Michael Jordan.

Nike co-founder reveals Michael Jordan earned just $250,000 from his first endorsement

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Is there a brand inspired by an athlete that is as recognisable as the Jordan brand on the planet today?

Probably not. Jordan sneakers, and everything else the brand produces, have become synonymous with basketball and mainstream fashion as well.

Nike's co-founder Phil Knight recently spoke with CNBC to discuss the impact of endorsing Michael Jordan 30 years ago and how the company evaluates its potential clients. Knight insists that not every athlete is a home run.

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"It's an art, and you're going to miss a lot of them … When it all comes together just right, it kind of creates magic," Knight said.

Some of the figures banded around for endorsement deals are big enough to make you rub your eyes, but Knight says both MJ and LeBron James were worth every penny.

While the 15th richest man in the world would not confirm what Nike pays the Charlotte Hornets owner to this very day, he did admit the original contract was for $250,000 a year. That has to be considered a sensational coup on reflection, however you measure it.

Michael Jordan #23

Knight founded Nike in 1963 with a $500 investment with his former track coach, Bill Bowerman, as Blue Ribbon Sports.

After originally selling trainers from the trunk of his car, Knight's vision and penchant for earmarking marketable stars like Jordan led Nike to become one of the most lucrative companies in the world.

"I think obviously the whole industry has changed dramatically from the way it began when I got into it. The Jordan brand has become a true brand, and it stands for more than just basketball," Knight said.

Of course, Knight is right. The Jordan brand may be under the Nike umbrella, but it stands on its own as a symbol of excellence that MJ represented on the court. That original investment of $250,000 doesn't look too bad now, does it?

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