Women

The first woman to sign to the Jordan brand is this Paralympic athlete

NBA legend Michael Jordan is behind Nike’s Jordan brand. In 1984, he signed a deal with Nike that would later give birth to Air Jordan. Before inking a deal with Nike, the brand played second fiddle to then-leading brands like Adidas, Reebok, and Converse.

At the time, Adidas was 50 percent larger by revenue and Reebok was doing better in the market than Nike. Converse, on the other hand, was the brand choice for many NBA stars, including Jordan, and upcoming players like Larry Bird, and Julius Erving, according to Forbes.

In his days at the University of North Carolina, Jordan wore Converse and was set to join Adidas when he was first drafted by the Bulls. However, his agent David Falk wanted him to join Nike owing to his close relationship with the brand.

Jordan told them that he was not interested. Falk then appealed to his mother, Deloris, to convince the then-21-year-old to join Nike.

“My mother said, ‘You’re going to go listen, you may not like it, but you’re going to go listen,’” Jordan recalled. His father, on the other hand, reportedly told him he would have to be a fool not to take the offer. And he took it.

Nike eventually became the most dominant in the sneaker business, with at least 80 percent of the market share. Since the 1990s, it has signed stars like the (late) Kobe Bryant, Zion Williamson, and Luka Doncic, among others.

Of the number of signees, April Holmes was the first female athlete to be signed onto the Jordan brand in 2008. The four-time Paralympic athlete was the driving force behind the 2009 Air Jordan signature shoe with APT technology. During a 2008 conversation with NPR, she spoke about the significance of her partnership with the Jordan Brand.

“They provide me with so much more than just shoes and things. They have an entire family atmosphere at the Jordon brand. I’m the first woman of the Jordan brand. And they’ve been very helpful and instrumental and supportive in things that I’ve been able to do in terms of going out and giving away shoes, donating shoes, and donating equipment to other people,” she said.

Growing up in the Philadelphia area, Holmes never thought she would become an athlete or a world champion. After graduating from Norfolk State University with a degree in mass communications, she wanted to be a television producer but ended up working as an engineering assistant at Verizon while exploring other career shifts. However, a tragic train crash led to the amputation of one of her legs in 2001. While in the hospital, she got to know about the Paralympic games.

“I had spent a few weeks kind of confused about who I was and what I was, and if I was even valuable anymore to my family, society, and things of that nature. Just going from being an able-bodied person to someone with a disability within a matter of minutes is very difficult,” she told Black Enterprise.

“One of the first questions I asked my cousin after learning my leg was amputated was if I was going to be able to run or play basketball again. Even though I wasn’t doing those things anymore, I still enjoyed [its] freedom.”

According to her, her doctor told her about the Paralympic games and gave her some magazines. She soon developed a desire to run although she hadn’t run for six years. She started training and beating people, which further inspired her to make a career switch.

“So I started back up and once I got out there I knew I would be good I just didn’t know how quickly I could get to that place. Once I started training and beating people I was like ‘Wait, maybe I can really do this.’ It was like my ticket out of the job that I really did not like. Being out there and being successful I was able to attract the attention of the Jordan brand and they were the first major sponsor that I signed with,” said the Paralympian, author, and motivational speaker.

Abu Mubarik

Abu Mubarik is a journalist with years of experience in digital media. He loves football and tennis.

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