Michael Jordan's agent tries to set record straight on original Nike deal

May 4, 2016, 5:44 PM

— -- Nike first signed Michael Jordan to an endorsement deal more than 30 years ago, but the debate over who deserves credit for the signing has taken on a life of its own.

Now, Jordan's agent during his playing days is weighing in.

"Michael Jordan is the one who most deserves credit for signing with Nike," said David Falk, who represented Jordan in contract and marketing negotiations.

Falk bristled at the most recent comments from Sonny Vaccaro, the former Nike marketer who told the " Brown and Scoop" podcast that he deserved most of the credit for the Jordan signing.

Triggered by ESPN's 30 For 30 documentary " Sole Man" that focused on Vaccaro, Jordan himself minimized Vaccaro's contributions in comments made to USA Today in September, when the film debuted.

"Sonny likes to take the credit," Jordan said. "But it wasn't Sonny, it was actually [Nike employee] George Raveling. George Raveling was with me on the 1984 Olympics team. He used to always try to talk to me, 'You gotta go Nike, you gotta go Nike. You've got to try.'"

Vaccaro, on the podcast, responded to Jordan's comments: "Michael is delusional. George Raveling is crazy. Phil Knight is sinful."

"I stayed at [Jordan's] home," Vaccaro said. "I traveled to Europe. ... He didn't want to sign with Nike. I picked him, just so we understand. Nike didn't want him."

Falk said Vaccaro might have convinced Nike to sign Jordan, but that he had nothing to do with the actual negotiations.

"I didn't do the deal with Sonny," Falk said. "I did the deal with Phil Knight and [marketing head] Rob Strasser."

Falk also said Jordan would not have signed with Nike if his parents didn't convince him to fly to Nike headquarters in 1984 to pitch him on a deal. Jordan wore Converse in college and preferred Adidas.

"It also wasn't that revolutionary for Sonny to tell Nike to sign Michael," Falk said. "He was the national player of the year. It wasn't like he was some sleeper."

Vaccaro told ESPN.com on Wednesday that he never claimed he negotiated the Jordan deal, but did say he was in the room at the L'ermitage hotel in Beverly Hills when Rob Strasser and Falk were going over the final numbers in the contract.

By all accounts, Adidas had almost no interest in Jordan, Converse offered $100,000 per year and a company called Spot-Bilt, which counted O.J. Simpson as an endorser, submitted the highest bid, including Nike.

Jordan took the Nike deal, which was for $500,000 a year for five years. Counting stock options, Falk said the deal was worth about $7 million.

If Jordan didn't sell $4 million worth of shoes by the third year, Nike had the right to cancel the deal. Nike sold $70 million worth of Air Jordans in its first two months on sale in 1985.

The Jordan brand generates more than $2.5 billion in sales annually for Nike. The company said in October of last year that it expects the franchise to be worth $4.5 billion in annual sales by 2020.