The evolution of Nike

Updated 8:08 AM ET, Tue March 27, 2018
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Basketball legend Michael Jordan was the face of Nike in the 1980s, and his Air Jordan shoe line helped grow the company into a global giant. Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Nike started as Blue Ribbon Sports in the 1960s. The retail store distributed Onitsuka Tiger shoes, which are now known as Asics. Nike, Inc.
Blue Ribbon Sports was founded by Bill Bowerman, track-and-field coach from the University of Oregon, and former Oregon track athlete Phil Knight. Here, Bowerman watches some of his athletes train. Knight is fourth from the right. University of Oregon
Bowerman, right, meets with runner Steve Prefontaine after a race in Eugene, Oregon, in June 1970. Prefontaine would later become the first track athlete to endorse Nike products. James Drake/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
This waffle iron was found in a trash heap nearly 40 years after it inspired Bowerman to create a new kind of sole for running shoes -- one that didn't have spikes but could still have grip. Nike, Inc.
Blue Ribbon Sports began making its own shoes, and it launched the Nike brand in the early 1970s. These are the first designs of Nike's trademark stripe, which is now known as the "swoosh." The "swoosh" was created in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Knight had been teaching an accounting class there on the side, and he paid Davidson $35 for her work. Years later she was also given stock in the company. Nike, Inc.
The Nike "Moon Shoe," with its waffle sole designed by Bowerman, was Blue Ribbon Sports' first major design innovation when it debuted at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in 1972. It was nicknamed the "Moon Shoe" because it left craters in the dirt. Nike, Inc.
In 1972, Romanian tennis star Ilie Nastase was the first major athlete to sign an endorsement deal for Nike shoes. The name "Nike" comes from the Greek goddess of victory. AP
Blue Ribbon Sports officially changed its name its name to Nike Inc. in 1978 and launched its first clothing line in 1979. But perhaps the company's biggest boom came in the 1980s when it signed basketball star Michael Jordan to an endorsement deal. The first Air Jordans hit stores in March 1985, selling at $65 a pair. It had sold $70 million worth by May, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell. Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Nike debuted its signature "Just Do It" slogan in 1988. Serge Attal/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Knight poses for a photo in March 1994. He was Nike's chairman and CEO. Alan Levenson/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Formula One champion Michael Schumacher presents his new Nike racing shoe in Cologne, Germany, in January 1996. Throughout its history, Nike has signed endorsement deals with some of the biggest names in sports, including Schumacher, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and LeBron James. Roland Weihrauch/AP
U.S. sprinter Michael Johnson wears gold Nike shoes at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Johnson was one of the major stars of the Olympics, winning the 200 meters and the 400 meters in record time. Wally McNamee/Corbis
Workers in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, stitch Nike shoes in July 1997. In response to allegations of child labor in its overseas factories, Nike promised to improve working conditions and raise minimum ages. "The Nike product has become synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime, and arbitrary abuse," Knight said when announcing the changes in May 1998. "I truly believe the American consumer doesn't want to buy products made under abusive conditions." Paul Kitagaki Jr/The Oregonian/AP
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, gestures during a June 1997 news conference with samples of Nike shoes in the foreground. Hooper's group said the "Air" symbol resembled "Allah" in Arabic, and the shoes were recalled. Nike apologized to Muslims for any unintentional offense. Dennis CookAP
In addition to individual athletes, Nike has signed apparel deals with major sports teams across the world, including London soccer club Arsenal. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Nike also outfits many college athletic programs, and its work with Oregon's football team helped make the program a recruiting powerhouse. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Olympic decathlete Ashton Eaton, left, and pro football player Victor Cruz speak at a Nike event in New York in October 2013. Nike was introducing its FuelBand activity tracker, continuing to expand its business past more than shoes. The company also makes equipment for just about every sport. Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
NikeTown in London is the company's largest store. It reopened in 2014 with four floors of merchandise. Edd Griffin/REX/AP
Nike's come a long way since its first track shoes. Here is one of its new soccer cleats launched in New York for the 2014 World Cup. Scott Houston/Corbis