In 1984, Michael Jordan took the NBA by storm, both with his play and his aura, as he wowed the NBA world while donning the first model of his signature Air Jordan line by Nike.
1985 NBA Slam Dunk Contest (Feb. 9, 1985, Market Square Arena, Indianapolis) Michael Jordan dazzled in his first Slam Dunk appearance, finishing as a runner-up to Dominique Wilkins, losing in the final round by the score of 147 to 136. pic.twitter.com/cBUG7gUUXP- NBA History (@NBAHistory) December 14, 2017
It was only the beginning of a historic saga.
13 years later, as Jordan prepared for what would be his final season with the Chicago Bulls, Nike officially announced the launch of the Jordan Brand, a sub-brand of Nike marketed as "a pure, authentic basketball brand of premium, high-performance basketball footwear and apparel inspired by the performance legacy, vision and direct involvement of Michael Jordan."
With Jordan's retirement on the horizon, the brand chose Ray Allen, Derek Anderson, Vin Baker, Michael Finley and Eddie Jones to be its first signature athletes - the original Team Jordan.
In the nearly 25 years since, an extensive list of players that includes the likes of Hall of Famers in Jason Kidd, Reggie Miller, Gary Payton and Dwyane Wade has represented Jordan Brand, but never before has the brand compiled a roster quite as good as the one it has in 2021.
It would be disrespectful to not begin with the OGs, the current veterans of 10-plus years that remain in the game but laid the groundwork for the current generation of Jordan stars.
- Carmelo Anthony, who received his first signature shoe in the 2004-05 season.
- Chris Paul, who received his first signature shoe in the 2007-08 season.
- Russell Westbrook, who received his first signature shoe in the 2017-18 season.
In addition to the three signature athletes, the brand also represents other big-time veterans in LaMarcus Aldrige, Mike Conley Jr., Blake Griffin and Kemba Walker, a group that has a combined 17 All-Star appearances, with Conley serving as the main candidate to bring the group's total to 18 in 2021.
As important as the aforementioned seven names have been for laying the groundwork for this generation of Jordan, it's the new crop of Jordan talent that adds a dynamic the brand has truly never had before. When you think of where this league will be in five years, there isn't a much better reference point than NBA.com's list of top 23 players under the age of 23 that was published ahead of the 2020-21 season.
Take a look at the list and there are a few Jordan Brand athletes to be found.
- No. 22, Rui Hachimura - 22 years old
- No. 7, Zion Williamson - 20 years old
- No. 2, Jayson Tatum - 22 years old
- No. 1, Luka Doncic - 21 years old
It's one thing that four of the top 23 players are Jordan athletes but it's even deeper, as three Jordan Brand athletes fell into the top seven, including the top two.
That's not a coincidence, either.
Jordan Brand, which is said to "represent the passion and flight of the game," acknowledged Williamson as "an essential part of the new talent that will help lead the brand into the future" when they signed him just weeks after his 19th birthday.
While Williamson has been sporting exclusive Air Jordan XXXV (35) Player Editions (PEs), reports indicate that he will be getting his own signature shoe, dubbed "The Jordan Z Code" in April.
Tatum, who signed with Jordan Brand after two standout seasons to begin his career, was acknowledged by Jordan Brand President Craig Williams as "one of the league's most promising young players, with a work ethic and mindset that reflects what Jordan Brand stands for."
As Doncic rounded out the trio, Michael Jordan himself shared that he viewed the Mavs guard as an individual that "rounds out a roster of incredible new talent united to represent Jordan Brand for the next generation."
Just how valuable is Doncic to a brand? LeBron James revealed on the Road Trippin' Podcast that he wanted to begin his own 'Team LeBron' sub-brand with Luka as the first signee, but Jordan ultimately won out. Reportedly, the language of Doncic's contract states that he, too, can receive his own signature shoe should he be named MVP of the regular season or NBA Finals.
As far as representing the future, it doesn't get that much better than that trio.
Except, it did.
Ahead of the 2020-21 season, Bradley Beal was spotted wearing Jordans during Washington Wizards content day. Just days later, it was announced that the 27-year-old would be joining the brand along with 26-year-old Caris LeVert, who each add another dynamic to an extremely talented roster.
If they didn't already, Jordan Brand has certainly got the NBA's next generation covered after adding the league's leading scorer in Beal and a budding star in LeVert to a roster that features a trio that will be dominating the league for the next 10 seasons and beyond.
They weren't done, adding 23-year-old Bam Adebayo to the roster in late February. Adebayo, who already has an All-Star appearance under his belt, is the face of the now and the future of a Miami Heat franchise that expects nothing short of championship-level play.
It doesn't stop in the NBA, either, as Phoenix Mercury guard Kia Nurse and Las Vegas Aces perennial Sixth Woman of the Year candidate Dearica Hamby join a WNBA roster that also features future Hall of Famer Maya Moore, among others.
There were several Jordan Brand athletes that represented in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game. It's fitting, as the league's All-Star uniforms have featured the Jumpman logo in each of the last three All-Star games since Nike became the league's official outfitter.
New to the NBA this season is the presence of a Jumpman logo on the "Statement" edition uniform for all 30 teams, allowing teams to make a bold statement on the court, bearing "a natural connection to Jordan Brand's namesake and his approach to the game," per Nike.
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The brand has mirrored that approach in filling out its roster, making a statement that the athletes chosen as representatives will be the faces of the league for years to come.
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