8 most iconic Nike collaborations with celebrities of all time

Trying to capture Nike’s influence on fashion and the field is like trying to bottle lightning. It’s electrifying, flashy and impossible to ignore.
12 January 2024

Nike isn’t just a sportswear brand, it’s a trendsetter that’s had celebrities and sneakerheads chanting ‘Just Do It’ for years. Whether it’s the silver screen or a regular court in your neighbourhood, the shiny swoosh has dominated the sneaker and fashion scene everywhere, thanks to Nike’s banging collaborations with celebrities that keep its popularity roaring. 

That said, if you caught the recent sports drama Air, you must have gotten a sneak peek into just how insanely cool these athlete partnerships can be for a company.

Well, rewind that reel a bit, and you will find the starting point – 1984, the year Michael Jordan gifted the world the iconic Jordans, setting off a sneaker revolution that still has us in its grip.

Fast forward to ’96, and the golfing legend Tiger Woods steps onto the scene, not just conquering the greens but making Nike a powerhouse in the golf industry. His partnership with the sports giant became a tale of three decades, an epic saga that sadly has now come to an end.

Now that Wood’s long-standing partnership coming to an end, we take a look at some of the best Nike collaborations with celebrities that turned the sports brand into a cultural phenomenon.

A list of Nike’s top 10 celebrity collaborations over the years

Here are the top-notch Nike partnerships that didn’t just elevate the brand but turned it into the cool, trendsetting force we know and love today. 

Michael Jordan

We have got to start our list of best Nike collaborations with celebrities with the legendary Michael Jordan. It was in 1984 that Michael stepped onto the court with Nike. It wasn’t just a partnership, it was a remarkable shift in sports and marketing landscapes. After a whirlwind courtship, Nike signed the NBA star to a five-year, USD 2.5 million deal – an astronomical figure, three times beyond any NBA contract at the time.

This contract marked a series of transformations both for Jordan and the shoe brand. Nike, then a rising star, found its cosmic companion in Jordan. The launch of the iconic Air Jordan sneaker soon followed, creating an impact that reverberated globally. The swoosh met slam dunks, and Jordan’s fame soared to great heights, rewriting the script of athlete endorsements.

No wonder then, that every sneakerhead today owns a pair of Jordans or has one on the wishlist.

Tiger Woods

Picture Credits: Instagram/Tiger Woods

When it comes to the intersection of golf and style, Tiger Woods’ partnership with Nike is a legendary chapter. Since turning pro in 1996, Woods has been the embodiment of Nike’s golfing prowess, serving as a dynamic brand ambassador who not only played the game but transformed it.

His immense talent and unparalleled success on the greens not only made him one of the highest-earning athletes globally but also turned his endorsement deal with Nike into a lucrative partnership. Although Woods has employed Nike shoes, hats and other merchandise, he is perhaps best recognised for donning the swoosh in the fire engine red polo shirt that he first wore in his first Masters triumph in 1997 and for collaborating on the Tiger Woods ’13 golf shoes.

His endorsement drove increased brand visibility and sales, influencing golf enthusiasts to choose Nike golf products. In doing so, Woods played a crucial role in solidifying Nike’s position as a powerhouse in the golf market.

However, in January 2024, after an incredible 27-year journey together, Woods’ partnership with Nike reached its conclusion marking the end of an era.

Kobe Bryant

Nike collaborations with celebrities
Picture Credits: Instagram/Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant’s partnership with Nike is one of the most iconic collaborations for a sports brand to have ever existed. It remains a testament to his enduring legacy in the world of basketball and sports fashion. 

The collaboration between the late basketball legend and the sportswear giant began in 2003 when Kobe signed a multi-year deal with Nike after leaving Adidas. The inaugural release, the Nike Zoom Kobe 1, marked the beginning of a series that would redefine basketball footwear. As Kobe’s on-court achievements multiplied, so did the evolution of his signature line, each sneaker reflecting his unparalleled skills and competitive spirit.

Over the years, Nike introduced innovative technologies into Kobe’s signature shoes, such as Flywire and Zoom Air, enhancing performance and comfort. The partnership reached new heights with popular releases like the Kobe 4, celebrated for its low-cut design and the Kobe 9, which showcased Flyknit technology.

Tragically, Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna, passed away in a helicopter crash in 2020. In a tribute, Nike decided to continue his legacy by re-releasing select Kobe models, ensuring that his contributions to basketball and shoe culture live on.

Travis Scott 

Nike collaborations with celebrities
Picture Credits: Instagram/Travis Scott

Next up on the list is Travis Scott, who collaborated with Nike in the year 2021 for the iconic ‘Air Jordan 1 Low Travis Scott x Fragment’one of the best celebrity sneaker collaborations we have seen in recent years.

Echoing the partnership between the astute rapper and the iconic sportswear label, this collaboration wasn’t just about shoes, it was a fusion of creative minds, where Scott and Jordan seamlessly intertwine to create a sneaker that resonates with the soul of sneakerheads.

Travis Scott’s prowess in both music and fashion certifies him not just as a celebrity but as a bona fide business partner in the creative industry. As shoe enthusiasts globally await the unfolding chapters of this collaboration, the success of the Air Jordan 1 Low hints at even greater things to come. 

LeBron James

Nike collaborations with celebrities
Picture Credits: Instagram/LeBron James

As a stalwart brand ambassador for Nike since 2003, LeBron James has not only dominated the court but also left a mark on the world of fashion.

LeBron’s partnership with Nike has resulted in the creation of numerous signature shoes and apparel lines. The LA Lakers player debuted his Nike LeBron 19 shoes in the 2021 comedy-drama Space Jam 2: A New Legacy. These shoes had the “Space Jam” colourway – a combination of red, orange and blue.

His collaboration with Nike has been instrumental in reshaping the basketball market. Through signature shoes that blend performance with cutting-edge design, James has not only expanded Nike’s reach but has also set new standards in the basketball world.

Kevin Durant

Picture Credits: Instagram/Kevin Durant

Since the inception of his partnership with Nike in 2007, Kevin Durant’s journey with the sportswear brand has been nothing short of iconic, showcasing not only his on-court prowess but also a commitment to social change.

Durant, a paragon of versatility and skill on the basketball court, has been a stalwart ambassador for Nike. His collaboration with the brand mirrors his career – a rollercoaster of highs and lows, marked by an unyielding work ethic that embodies Nike’s spirit of constant evolution and innovation.

Durant’s Nike sponsorship boasts of the iconic KD signature line. Each sneaker in this line tells a story of Durant’s journey, capturing the essence of his pursuit of excellence.

Beyond the court, his star’s partnership with Nike extends to a higher purpose – advocacy for social change and community empowerment. His Nike contract aligns seamlessly with his off-court endeavours, portraying him not just as a basketball star but as a role model committed to making a positive impact.

Russell Wilson

In 2016, a formidable partnership emerged as Nike collaborated with Russell Wilson, a quarterback whose dominance in the National Football League (NFL) had already solidified his status as a top performer. Wilson’s journey from an underdog draft pick to a Super Bowl-winning quarterback aligns seamlessly with Nike’s values of determination and leadership.

As a charismatic leader on and off the field, Wilson embodies the spirit of Nike. The RW signature cleat line, born from this collaboration, is a visual representation of Wilson’s precision and agility on the football field. Designed to encapsulate the quarterback’s unique playing style, these cleats are more than footwear – they are an extension of Wilson’s journey to success.

Beyond the game, Wilson’s collaboration with Nike is also about community impact. The partnership showcases a quarterback, who transcends the boundaries of the football field, becoming a celebrated athlete and community advocate.

Roger Federer

Picture Credits: Instagram/Roger Federer

Roger Federer isn’t just a name, he’s a force to be reckoned with, and his partnership with Nike has become synonymous with his unparalleled success and style. Holding the coveted title of the world’s top-ranked tennis player, Federer’s collaboration with Nike for 24 years, until 2018, has transcended the boundaries of sport.

Federer is known for making the off-duty Nike henley top and jogger pants in optic white and Kelly green popular. He also redid Nike’s Tennis Classic Ultra Flyknit sneakers in slate grey and navy in 2016, which became another hit. Apart from this, each Nike Vapor shoe, meticulously designed in collaboration with Federer, reflects not just his personality but also his distinctive playing style.

(Hero and feature image courtesy: Instagram/Tiger Woods/Kobe Bryant)

This article was first published on Lifestyle Asia

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