Bo Jackson Shoes Show Why He Was the Greatest
The Nike Air Trainer SC was the signature shoe for NFL and MLB star Bo Jackson, and just like the athlete they were made for, the shoes were a revelation for Nike. They crafted a brilliant marketing campaign around Jackson that showcased his versatility and the shoe's wide-ranging appeal.
The shoe, originally released in 1990, came from legendary shoe designer Tinker Hatfield and rivaled the Air Jordan sneaker in popularity. Remade and reissued over the years in different styles and colors, the Air Trainer SC has become one of the most coveted shoes for sneakerheads.
Here's a look at the Bo Jackson shoes and his career. And what made him so infinitely popular.
Nike’s Marketing Campaign Was Top-Notch
The Air Trainer SC Was an Elegant Shoe
The most popular version of the Nike Air Trainer SC that Bo Jackson began promoting in 1990 was the "Auburn" version. It was a beautiful mix of the colors (kind of) from Jackson's college. And in an era where cross trainers were all the rage, this was the perfect version.
The Air Trainer SC is supposed to be rereleased in this form at some point in 2022, but we're not holding our breath. If you want to cop a pair right now, it could run you up to $500 buying online.
Nike Marketing Scores Again With 'Bo Don't Know Diddly'
In 1990, Bo Was An NFL Star
When Bo Jackson started promoting the Air Trainer SC for Nike in 1990, he was one of the biggest stars in the sports world as a star running back for the Los Angeles Raiders.
Amazingly, Jackson never even ran for 1,000 yards in a single NFL season but came as close as he ever would in 1989, when he rushed for 950 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games.
Watching Bo Play Sports at Any Age Was a Thrill
In 1990, Bo Was Also An MLB Star
At the same time Bo Jackson was running the ball for the Los Angeles Raiders, he was also becoming an MLB star as an outfielder for the Kansas City Royals.
Some may tell you Bo was just as good at baseball as he was at football — if not better. Ahead of the "Bo Knows" campaign for Nike, he had his best MLB season in 1989 when he hit 32 home runs and 105 RBI along with being named the 1989 MLB All-Star Game Most Valuable Player.
Bo Led Off 1989 All-Star Game With a Home Run
'Tecmo Bo': The Greatest Video Game Athlete of All Time
Bo Jackson will never be able to say he was the greatest athlete of all time. But at one point, it seemed he was definitely in the running.
One title that can never be taken away from Bo is the greatest video game athlete of all time thanks to the release of Tecmo Bowl on the original Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989.
"Tecmo Bo" was all but unstoppable in the game, which remains one of the best sports video games ever made.
Watch 'Tecmo Bo' Do His Thing
Cross-Training Was an Early 1990s Craze
The late 1980s and early 1990s were a wild time for cross-training — what suddenly became the biggest fad in the entire exercise world.
One big part of that was the intense battle between shoe companies to come out with the perfect type of shoe to accompany the growing number of Americans who wanted to "cross-train." Which was a pretty undefined way of saying they wanted to exercise more and in different ways.
Enter Bo Jackson and the Air Trainer SC. The single-most popular cross-training shoe ever made.
'Another Day, Another Hobby'
Bo, MJ and Gretzky Teamed Up for a Saturday Morning Cartoon
Bo Jackson's popularity grew so much in the late 1980s that there was even a Saturday morning cartoon featuring him called "ProStars" where an animated version of Bo starred alongside animated versions of the two other biggest professional sports stars of the day, basketball's Michael Jordan and hockey's Wayne Gretzky.
The trio starred in the show in 1990 and 1991. Episodes usually meant facing off against villains like Clockwork Delorange and Short John Silver. Oh, yeah, neither Jackson, Jordan or Gretzky ever actually voiced their characters.
Every Episode of ProStars Is Now Available on YouTube
Bo's Signature Nikes Became Second Only to Air Jordan
Bo Jackson was doing commercials for Nike by at least 1988, but upon the release of his signature line of shoes with the Air Trainer SC I in 1990, he shot into the stratosphere of sports superstardom.
Ultimately, Bo's cross-trainers became so popular they were second only to Michael Jordan's Air Jordan shoes in 1990. That's no small feat considering Air Jordans are still the most popular basketball shoes on the market over 30 years later.
Who Had Better Commercials, MJ or Bo?
Bo Only Wanted to Play Baseball
Bo Jackson was no dummy. During his final years at Auburn playing both football and baseball, the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner began to express his desire to play baseball full-time because of the toll football took on his body.
One look at Bo's college baseball stats showed why he may have been starting to lean this way. As a junior in 1985, he had a .400 batting average with 17 home runs, 49 RBI, 9 stolen bases and 59 hits in 147 at-bats.
Bo Knows Home Runs: College Edition
Bo Tells Buccaneers Not to Pick Him
Bo Jackson wasn't sold on playing in the NFL because of his burgeoning baseball career. However, one NFL owner was dead set on having him play football.
That was Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse. Bo said Culverhouse "tricked" him into taking a private plane to visit with the Bucs during his senior baseball season at Auburn. Bo's account was the team told him the trip had been approved by the NCAA. It wasn't.
Bo was declared ineligible to play baseball at Auburn. Furious at Tampa Bay, he told Culverhouse picking him No. 1 overall in the 1986 NFL draft would be a wasted pick because he would never play for him. The Buccaneers picked him anyway.
Bo Shows He’s a Man of His Word
Going to Kansas City, Kansas City Here He Comes
Bo Jackson spurned the NFL after being selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers No. 1 overall in the 1986 NFL draft, and the franchise lost his rights one year later.
In the meantime, Bo honored his commitment to play baseball and went to the minor leagues to play for the Kansas City Royals, who selected him in the fourth round of the 1986 MLB draft.
Bo signed a three-year contract worth a little over $1 million with the Royals, after the Bucs had offered him a five-year contract for $7.6 million. Bo played just 53 games with the Royals' Double-A affiliate, the Memphis Chicks, before he was called up to the majors.
Bo Jackson's Minor League Career: 53 Games
Is Bo Auburn's Greatest Football Player?
The debate over who Auburn's greatest football player of all time usually comes down to two players — Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson and Cam Newton.
It's an interesting debate. While Newton won a national championship, Bo never did. But Newton only played one season for the Tigers. Bo played four seasons and saved his best for last, rushing for 1,786 yards and averaging 6.4 yards per carry as a senior in 1985.
Bo's Auburn Football Highlights. Watch and Learn.
Bo Eventually Came Back to Football
Bo Jackson eventually came back to football thanks to the late Al Davis, the owner of the Los Angeles Raiders.
The Raiders took Jackson in the seventh round of the 1987 NFL draft, and Davis quickly made it known Bo would be permitted to play baseball with the Royals and report to the Raiders once the MLB season was over.
It was a deal too good to refuse. Bo signed a five-year, $7.5 million contract with the Raiders, making him the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history. And he didn't waste any time making iconic highlights and taking names.
See Bo Run ... Directly Over Brian Bosworth
Injuries Ended Bo's Football Career
Bo Jackson suffered a career-ending hip injury in the 1991 AFC playoffs on a seemingly normal tackle at the end of a 34-yard run against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jackson would eventually need to have his hip replaced and was released by the Royals in 1991. He returned to play in the majors for three more seasons with the Chicago White Sox and California Angels, but was a shell of the athlete he once was.
Bo Returns to Play in the Majors
Still the Pitchman, After All These Years
Want to know how in demand Bo Jackson's Nike Air Trainer SC line still is to this day? Upon the rerelease of the original "Auburn" colorway on April 4, 2022, the shoes immediately sold out and less than one week later, they were going for $400 on the secondary market.
Hope you're a size 8.5 men's.
Get Ready For the Bo Jackson Renaissance
Get ready for a Bo Jackson renaissance in the fall of 2022 with the release of "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson" by New York Times bestselling author Jeff Pearlman.
Pearlman is the writer behind the book "Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s," which was recently made into a hit series by HBO called "Winning Time." Pearlman has also authored biographies of Walter Payton and Brett Favre.
Don't be surprised to see a whole new generation of Bo Jackson fans.