How Elly joined the 'Jumpman' ranks

March 31st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon’s Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CINCINNATI -- His Major League career is still in its early stages, and he hasn't fully established himself as one of its superstars, at least not yet. But Reds shortstop wanted -- and landed -- a serious superstar endorsement deal.

During the offseason, De La Cruz signed with the Jordan Brand. As in Michael Jordan. As in Air Jordan. The agreement was officially unveiled last week before Opening Day.

"I talked to my agent [Scott Boras] and said I wanted to sign to Jordan," De La Cruz told "He said it was going to be hard, and I said I want to try. They don’t sign too many people.”

Indeed, only a limited stable of MLB superstars are donning Jordan’s "Jumpman" logo as official product endorsers. They are: Mookie Betts of the Dodgers, Aaron Judge from the Yankees, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays, the Padres' Manny Machado, the Marlins' Jazz Chisholm Jr., William Contreras of the Brewers and De La Cruz.

In addition to wearing Air Jordan game spikes, De La Cruz also sports the Jumpman logo on his compression sleeves and wristbands while playing.

Part of Nike, the Jordan Brand has long been associated with the NBA and college basketball -- including sponsoring the University of Cincinnati this season. But it has expanded its reach beyond the hardwood into MLB and the NFL.

Yankees great and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter was one of the first baseball superstars to be endorsed by Jordan Brand before he retired in 2014.

Besides wanting to associate himself with Jordan and an international ad campaign, De La Cruz had another basic reason for wanting to wear the Jumpman logo.

“I like a lot of basketball. It’s one of my favorite sports," De La Cruz said. "Jordan is part of basketball.”

(Incidentally, De La Cruz's favorite NBA player is Steph Curry, who is not associated with Nike or the Jordan Brand. Curry wears Under Armour).

Since Spring Training, De La Cruz has worn Air Jordans in games. They look like the high-top basketball sneakers … but have the needed metal spikes on the soles.

“They feel really good. I feel fast," said De La Cruz, who stole 35 bases in his 2023 rookie season and has the fastest average sprint speed in MLB, according to Baseball Savant.

But does De La Cruz also believe he can fly like Jordan?

“I don’t know about that," he replied with a laugh.