Skip to main content

Magic Johnson Chose Converse Over Nike And Missed A Chance To Earn $5.2 Billion: Nike Offered Him $1 For Every Pair Of Shoes Sold And 100,00 Shares Worth $0.18 At The Time

Magic Johnson Chose Converse Over Nike And Missed A Chance To Earn $5.2 Billion: Nike Offered Him $1 For Every Pair Of Shoes Sold And 100,00 Shares Worth $0.18 At The Time

Magic Johnson is one of the biggest names to have ever played in the NBA, and very few players have enjoyed the hype he did coming into the NBA. Having led his college team to the NCAA championship over his rival Larry Bird in what was the most-watched college basketball game ever, Magic entered the league as the man of the moment and would go on to be Finals MVP in his rookie season as well. 

Understandably, Johnson was a coveted property when it came to endorsements and there was a bit of a battle in terms of which shoe company he would sign with. Both Nike and Converse made offers to Magic and the decision came down to whether he would take stocks instead of cash, with the 19-year-old choosing Converse, who had offered him $100,000 a year at the time. 

However, with the benefit of hindsight, it's the offer that Nike put on the table that would have made him a lot more money had he chosen to go with them. The company offered Johnson $1 for every pair of shoes sold along with 100,000 shares in stock options, with the stock valued at $0.18 at the time. 

"Now, I’ve never heard of stock at 19-years-old. I had to take the money; I had to take the cash. Man, I would have been a trillionaire by now. If you think about 1979, getting that stock then, what it’s worth today? Yikes. It kills me every single time I think about that. Man, Michael Jordan would have been making me so much money.”

When contextualized, considering that Nike stock is worth $134 today, Johnson would have $5.2 billion to his name had he decided to sign with the company. However, Converse was a bigger brand than Nike at the time, which adds some more context as to why Magic made his decision as well. Magic also spoke about this decision on the Ellen Degeneres show in 2017.

"Man, it still haunts me today... When I first came out of college, all the shoe companies came after me. And it was this guy named Phil Knight, who had just started Nike. All the other shoe companies offered me money, but they couldn't give me money because they'd just started. So he said something about stocks, Imma give you a lot of stocks. 

"I didn't know anything about stocks, I'm from the inner city, we didn't know anything about stocks at that time. Boy, did I make a mistake. I'm still kicking myself, every time I'm in a Nike store, I get mad. I could be making money off of everybody buying Nikes right now."

Nike went on to explode with Michael Jordan, who did end up becoming a billionaire, thanks largely in part to his partnership with the shoe company. There were suggestions that Jordan's rise and the hype around him and Nike were factors in souring his relationship with Magic a little in their early years, but the two went on to bond during their stint with the 1992 Dream Team. Also, considering that Magic is now worth an estimated $600 million, it's safe to say he didn't do too badly for himself either.