The 1992 Olympic Games was a huge cornerstone for the NBA to begin making its mark on the global stage. Barcelona played host and the USA Men’s Basketball team was filled with glittering stars. Michael Jordan was an integral part of the team that won gold at the 1992 Games.
Upon receiving the green light for professionals from the NBA to make it to the Olympics, the league was well aware that it had to put together the best team to represent the association. Choosing 12 players from a huge list made things very hard for the selectors.
However, Detroit Pistons head-coach Chuck Daly took over the team. The ‘Dream Team’ consisted of superstars like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, and eight other talented professionals.
“It was like Elvis and the Beatles put together,” said, coach Chuck Daly. “Traveling with the Dream Team was like traveling with 12 rock stars. That’s all I can compare it to.” With the team destined for success, there was no opponent in their way to distract them and to stop them from winning.
However, there was one hindrance that proved to be a roadblock for Team USA. The battle of the brands was just getting started before the 1992 Summer Olympics. The team had no idea what they would be put into, before they actually faced it.
The dawn of Reebok’s battle against Nike
1992 saw Reebok picking its spot to hurt Nike where it earned its bucks. They produced a series of commercials named “Dan vs Dave,” that outlined the rivalry between decathletes Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson.
Nike was the endorsement partner of most of the ‘Dream Team’ athletes. They had the contracts and they were finding success in the NBA. However, a Spaniard, Juan Amigo Freitas, had purchased a trademark from a Barcelona sock manufacturer that had registered a statue of the Greek goddess “Athena Nike” in 1932, and thus owned the Spanish trademark for “Nike.”
As a result, Nike had to withdraw and refurbish all the billboards it placed across Barcelona and this hurt them badly, as their golden boy Michael Jordan would be forced out of their advertising strategies for the Olympic Games.
To add to their misery, Reebok bought the rights for the player’s warm-up apparel and the tracksuits that the athletes would wear, if they were to make it to the podium. Reebok spent $4 million on it, and largely kicked Nike out of the competition.
How Michael Jordan proved his loyalty and tackled the Reebok logo
Michael Jordan was the star of Nike. His endorsement deal with them earned both a ton of money. Nike was smart in premeditating Jordan’s success when they signed a $7 million deal way back in his rookie year.
“One of the most difficult things was dealing with some of Michael Jordan’s endorsement issues, remembers Michael Jordan’s longtime agent, David Falk. “He was in a class by himself, breaking a lot of ground, and a lot of that conflicted with what the U.S. Olympic Committee assumed they were entitled to do with all their athletes.
Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley specifically were not appreciating the decision of their nation’s Olympic Committee. They threatened to boycott the medal ceremony as the USOC was forcing them to wear their rival’s apparel. “I don’t believe in endorsing my competition,” Jordan said. “I feel very strongly about loyalty to my own company.”
However, after the strong remarks made by the USOC, the players regardless of their affiliation to other brans, had to wear the Reebok tracksuits on the podium. None of the players were happy. Neither of them had an existing deal with Reebok, so naturally, they hated the idea.
Upon winning the gold medal game against Croatia, the ‘Dream Team’ walked atop the podium. Jordan and Barkley draped the US flag around their right shoulders to conceal the Reebok logo. A smart move indeed.
“Everyone agreed we would not deface the Reebok on the award uniform,” said Jordan. “The American flag cannot deface anything. That’s what we stand for. The American dream is standing up for what you believe in. I believed in it, and I stood up for it. If I offended anyone, that’s too bad.” Classic Jordan.