Jordan Brand partnership met with excitement in UCLA Athletics community
(Emily Dembinski / Illustrations director)
By Sam Connon
Dec. 8, 2020 6:57 p.m.
David Singleton grew up watching his highlights on his dad’s VHS tapes.
A 12-year old Mick Cronin tried copying his jumper in his backyard.
Jay Shaw said he was enamored with his mindset and dedication throughout ESPN and Netflix’s 10-part docuseries “The Last Dance.”
Bruins all over campus wanted to be like Mike. Now, they’ll get to take the field and court with the Jumpman on their chest.
UCLA Athletics came to a six-year agreement with the Jordan Brand and its parent company, Nike, on Tuesday for an exclusive uniform, footwear, apparel and equipment deal starting July 1, 2021. While the financial terms of the deal are yet to be disclosed, the two sides announced UCLA men’s basketball, women’s basketball and football would be outfitted by Jordan, and the other 22 UCLA teams would wear Nike.
Newly hired Athletic Director Martin Jarmond hinted toward the announcement with a tweet Monday afternoon. Fans and media members speculated what the photo could mean and what shoes Jarmond could be wearing, and many theories proved correct when the deal came out Tuesday.
Singleton has more Jordan shoes than anyone else on UCLA men’s basketball – claiming to own upwards of 80 pairs – and he said he was probably more excited about the deal than anyone.
“I’m very excited for the Jordan Brand, I’m very excited to become part of the Jordan family,” the junior guard said. “I’m personally excited because if you know me off the court, I’m always seen in some type of Jordans.”
At the moment, with Under Armour backing out of its 15-year, $280 million deal with UCLA in June, the Bruins are taking to the court wearing all different brands of shoes for each game. Singleton said that won’t be the case once the Jordan deal kicks in.
Shaw said the Jordan deal will bring a certain “cool factor” to Westwood that wasn’t around before. The news broke right as UCLA football was starting its Tuesday practice, so the redshirt junior cornerback said the celebration was brief but energetic.
“It was just one of those, ‘Hey guys, you have Jordan Brand,'” Shaw said. “And then it’s ‘What? We got Jordan Brand, wooooo.'”
UCLA will become the only Jordan school in the Pac-12 and the second on the West coast, joining San Diego State – but the Aztecs only sport Jordan for men’s basketball.
Redshirt junior forward Cody Riley said Jordan has always been his favorite because their shoes are the most comfortable, but UCLA will be able to sell a lot more than comfort to prospective recruits.
Cronin said players had told him they had friends and former teammates who decided not to commit to the Bruins because they saw Under Armour as an inferior basketball brand.
“In our sport, we understand the power behind the brand,” Cronin said. “The popularity of that within our sport of basketball is undeniable.”
Former UCLA men’s basketball guard Russell Westbrook is a Jordan Brand athlete, along with nine other NBA All-Stars, nine MLB All-Stars and 18 NFL Pro Bowlers. Westbrook and former UCLA women’s basketball guard Jordin Canada, who has an endorsement deal with Nike, helped Jarmond announce the partnership Tuesday.
But the star power that comes along with the Jordan Brand starts and ends with His Airness, and the Bruins’ connection with him has been 40 years in the making.
In a 1992 interview with Playboy Magazine, Michael Jordan said UCLA was his dream school when he was growing up. He said he only ended up going to North Carolina because then-UCLA coach Larry Brown never tried to recruit him.
Jordan won a national championship in Chapel Hill, and he went on to become a six-time NBA champion, an Olympic gold medalist, a sneaker tycoon and the owner of the Charlotte Hornets with many more iconic nicknames than the average athlete.
“Jordans, to my daughter, you might as well say Tommy Hilfiger – it’s not even a real person there, he’s transcended that,” Cronin said. “But I watched (him), Michael Jordan’s my era because of my time. So I think it’s awesome, just in every way, shape or form, it’s awesome for us. Every possible way.”
UCLA men’s basketball has only secured one title in the 41 years since it gave Jordan the cold shoulder after winning 10 in the previous 15.
Now, Jordan and UCLA are tied together for the foreseeable future.