Why was Sonny Vaccaro Fired from Nike? Real reason Nike cut off ties with Vaccaro right after securing the Jordan deal

Exactly what had transpired that eventually prompted Nike to fire Sonny Vaccaro right after the Jordan deal was signed? Let's find out.

Why was Sonny Vaccaro Fired from Nike? Real reason Nike cut off ties with Vaccaro right after securing the Jordan deal

Sonny Vaccaro and how his story with Nike ended (Image: FS)

Michael Jordan’s iconic deal with Nike has probably been the most significant turning point in the sporting apparel industry. Not known by many, the original man behind the Nike-Jordan deal, Sonny Vaccaro, was immediately fired after the apparel giant secured the signatures of the Chicago Bulls star. But exactly why did Nike cut off ties with the main man behind the elephantine deal?

John Paul Vincent ‘Sonny’ Vaccaro is perhaps one of the most significant individuals in the history of Nike. Vaccaro was an exceptional marketing executive who would crack some future-shaping deals for Nike and later for Adidas.

For those who are not already aware, Sonny Vaccaro is also the man who signed Kobe Bryant for the Swoosh. But what exactly had prompted Nike to fire their star scout?

Why was Sonny Vaccaro Fired from Nike?

The Nike-Jordan deal was signed in 1984, it was the very year Nike fired Sonny Vaccaro. Although there were no official statements conveying the original reason behind the move, it seemed to have resulted from Vaccaro’s alleged business plans that conflicted with the interest of the company.

Sonny Vaccaro
John Paul Vincent ‘Sonny’ Vaccaro (via SI)

And what was the side venture? The idea of a company that would put together product endorsement packages for players and coaches in the sports business. So, was Sonny Vaccaro ‘betrayed’ by Nike after helping land their biggest sneaker deal ever? Well, there seems to be so much more than what just meets the eye.

Did Nike betray Sonny Vaccaro?

The fact that Vaccaro was fired right after Nike landed one of the best deals of the era is sure to spur questions to the curious mind. And as per the LA Times, there was a grave conspiracy that eventually saw the ousting of Sonny from the apparel franchise.

Michael Jordan and sonny vaccaro
Michael Jordan and Sonny Vaccaro (via BFrames vault)

Vaccaro is said to have openly discussed the possibilities of his new business idea with then-Nike CEO Phil Knight. As per the publication, Knight was enthused by the project and was keen on discussing how the venture would suit Nike.

But it was right after, that Sonny Vaccaro was officially fired from the company. In fact, it was none other than Phil Knight who issued the move. Much to Sonny’s shock and late realization, the motive of the entire venture struck him as an agenda to kick him out once his job was done.

Vaccaro would then go on to join Adidas and sign a young Kobe Bryant from 1996 until 2003 when he switched to Nike. He has also worked with Converse and launched the Dapper Dan Roundball Rock Classic, a high school basketball all-star game. Unbeknownst to many, Vaccaro had also attempted to sign LeBron James for Adidas, although the deal did not eventually finalize.

What did Sonny Vaccaro say about ‘AIR’?

Ben Affleck’s critically acclaimed masterpiece ‘AIR’ depicted the entire chain of events leading to the Nike-Jordan deal. Matt Damon was cast in Vaccaro’s character which was also well-received by critics. Regarding his portrayal in ‘AIR,’ Vaccaro had polite words to share.

They gave me more credit in the movie, but it's basically what happened. I was involved because I was the only one personally close to Michael, but it was their idea since I was the only person that could deliver it.
Sonny Vaccaro on his on-screen character.
Matt damon
Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro in ‘Air’ (2023)

What are your thoughts on Ben Affleck’s “AIR”? And if you haven’t watched it already, you sure are doing yourself a disservice by missing out on this one!

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