Day-by-day, one-by-one through March and April, seasons progress in triumph or end in despair. Floor burns and buzzer-beaters define underdogs and titans alike. And at the end of it all, the newest young kings and queens of basketball are crowned.
Starting with the Arizona Wildcats in 1997, the first team to win a National Championship in full Nike apparel and footwear, 14 of the last 16 men's champions and 50 of 64 Final Four teams have worn Nike or Jordan Brand from head-to-toe, with two additional schools in Nike footwear.
Beginning with the University of Connecticut in 2000, the first women's team to hoist the trophy in Nike apparel and footwear, nine of the last 13 women's champions have been Nike schools - 37 of the 52 Final Four teams.
In this year's 2013 Division I Men's National Championship, 52 of the 68 schools are wearing Nike or Jordan (four in footwear only), which includes 12 of the top 16 seeds. In the women's tournament, 49 of 64 teams are wearing Nike (two in footwear only) including three of the four No. 1 seeds.
But Nike's legacy of cultural and innovative impact reaches back much further:
Young Air Up There
Now the namesake of the Jordan Brand and the iconic Air Jordan series, but once a wide-eyed yet gritty freshman in a pair of Converse Pro Leathers, Michael Jordan jump-started his legacy with a National Championship in 1982. In 2012, the Jordan Brand and Converse commemorated this moment with a limited edition 30th anniversary pack, signed by MJ.
In 1984 and '85, the Georgetown Hoyas took the nation by storm with skill, smarts and a high-top that captivated fans everywhere. After wearing the original Nike Terminator High shoe in '84, the following year brought a new, navy/gray colorway, evoking a unique attitude to match the on-court persona of the defending champions. Michael Jackson, now Nike's VP/GM of Basketball for North America, starred as a guard on that renowned team.
"I still get asked about that shoe a lot," says Jackson. "GQ featured it in The Style Guy special edition recently. The ones that were made for us on-court actually had 'Hoyas' on the back."
It was in those shoes that year that the Hoyas went on to win their third conference title in four years and play in a third national championship game in the same timeframe.
While on-court innovation has been the core driver of Nike's presence in the college game, a number of Nike ad campaigns over the years have been geared at capturing the obsession of the fan.
In 1985, Nike sent a colorful message, "Be True to Your School" in a print ad featuring the popular Nike Dunk High shoe. The eight footwear/apparel colorway hookups featured were nods to top programs.
In 1999, Nike hit the airwaves and streets with "It's Spreading," as metaphorical, viral fan fever struck college hoops.
Just down the road in 2000, fans were invited to a little town called "Bracketville." Marking one of the most comprehensive and immersive integrated Nike advertising efforts-to-date across TV, print and web, the campaign included an interactive site for consumers. This irreverent connection to the game immersed fans in an annual moment as they followed their teams, suddenly finding themselves as figurative citizens of the population.
The idea was to encapsulate the elements beyond the obvious on-court drama. Nike, working with Wieden + Kennedy, looked to create a platform bringing the full cultural moment to life - fans, mascots, everything else.
Prominent basketball figures such as Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, seen enjoying game film with his wife at the town movie theater, resided in the fictional basketball town along with other special guests from the coaching ranks.