Unveiling the Secrets of the Jordan Logo – From Winged Basketball to the Jumpman

by Manas Chowdhury
8 minutes read

So, have you ever heard of some sportsman becoming a product?

Well, it’s okay, because such sportsmen (or women) are only a few in numbers. Through their entire lives, the players work day in and out, putting their entire system through so much stress, yet, only a few of them get the titles of “legends”. And even fewer rise to the level of becoming “A Product”.

Michael Jordan is one of them! He is featured in the Air Jordan logo, also known as “The Jumpman”.

From being an eminent basketball player, he has risen to the status of a brand, with his silhouette of “The Jumpman” being printed on several products of the brand.

Yes, Air Jordan (commonly, “Jordan”) is a brand started by Nike Inc. for basketball players. Today, it offers a range of equipment, like apparel and footwear, for basketball and soccer players to wrestling and boxing champions. But when the brand started, it was a collaboration between the famous basketball player, Michael Jordan, and Nike Inc. to produce premium basketball goods and equipment.

How Air Jordan got its name

Air Jordan, the brand, of course, got its name from the basketball champion, Michael Jordan. However, it was not the initial choice of terminology. In an interview with David Falk, Jordan’s agent, it was revealed that Jordan signed with Nike quite against his suggestion. He was 21 years old then. When Robert Strasser, the former Nike executive, asked Falk for his opinion on the brand’s name, he suggested, “Michael Jordan” without any hesitance.

However, Nike did not like the idea of naming an entire shoe line after such a young basketball player. It was after some brainstorming that Falk came up with a second suggestion, “Air Jordan”.

The name was inspired by the new line of shoes that featured air technology, which both cushioned the feet of the players, as well as made them feel lighter on their feet. As it synced well with Michael Jordan’s characteristic gaming language (almost hovering in the air to make the scores), Nike accepted the brand name. The initial logo of the brand was designed just after.

Today, the brand is a billion-dollar one, with some of its unique sneakers being sold for as much as $20,000 on resale platforms, e.g., Stadium Goods. It seems like the brand identity kicked off quite well.

However, there are a few controversies related to the origin of the brand name. Sonny Vaccaro, a Nike consultant is said to have suggested the brand name for Air Jordan, which was revealed through a Matt Damon series, “Air”. Vaccaro has also auctioned off a pair of black Jordan VIs, which were given to him by Michael Jordan as a sign of gratitude after flaunting those at the 1991 NBA finals. These events suggest that Vaccaro might be right about the brand name idea being his.

Origin and History of the Air Jordan Logo

Where did “The Jumpman” logo originate? We will tell you!

According to most sources, the Air Jordan “Jumpman” logo originated from a photograph taken by Jacobus Rentmeester, much before Michael Jordan started playing for the USA in 1984 (The Summer Olympics). In a photo shoot for Life Magazine, Rentmeester captured this iconic image, which was later used by the brand – Air Jordan – as its visual identity. The event was much before Jordan collaborated with Nike in 1984.

As you can see in the photograph, Jordan posed somewhat in the grand jeté ballet technique, in his quintessential Olympic jumpsuit and a pair of basketball shoes (New Balance). When Moore, a Nike designer encountered the picture in an old issue of Life Magazine, he liked it so much that he made Jordan replicate the pose for the logo. And of course, this time, the New Balance shoes were replaced by a pair of gorgeous Nike shoes.

The Jumpman logo has gone through some changes in brand colors, shapes, and position of the silhouette over the years. You can observe the same in the line of Jordan sneakers, socks, hats, and other forms of sports attire. Despite these changes, the logo remains a powerful signature in the history of Jordan’s brand story.

On an interesting note, “The Jumpman” logo was not released before 1988, 3 years after the inception of the Air Jordan brand. So did the brand function WITHOUT a logo during this period? Of course not! We will discuss more about this in the logo evolution section.

What is the meaning of the Air Jordan logo?

The Air Jordan logo depicts power and freedom, strength and confidence. The silhouette of the player plunging in the air to get the ball in the basket instills confidence in the mind. Further, the power of a man to fly is depicted by the position of the player, i.e., in the air. The strength and confidence that is subtly projected in the Jumpman logo can make anyone feel that “Nothing is Impossible.”

Evolution of the Air Jordan logo

As we discussed earlier, the Jumpman Air Jordan logo was released in 1988, whereas the brand was launched in 1985. So, what visual identity did the brand have before The Jumpman? Scroll on!

The Wings logo (1984)

The original visual identity of the brand was not The Jumpman. Yes! The first-ever logo that was designed for the line of shoes was a winged basketball. It had an image of a basketball in the middle of a pair of pilot wings or an airline badge. The logo was designed to create the illusion of a winged basketball. The brand name was written above this basketball, bordering its upper half on either side.

The Jumpman (1988)

Air Jordan Logo in 1988

The one who created the winged logo also came up with the idea of the Jumpman. He convinced Michael Jordan to recreate the pose that he saw in a version of the Life Magazine. The powerful design that represents strength, confidence, power, mobility, and speed was thus born under the direction of Tinker Hatfield.

The first shoe to get the Jumpman logo was Air Jordan III in 1988.

Brand Colors of Air Jordan

The Air Jordan logo has had two primary colors – red and black. While red stands for passion and excitement, black represents power and dominance. The current logo is all black – representing dominance in the industry, elegance, excellence, and determination.

However, the brand colors of the Air Jordan logo keep changing based on the design requirements of the different products. 

What does The Jumpman symbol denote?

The leaping Michael Jordan symbol in the Air Jordan logo denotes strength and confidence, two of the vital qualities of a sportsman. Jordan has made his mark in the field with 6 NBA championships in his kitty. His “flying” technique has been recreated in the logo, also known as “The Jumpman”. As a result, the Air Jordan symbol is a representation of achievement and excellence, the core elements of Jordan’s legacy.

What type of logo is Air Jordan?

In the brand development process, it becomes essential to choose the type of logo that will represent a brand. There are various types of logos to choose from, like abstract mark logos, mascots, wordmark logos, etc. So, where does the Air Jordan logo belong in this list?

The Jumpman Air Jordan logo is both a pictorial logo and a mascot logo. In a pictorial logo, the symbol can be an icon, abstract illustrations, or shapes that give out the brand message. Other examples of this particular type are the Apple logo, the former Twitter logo, and the Dropbox logo. The Mascot logo, as the name suggests, has a particular character, who becomes the brand’s mascot.

What does the mascot in the Air Jordan logo mean?

By now, you are already aware that the mascot in the Air Jordan logo is Michael Jordan himself. The leaping position of the player captured in the logo depicts mobility excellence, power, strength, and confidence. Jordan is known for his ability to perform under tremendous pressure. The black silhouette of the logo represents his powerful energy in the game.

What is the concept of the Air Jordan Logo?

The entire concept of the Air Jordan logo is based on power, strength, dominance, and energy. The black outline denotes power and dominance, while the “jump” indicates strength and energy, as explained in the image. Air Jordan is a brand for basketball players (especially). Thus, the concept of the logo stands on Michael Jordan’s supremacy and dominance in the game. That’s what the brand guidelines convey.

What is so special about the Air Jordan logo?

Firstly, it is the trademark and personal brand logo of the player, Michael Jordan. Secondly, the logo sets an example of a sportsman becoming a trademark for a shoe brand, which has occurred rarely. Even the buyers unaware of the player’s history will get to know about him eventually, once they buy an Air Jordan product. That’s how special the logo is for the brand and the game at large.

Last but not least, the Air Jordan logo is a rare brand identity that inspires the global fans of a sportsman. The players are motivated by the silhouette of Jordan’s “Jumpman” logo to give their best in their respective games. It would not be wrong to say that the logo has created a legacy among basketball players all over the world. 

A few exciting facts to know about the Air Jordan logo

  • Although the Air Jordan brand was created by Nike in collaboration with Michael Jordan, the “Jumpman” image was captured when Jordan did not even don Nike shoes. As mentioned earlier, it was captured in a photo shoot for Life Magazine much before the inception of Air Jordan. Later, the pose was recreated by Jordan for the logo, where he put on authentic Air Jordan sneakers to represent the brand.
  • Jordan doesn’t own the “Jumpman” logo. On the contrary, it is owned by Oregon-based Nike which promotes the brand’s products.
  • The initial two Jordan sneakers did not have the famous “Jumpman” logo. However, the image was printed on the brand’s hangtag. “The Jumpman” Air Jordan logo first appeared in the Air Jordan 3 sneakers.
  • Michael Jordan was not dunking in the logo image, as people generally believe. He recreated a ballet move by standing on the floor with his legs spread and jumping naturally with the ball in his left hand. The player cleared the misconception in an interview for the HOOP magazine in 1997.
  • Currently, the value of “The Jumpman” logo is $5.2 billion. And isn’t it funny that the logo doesn’t feature a basketball move but a ballet one?

Lesser-known facts about the brand – Air Jordan

  • The NBA (National Basketball Association) banned the first Jordan shoes (the prototype) to maintain its strict uniform color code and fined Michael $5,000 every time for wearing the same. In response, Nike launched a marketing campaign considering the NBA rules and designed the Air Jordan I accordingly. The first pair of Jordan sneakers was priced at $65.
  • Michael was in all moods to collaborate with Adidas and not Nike. The latter wasn’t his first choice to launch his brand. However, the deal Adidas offered was not even close enough to Nike’s, so the latter got their chance to sign the eminent player, who would help the brand create history.
  • A lot of people had doubts that the first Air Jordan sneakers, priced at $65, would sell. However, when Michael emerged as the most exciting player in the tournament, the shoes started selling like crazy on release.
  • The Air Jordan II was the first-ever luxury basketball shoe with its faux lizard skin and design inspired by women’s boots. The Air Jordan XII was also inspired by the same design.
  • The first shoes to have the Jordan brand name were Air Jordan XIII. All the previous products were sold under Nike’s umbrella. These sneakers, inspired by Michael Jordan’s game nickname, “Black Cat”, had an innovative carbon fiber plate for increased agility and flaunted a design that seemed like a panther’s paw.
  • The Air Jordan II did not have the characteristic Nike “swoosh” on it. It was a risky move by the parent company to test the independence of its design and sales potential.
  • The Air Jordan 21 has a coded message on it. The medial ankle has a secret text, carefully rearranged, whose letters are decoded to spell “authentic”. It was a smart move by the designers to protect the brand and its line of products from fakes.
  • Michael was injured in the finals of the 1991 NBA games while wearing the Jordan XI. However, his response to the incident is something extraordinary. The player refused to change into a special pair of shoes and continued to don his favorite Jordans.
  • Michael Jordan’s statue outside the United Center is seen to be donning the Air Jordan IXs. It is because Michael never played in those shoes before retiring in 1998. Also, these shoes feature distinct soles that make them apt for the eye-catching statue.

The popularity quotient of the Air Jordan logo

The popularity of the Air Jordan logo extends beyond the sports world. Undoubtedly, it has played a major role in the brand building process of Air Jordan. Not only are the shoes flaunted by celebrities and pop culture artists worldwide, but the brand also has cemented its position in the popular fashion category.

Time and again, the Jordans have been featured in several pop culture art forms, like music videos, parodies, and hip-hop fashion. Artists like Eminem and Travis Scott have collaborated with the brand to promote the Jordans and their iconic Jumpman logo. Regarded as one of the most effective brand development strategies of all time, these events helped propel the Jordans to success.

Who designed the “Jumpman” logo for Air Jordan?

Peter Moore, who also created the original winged basketball logo of Air Jordan, came up with the idea of the iconic “Jumpman” logo for the brand. Later, Tinker Hatfield created the silhouette design from the image for Air Jordan III, and other products that followed.

Moore also played a significant role in the design of the Jordan line of shoes. As quoted by D’Wayne Edwards, a former design director at Air Jordan, “Without him, there is no Jordan brand.”

It is to be noted here that Peter Moore breathed his last in 2022. May the Lord be with his soul!

Logo rebranding of Air Jordan (make or break)

Moore decided to use Michael’s iconic Jumpman pose as a logo for Air Jordan III. This logo rebranding step turned out to be highly successful for the brand, as it leveraged Mike’s popularity for selling. The Jumpman pose was recreated with Michael wearing the Jordans and printed on the shoes. And there was no looking back! Contrary to popular opinion and skepticism, the Jordans flew off the shelves pretty fast.

Final words…

As you already know by now, the Air Jordan logo was not initially the “Jumpman”. However, when Mike’s pose was recreated by the brand for its third pair of sneakers, the popularity of the brand, as an independent one rose drastically. Of course, Michael’s endorsement of the shoes was a reason for the brand’s popularity. But the logo, the “Jumpman” logo, designed by Peter Moore turned out to be a symbol of dominance, determination, strength, and power.

The black silhouette of Jordan leaping in the air with the ball represents power and strength, boosting the confidence of players donning the shoes. Apart from players, celebrities and fashionistas all over endorse Jordans, specifically because of the iconic logo. Today, the logo is worth $5.2 billion, and rightly so.

So if you have a pair of Jordans, feel proud!

Have questions about the Air Jordan logo?

Which is the first Jordan sneaker with the Jumpman logo?

The Jumpman logo was first featured in Air Jordan III. The two sneakers before that had the “winged”, also designed by Peter Moore.

Why do some Jordan shoes feature the Nike “swoosh” logo?

Air Jordan Retro 1 features the “swoosh” logo over the “Jumpman”. This is because the brand has different design and marketing strategies for its extended line of products. This pair of shoes is designed based on the classic choice of loyal Nike customers. Hence, it features the classic “Swoosh” and not “The Jumpman” logo.

Is the Jumpman logo used anywhere else other than shoes?

Initially, the company planned to use the “Jumpman” logo only on sports shoes and apparel. However, owing to the high popularity and success of the logo rebranding campaign, several other products of the brand now feature the same.

Why does the Jordan logo appear in other shades?

Although the primary logo is a black silhouette of Mike leaping in the air, the brand style guide does not pose color restrictions on its design. You will find the logo in several other shades than black to sync with specific design varieties.

What is the difference between the original photo and the recreated one for the Jumpman logo?

If you notice carefully, the original photo taken by Rentmeester for Life Magazine has Michael’s hand slightly bent. But the one that Nike took for its logo shows it outstretched.

Related Posts