by Ben Osborne / cover image by Tom Medvedich

As brands become media companies and media companies become ad agencies, sales-speak buzzwords are thrown around like a gardener tossing seeds. No word is more popular than “authentic.” Ironically, of course, most of the people using it end up pitching ideas that couldn’t be less authentic (def: of undisputed origin; genuine) to basketball/sneaker/youth culture if they were delivered by Russian-speaking robots.

This issue, though, is as authentic as it gets. I speak for all of SLAM, from veteran publisher Dennis Page to our fresh-out-of-college editors, who have helped build a magazine that’s shared our love of the game for more than 20 years. I speak for the Original Sneaker Bible, our annual KICKS issue, which has been a back-to-school staple for shoe lovers for more than 16 years. I speak for Foot Locker, the sponsor of this issue and the sneaker retailer that has always been the best place to go for new Air Jordans.

But most of all, I speak for myself. I’ve loved hoops since I went to my first NBA game at age 4. I’ve loved MJ since I first saw highlights of his windmill jams at North Carolina. I’ve loved Jordans since the day they came out, wearing through three straight pairs of original Is during their almost two years on the market. And I’ve loved magazines as soon as I could read them, ripping my father’s Sports Illustrated out of the mailbox every Thursday before he got home from work and poring over it from cover to cover before I did a second of homework.

So when Mike burst on the NBA scene and promptly got his first SI cover as a Bull in December of 1984, with a long feature by the great Alexander Wolff, chock full of off-court scenery such as the first picture in the gallery above and scoops on the fervor surrounding Mike’s loud new kicks, I was in some kind of heaven.

Obviously, so much has transpired since then, and if SLAM and Foot Locker never teamed up to make an issue dedicated to the first six Air Jordans, and if I never got to edit such an issue, I think we’d all survive just fine.

But we did team up. And we did get in touch with Puneet Singh, aka Sole Supreme, who let us take pictures of his collection of I-VI, in all their OG glory. And our Creative Director Melissa Brennan and photographer Tom Medvedich did shoot said shoes like the treasures they are. And our young sneakerheads Adam Figman, Abe Schwadron and Tzvi Twersky did combine their research and writing skills to deliver you the real story behind each of the shoes, both on and off the court. Throw in some great photo research and the best paper we’ve ever printed a “magazine” on, and the result is a product that feels 30 years in the making.

Whether your interest lies in Jordan or Jordans, photography or magazines, basketball or sneakers, or, like me, all of the above, I hope you’ll enjoy looking through this issue as much as we all enjoyed making it.

Air Jordans I-VI