The iconic pose was created in 1984 during a photoshoot for Life magazine. A young Michael Jordan was rising above the ground going up for a dunk. Now, almost 35 years later, that silhouette has become omnipresent, not just around the world of sports, but the world at large.
Nike’s Jordan Brand has come back to where the Jordan legend began this weekend for NBA All-Star Weekend and is front and center in and around the city of Chicago.
It was here where Jordan became the global icon he remains today, and his influence is seen throughout the brand and its many collaborations and initiatives.
HUB23 is the brand’s homebase this weekend, and it has highlighted the Chicago Collaborators’ Collection and on Friday (February 14) celebrated one of the biggest high school basketball tournaments by giving local Chicago hoopers the opportunity to be the city’s All-Stars.
BET.com sat down for an exclusive interview with Jordan Brand President, Craig Williams.
BET: Talk about the significance of Chicago to the Jordan Brand
Jordan Brand started with Micahel Jordan and Michael starred here in Chicago with the Bulls. So the synergies are very naturel. But beyond that, the city of Chicago breathed life into the Jordan Brand. The game of basketball has deep roots in the city, and therefore basketball culture. All of those things that surround the game of basketball are very important to this city, and the people in this city.
BET: The brand is iconic. Michael Jordan is known for being exacting on the court and in business, how does that play out for you as brand president?
Exacting means wanting the best in every situation, every circumstance. It also means aspiring for the best, getting the most out of your God-given potential, and striving to be everything that you can be. Michael Jordan demanded that every day and still does that in his business. As a brand we embody that in our daily efforts. But we also represent that as a brand to so many people around the world. Obviously we have a great footprint in North America, right here in the U.S But we have tremendous growth in every marketplace in the world, and that’s where the future of this brand really resides.
BET: How do current players like Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook carry on the Jordan legacy?
The first thing is, they represent on the court. You’re talking about tremendous ball players, tacticians that want to get the best out of their game at any given moment. They also represent the aspirational attributes of the everyday consumer. So when you see a person that is driving to be their very best self on the court, then a normal person like you or I can strive to be our best self, can express ourselves at the highest standard, and can demand more of ourselves in every environment whether its on the court, or in a boardroom, or in the classroom.
What this group of players [does] is continue the legacy that MJ established, and therefore this group of players is a part of the community that Jumpman represents. That’s why our UNITE campaign is so important. We’ve moved beyond just one man, as he has inspired so many men, women, and children to do just the same.
BET: The other signature shoes have struggled to step out of the Air Jordan shadow, how do you think about that, the further we move away from Michael’s playing career?
Here’s the good thing for us. We just had our first billion dollar quarter. Our first. So the brand continues to grow, quarter after quarter, year after year. We have the very best expression of performance on the court with the Air Jordan XXXIV, "Why Not?" Zer0.3 and the players that represent those shoes. Then we have lifestyle representation not just in retro shoes, but in our apparel line, and our women’s line. We have a lot of fertile ground in front of us, and I’m excited about the quarters ahead.
BET: Speaking of lifestyle, the Jordan Brand partnership with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) gives you a strong footprint in the fashion capital, what are the lifestyle plans internationally?
International markets represent a huge opportunity for us. You’ll see us expand in sports of course. You’ll also see us expand in women and children apparel in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. We have limitless potential and the consumers agree, based on our last quarter, and I’m excited because we are doing things the right way.
BET: How does the brand look at retro sneakers vis-à-vis its other categories?
We think about satisfying the consumer. We focus on the external insights that exist in every market around the world. We seek to know what consumers are interested in, not just as it relates to sneakers, but overall style and fashion. You’ll see us represent those insights not just in retro but across our entire business. When I think about our success to date it’s been an example of how we’ve been able to expand in more places than just retro. Obviously retro has been very important to us and we will continue to push it. But we’re pushing in so many areas, and that excites me.
BET: How excited are you about your newest Jordan Brand athletes Zion Williamson and Luka Doncic?
Everyone within the Jordan Brand family represents the attributes we stand for very well. What I like about those two, and all our athletes, is they have similarities that are undeniable, and they are consistent with that idea of being the best.
BET: The brand is hosting the Chicago Public Schools city championships, why is it so important for the brand to be here at the youth level in the community?
This is where the game of basketball lives and this is where it’s played. Not just in Chicago but in communities all around the world. This is also where basketball culture lives. It’s in neighborhoods and courts just like these all around the world. To the extent that the Jordan Brand is a part of that culture, we need to be where the people and the culture reside.