The case can be made that this whole sneaker “thing” we’re living in right now—the sleepouts, the money, the -Cons, the blogs, the Instagram accounts, the books and yes, this very magazine, are owed to one man: Michael Jordan.

What a thrill, then, when our friends at Jordan Brand reached out with an offer to sit down with the man himself. We know a few people who were privy to the conversations, and apparently Mike chose us as the American outlet he wanted to give an interview to around the launch of the Air Jordan XX9. Man, did we Jump at that (I’ll be here all year, thank you very much). Obviously any right-minded media outlet would take advantage of that opportunity whenever it was presented, but the timing for us, and for KICKS specifically, was extra special.

Mike’s been on more than 10 SLAM covers, which included memorable interviews with Scoop Jackson and Ryan Jones. He’s been the subject of multiple special issues we’ve produced, the first of which featured a lengthy chat with Russ Bengtson and Tony Gervino. This is MJ’s second KICKS cover (this year’s image is obviously the shoe, but Mike’s the star of the story), but the first time he’s granted us an interview. From our side of things, this historic moment speaks to how essential KICKS has become to the sneaker world; we’re not only the preferred outlet for sneaker fans and industry heads, but for the GOAT, too. And at the risk of being immodest, the moment speaks to how big Jordan still is as well. I mean, lots of players, agents and sneaker companies want their face or shoe or whatever to be on the cover of KICKS every year…and with this opportunity we didn’t think twice. A ground-breaking performance brand in the ’80s grew into a retro behemoth that dominates retail sales charts every month, and yet the people there (unquestionably led by Michael) haven’t lost their hunger for performance innovation one bit. That’s the story: how MJ balances the success and pressures of a legacy brand with the challenge of still making the best new basketball shoe on the market.

By the way, and as ever, this is not a one-brand show. We’ve got edit on every basketball shoe brand that matters—including a 32-page insert that focuses on adidas athletes and their new Boost technology—along with the pictures to match. Enjoy!

kicks 17 cover