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Michael Jordan First Athlete To $1 Billion

There’s been much talk about the first billion dollar athlete.

Tiger Woods is supposedly on track to reach $1 billion next year, though his agent Mark Steinberg told us he doesn’t keep an official tally anywhere. And many mention LeBron James as the guy who is most likely to follow Woods.

Air Jordan
Air Jordan

But, at least according to one metric, they’ve already been topped by Michael Jordan.

It’s hard to say how much Jordan has reaped personally, but 2009 will be remembered as the year MJ was inducted into the Hall of Fame and the year that his Nike brand, Jordan, topped $1 billion in annual revenue for the first time. It appropriately comes 23 years after Nike reached $1 billion in revenue for the first time.

The rise of Jordan as a marketing icon is an amazing story. The kid from the University of North Carolina, who had never worn Nikes before he signed his contract, made buying Air Jordans an annual ritual. And 6 ½ years after he played his last game, the business continues to grow. At more than $1 billion in sales, the Jordan brand now makes up roughly 5 percent of Nike’s overall revenues.

Consider these statistics, provided by SportsOneSource, a sports market retail tracking firm:

  • The Jordan brand has a 10.8 percent share of the overall US shoe market, which makes it the second biggest brand in the country and more than twice the size of Adidas’ share.
  • Three out of every four pairs of basketball shoes sold in this country are Jordan, while 86.5 percent of all basketball shoes sold over $100 are Jordan.

“The Jordan brand has established itself as the premium ‘designer’ brand in athletic footwear,” said Matt Powell, an analyst for SportsOneSource. “The breadth and reach of this line will never be duplicated.”

  • On CNBC.com Now, Special Report - Inside Nike

As I’ve said many times before, the next Michael Jordan isn’t Harold Miner, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. There is no next Michael Jordan.

As for the best spot? This just might be my favorite one.

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  • Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com