“Don’t Be Like Me”: Earning $1 Billion from Nike 30 Years Later, Michael Jordan Gave a Harsh Message to Kids Who Wore His Iconic Merchandise in 1989

Published 11/21/2022, 9:50 AM EST

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When Nike came out with the iconic Air Jordans, they instantly became a hit throughout the country. Nike and Michael Jordan have earned hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. Back in the day, kids wanted to be like Mike after watching him dominate the hardwood, by wearing his signature shoes. But in 1989, Jordan had a strong message for the kids and it was blatant and direct in typical MJ fashion.

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With Jordan makin his debut in 1984, he instantly became a huge sensation in the league in a few years. In its entire history, the NBA had never seen a player as dominant and as influential like Jordan. In fact, fans were mesmerized by him. His play on the court, along with his aura and impact off of it, made him the face of the league.

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Therefore, when Nike released the Air Jordans in 1985, the shoes were a tremendous hit. No athlete in the history of the sport had a shoe named after him and Nike used the Bulls phenom’s growing popularity to its advantage. In just a few years, Air Jordans became the best-selling shoes in the nation and fans from all over the country and even the world wanted a part of it.

Michael Jordan once asked kids who wore his shoes to be better than him

One of the reasons the Air Jordans were so popular is because of His Airness himself. People wanted to be like Michael Jordan and the shoes made them believe that they can have the same impact on the basketball court. Kids at a very young age started to play basketball to become like MJ.

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Once a reporter questioned Jordan during a promotional event on a very intriguing topic. She asked, “Let’s be real.Kids wearing Air Jordans out there on the playground aren’t going to turn into Michael Jordans.”

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In response, Jordan cheekily replied, “No, but they’ll have the advantage. I tell ’em, the first lesson: Don’t be like me. Be better than me. That’s the goal.” 

What seemed like harsh advice turned into a motivation for many young kids. Jordan wanted the younger generation to be better than him. He wanted the kids to not imitate him but rather emulate him and take the game to greater heights. Air Jordan wanted them to become the next superstars of the world.

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WATCH THIS STORY: Childhood trauma enveloped 7-year old Michael Jordan after losing a close friend and developing a lifetime phobia

And he seems to have succeeded. Today, the NBA is one of the biggest leagues in the world and has millions of fans globally. One of the main reasons for that was Michael Jordan and the legacy he built which is still remembered to this day.

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Written by:

Vishwesha Kumar

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Vishwesha Kumar is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Holder of a Bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, Vishwesha has been writing content for about 3 years now. He has been following the NBA for nearly 10 years, since first starting off in the year 2012.
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Edited by:

Satagni Sikder

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