When my son was in elementary school, he needed new shoes about every six months, a precursor to the fact that he grew to 6’3”.

Nike Air Pegasus 27

Nike Air Pegasus 27

While I didn’t mind getting him shoes that fit, I mightily objected to buying expensive shoes that were branded by a sports figure who was already making a lot of money and didn’t need extra from me for his endorsement contract when I just needed shoes. The fact that boys in the ghetto were being shot and their expensive shoes stolen was another argument for tamping down the hype over branded shoes.

I once became the talk of the soccer Mom crowd for stalking out of a shoe store when the clerk could only lead me to a dark corner and show me $80 shoes when I asked him for sneakers that were reasonably priced. This was at a time when I spent no more than $49 for my own dress shoes for work. Our son skipped two sizes that year before I would get him a new pair of shoes.

What I didn’t appreciate was the fact that the shoe companies might be advancing the technology of making shoes with these campaigns. Sneakers went from the Keds of my childhood to the sophisticated arch-supported walking and running shoes of today.

I recently finished reading Driven from Within: Michael Jordan. It is a vanity book, edited and produced by a marketing firm for Brand Jordan. But, the photographs are stunning. And, it takes you, by means of interviews with Jordan, his parents, his close business associates and, in particular, the Jordan shoe designer, through the business, technology and style decisions that created the Jordan line of shoes. It takes you behind the scenes to understand the man behind the statistics. And, that is a very good seat.

It also answers some common questions about Michael Jordan:

  • How tall is Michael Jordan? 6 foot, 6 inches
  • Why did Michael Jordan choose to wear the 23 as his signature number?  This information came from wiki.answers. He wanted his brother’s number 45. It was taken, so he split it in half for 22 ½, and took 23.  What the book explains is where the distinctive TWO 3 on the tongue of Air Jordan XII came from. Spelling out the TWO with the 3 was Michael’s idea and the designer incorporated it.
  • How many Jordan shoes were there? 20, numbered from I to XX
  • What ritual did Michael perform before he traveled? He laid out all his suits, with shirts and ties for each, then put them all on, then took them all off and packed them
  • Why did Michael eat steak before a game instead of pasta? He tried pasta, but said it left him with no energy by the fourth quarter, so he went back to steak
  • What did Michael wear to games? Always a suit. One of his first coaches, Dean Smith, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, insisted his players wear suits, jackets and ties to the game. And, Michael’s father impressed on him that he would be treated according to the way he dressed.
  • Why did he play with the Washington Wizards when he was part owner? He wanted to inspire the same work ethic he had always adhered to by demonstrating he could show up early and stay late for practices, even though he was part owner, before he asked the other players to do it.
  • How many points did Michael Jordan score in his career? 32,292 (30.1 average points per game) Wikipedia has more statistics.

If you want to understand who Michael Jordan was on and off the court, his passion for the game and how that translated into his success in business, Driven from Within is the book you want to read.

Nike, of course, solidified its reputation of delivering high-quality gear for elite athletes with its association with Michael Jordan.

Maybe you can’t quite “Be like Mike,” but you can take advantage of the technology he inspired. A reader of Runner’s World, on their Winter 2010 review of shoes, dismissed the magazine’s choices for Winter running. He liked the Nike Air Pegasus. $89.