The lion’s share of Team Jordan athletes are, of course, basketball players. But one of the things that has set the Jordan Brand apart as an eternally thriving entity is that it’s never been just about basketball. The Jumpman has branched out to football and baseball players, boxers, Paralympic athletes and even a jazz saxophonist.
One of the most prominent non-hoops members of Team Jordan is CC Sabathia, a six-time All-Star and a World Series champion with the Yankees. While Sabathia has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for years, as a sneaker collector, I admit to typically being more intrigued with his array of amazing Jordan player edition cleats. The Space Jam-esque Jordan XIs they cooked up for his 200th-victory milestone last week were especially outstanding.
The Jordan Brand obviously takes care of its own, but the affection is clearly mutual; Sabathia appears to value his affiliation just as much as they appreciate having him on the team. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet (Michael Jordan) a few times,” Sabathia told me at the Jordan Brand Classic All-American Game, at which he sat courtside. “He’s just such a great role model and a great player. It’s just a really great thing for me personally to be a part of the brand.”
Speaking of which, the Jordan Brand goes especially all out when one of its athletes achieves something particularly special. As part of their celebration of CC Sabathia’s 200th win, Jordan announced a scavenger hunt in New York City on Saturday, with prizes including Air Jordan IV Toro Bravos, Yankees tickets and Jordan cleats signed by Sabathia. Perhaps the coolest of all is the opportunity to contribute to a commemorative mural to be displayed at a Boys & Girls Club in NYC. (Full details on how to enter are here.)
Watching Sabathia thrive as a standardbearer for a brand based on a basketball player got us thinking about some of the other relatively esoteric members of Team Jordan over the years, helping to build the brand’s eclectic and eponymous legacy. Here are five that stick out to us, along with their most notable ad campaigns.
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ROY JONES JR.
When the Jordan Brand started branching out with athletes other than Michael, it aimed high. At the time Jordan signed Light Heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr., he was regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, basically the Floyd Mayweather Jr. of his day. Not to mention, in terms of Jordan connection – besides being hands-down the best at his particular sport – Jones was quite the basketball player himself, as he was quick to tell you.
It was always striking to see Jones striding to the ring decked out in a Jordan Brand robe and boxing boots. (His ring shoes were so damn cool, I had quite an internal debate about whether I could pull off the look, despite that they stretched up and over my calf. I decided against it, though I did have a pair of Roy Jones boxing shorts.) A workout fanatic, Jones promoted some of the early-model Trunners, with the most memorable ad featuring him running in place underwater while wearing them.
As even the greatest in boxing find out – and make no mistake, Jones is an all-time great – age catches up to all of them eventually. Jones won 49 of his first 50 fights, with his only loss coming on a nonsense disqualification against Montell Griffin. Then Antonio Tarver knocked Jones out cold and took his title. Jones was never even close to the same after that, losing six of his next 13 fights. He’s rumored to want to fight MMA juggernaut Anderson Silva next; I could only imagine how that would go.
But that doesn’t take away from the glory years, when Roy Jones was the baddest man in the world, stunting with a Jumpman on his trunks. If you don’t agree, well, ya’ll must have forgot. And as talented as current Jordan Brand boxer Andre Ward is, he has some big boxing boots to fill.