brand is growing strongly all over the world, with female consumers, and in other categories like apparel, running, and golf,” Sole said.
‘You gotta be a fool not to take this deal’
Michael Jordan, who’s now 57 and long retired, struck the deal to launch the Jordan brand over 35 years ago. In 1984, a fresh out of college Jordan visited Nike's Oregon campus, as shown during ESPN's documentary "The Last Dance."
Jordan himself was reluctant to sign with Nike, which up until the mid-80s was known as a running shoe company. However, after not getting a deal with Adidas, Jordan signed with Nike on his parents' advice, particularly his father. He told the future NBA legend: "You gotta be a fool not to take this deal."
Jordan, of course, took the deal, and the rest is history. Jordan personally played in 16 of the now 35 shoes in the series.
The Air Jordan 35 will release on Sept. 27 in China and globally on Oct. 17.
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.