Stephon Marbury, promoting the attempted renewal of his Starbury shoe line, ripped Michael Jordan, Nike’s sneaker king, over violence that has erupted over the release of his expensive, exclusive shoes over the years.
Marbury, who now plays in China, was touting his shoes as a bargain on social media when a reader noted that he chose Starburys when they were going for $15 a pair rather than the latest edition of Jordan’s, which go for hundreds of dollars. The unveiling of the latest Air Jordan models always arrives with great fanfare. The arrival of limited editions of Jordan’s Nike shoes has been met with violence that Marbury finds unconscionable.
Another Twitter user responded that Jordan only cares about profits from the line’s sales, not the “troubling impact” of those sales. Jordan, a billionaire, made $100 million in 2014 from Nike, Jumpman and Air Jordan, according to a PBS NewsHour report this month on the 2014-15 $34-billion sneaker industry. Nike and the Jordan Brand account for more than 90 percent of basketball shoe sales in the U.S., according to the report. Forbes broke it down further last spring:
Nike’s Jordan Brand is a financial juggernaut. Jordan U.S. shoe sales rose 17% last year to $2.6 billion, according to data compiled by SportScanInfo. Jordan has eight times the sales of the signature shoes for the top active NBA star, LeBron James. Jordan apparel and the international business add more than $1 billion as well. The Jordan Brand commanded 58% market share of the $4.2 billion U.S. basketball shoe market last year, up from 54% in 2013. The Swoosh’s share jumps to 95.5% if you include Nike Basketball. The competition: Adidas (2.6% share), Under Armour (1%) and Reebok (0.8%)
For Marbury, that is obscene.
Jordan isn’t the only athlete with a huge markup on his shoes. LeBron James, one Twitter user noted, has signature shoes that go for over $200. “He’s a follower,” Marbury replied, “not even giving that any energy.”
Now playing for Beijing in the Chinese Basketball Association, Marbury was also aware of the disparity between the cost of production and the price of the shoes.
Nike and the Jordan Brand, of course, aren’t the only high-priced sneakers and the company has tried to temper the release of new models with RSVP and raffle systems, including for the Kevin Durant shoes, through the internet. But violence has occurred for years and resulted in a memorable Sports Illustrated cover in 1990.
Despite questions since the Air Jordan brand was created in 1984, Jordan has said little about the violence.
“Everyone likes to be admired,” he told SI’s Roy S. Johnson back in the ’90s, “but when it comes to kids actually killing each other, then you have to reevaluate things.”