While Jordan was never spotted wearing them in a regular season game, rumor has it that every time he came onto the court with them, the league would punish him $5,000 for violating the league's so-called "dress code." In reality, this was just another way of Michael Jordan getting his revenge on the NBA for banning his shoes.
In 1995, during an early season game between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Bulls center Scottie Pippen received a technical foul for kicking out toward the floor behind the backboard with 15 seconds left in the first quarter. The ball was inbounding to Derrick Rose at the top of the key when someone in the crowd shouted "Air" (as in Jordan's signature shoe brand). Assuming that the person called out "Air" was indicating that he wanted the ball passed to Rose, Pippen threw the inbounds pass directly to Jordan, who went up for a shot and made it. It was ruled a field goal due to no legal defense available under the rules at the time; however, after reviewing video footage of the play, the NBA changed its ruling and declared that there had been no throw intended by Pippen, thus making the ball an inbound pass instead.
The legendary red and black hi-top Jordan 1 debuted in 1984, and Michael Jordan was fined $5,000 each time he wore them on the court because they violated the league's uniform standards. According to the rulebook, each participant "must wear shoes that not only match their uniforms but also match the shoes worn by their teammates."
In fact, the NBA requires that all players be fitted with a special shoe for each game they play. The shoes have to meet specifications regarding size, weight, material, and color so that they can be identified easily on television broadcasts.
The fine for wearing illegal shoes is calculated at $10,000 per player, which is approximately one month's salary for most NBA players at the time. Thus, the rule was designed to protect against blatant mismatches on the court, such as when a smaller player wears out shoes that are too big for him/her. In addition, the rule prevents stars like Jordan who are able to draw attention to themselves through their footwear choices, thus harming their teams' chances of winning games.
It also ensures that no one is intentionally trying to injure themselves by wearing shoes that are not fit for purpose.
At the end of the day, the NBA's illegal shoe policy was implemented to ensure competitive balance and avoid scandals like the Bird vs. Magic battle of 1987.
Is it true that any NBA players wear Jordans? Yes, a large number of them do. Players like Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul wear their trademark pairs of Jordans to every game, but other players like Zion and Jayson Tatum are only signed to the brand and so wear Jordan brand sneakers.
The question most people ask is why would you want to wear someone else's shoes? The reason is simple: money. In today's market where sports shoes can cost up to $200 per pair, many players are willing to risk having their name on another player's shoe in order to make more money. There are several examples of this practice across all sports leagues and even within the NBA itself.
In 1998, Michael Jordan himself introduced the "Signature Line" of shoes to the industry. Designed specifically for high-profile players, the Signature Line included some models with no label at all being sold under the umbrella of "Team Shoes". This allowed certain players to earn extra money by wearing shoes with different colors and designs on each side of the sole.
Later that year, in October, the first official case of counterfeiting in basketball history was made when Gary Payton was arrested for possession of counterfeit Nike shoes. According to police reports, over $100,000 worth of clothing and accessories were found in his home, along with two sets of printed Nike templates used to manufacture the illegal shoes.
NBA players may now wear the world's coolest sneakers on the court. That wasn't the first time the NBA stepped in: the red-and-black hue of the Jordan 1 was purportedly banned by the league in 1984. But Michael Jordan had already sold over a million pairs of shoes at the time, so no one really paid attention to what direction the league was going in.
But now that we're into the 21st century, things are different. In fact, the NBA has more control over its image than ever before; with Nike as its official shoe sponsor, there's no way a player can go out on the court wearing anything other than an Air Jordan sneaker. The question is, why would you want to?
Jordan himself was famously quoted as saying, "I don't care what nobody else is gonna say, I think they're awesome shoes." And he was right; the Air Jordan 1 is still one of the most popular sneakers of all time. It's not just because of its unique design or its status as a generational icon, but also because it offers supreme comfort and performance where it matters most - on the court.
It may be difficult to find shoes in other brands on NBA courts, but that doesn't mean people aren't trying hard to do so.