Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 at 12:41 pm  |  24 responses

Sneak Peak: Air Jordan I

Special HOF edition.

Every year, hundreds Michael Jordanof basketball sneakers are produced, issued, sold and played in on the hardwood worldwide, and for every year in the NBA, at least one star player has a special season that is the peak of his career—and a signature shoe that shares in his glory. Michael Jordan is the sole reason for the popularity of athletic shoes in the past quarter-century and just about every year was a landmark season. In honor of MJ’s induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the Sneak Peak series will be highlighting the peak seasons and signature shoes that Air Jordan made legendary.

by Sandy Dover

Ahmad’s Main Man with the master plan—intentionally banned.

Nobody knew he was gonna be what he became. Nobody really knew it. Third pick overall to a group of red-and-black losers seemed pretty good. He was better than Barkley and Smoove. Pre-draft rumors of being only 6-4 from then-L.A. Laker coach Pat Riley (he was actually 6-6 3/4—that’s right, MJ is actually 6-7) were mere poppycock. Yeah, he was a First-Team NCAA All-American—and? He shot the rock too much, right? Didn’t have a consistent J, either? At least he was explosive… but he wasn’t Bird, he wasn’t Magic, and he may not be Isiah-level, and nobody’s more Southside than Isiah. They were winners, and league champions, too; there wasn’t going to be any Dean Smiths to hold young Mike’s hand, but then that was the genius of the M. Jeffery Jordan. He was ready to shake up the cup.

Michael’s rookie season was merely the first of many great individual years of his brilliance, and the first-year numbers spoke for themselves after he won just about every major collegiate award a player could win as a North Carolina Tar Heel—NBA Rookie of the Year, All-NBA Second Team, All-Rookie First Team, all while ranking as one of the top 10 leaders in 12 different statistical categories (ranking first in games played and overall points scored), but the numbers themselves don’t tell the entire story of the G.O.A.T.’s dominance.

Remember Dwyane Wade’s comeback year from injuries in ‘08-09? Jordan’s average games were Wade’s best games, comparatively. No. 23 literally dominated on and off the dribble, penetrating defenses and exploding to the basket for dunks that Kobe only wishes he had the athleticism to fully execute. 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists with a .515 field goal percentage in ‘84-85 just didn’t narrate enoughAir Jordan 1—those numbers were Oscar. Those numbers are LBJ.

Hold up…what about those shoes?

Oh man, those shoes were a doozy. Never mind that they were a “signature” shoe made up of a Nike Big Nike, a Nike Dunk and an Air Force 1—these had Air, man! The colorblocking of black and red with that stark white sidewall made for a classic beyond initial comprehension, especially when paired with the custom Nike warm-up suit. A modest traction pattern of concentric circles and stars, a high-cut upper and a padded collar were good enough to “give ‘em that work” (as DeAngelo Hall has boasted of doing to the prep school J.J. Redick), but even the look in and of itself isn’t enough to show the big picture. The NBA doesn’t ban your shoe unless it believes it’s tearing the fabric of conformity, and the Swoosh made sure that paying a per-game fine of $5,000 would ensure that snagging of the tightly knit cloth of the status quo.

(It didn’t hurt that Isiah was gnashing those bright white teeth of his during that ’85 All-Star Weekend, with MJ going Tarzan on the rim with those gold chains dangling in the air—kelly green looked especially terrible on Pistons No. 11.)

Michael ended up playing with that shoe for his second season, after breaking his foot in the ’85 offseason. No one thought he’d come back for that year, and the Chicago Bulls of ’85-86 just plain sucked, but in came the Black Cat. Playing only the last 18 regular season games and starting only seven of them, a recuperating and healing Jordan still averaged 22.7 ppg, but made his name in the ’86 Playoffs.

As a number, 43.7 may not mean a lot out of context, but let the records show that Michael Jeffrey averageMichael Jordand nearly 44 ppg in those very Playoffs (along with about 6 rebounds and nearly 6 assists as well), in same black-toe Air Jordan Is that were kicked out again as “Old Love” in 2008. For further exclamation, a 63-point game against the eventual NBA champion Celtics within a three-game, first round sweep allowed him to ascend into semi-heavenly realms when Bird shockingly called him “God.”

That Michael spent took those first two League years and made for a revolutionary run onto other seemingly impossible goals like corporate takeover of the free market and a mild run at literal world domination in the money game shouldn’t be all that surprising in retrospect—after all, if you share the namesake of the Most High, it’s to be expected.

Twenty-four years and some recent “School Daze” and “Do The Right Thing” trips to Spike Lee’s Nike closet, and we’re left with the singular phrase rolling through our minds…

“It’s gotta be the shoes, Money.”

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  • http://shoenut.blogspot.com ShoeNut

    Best MJ’s Ever. The Hall of Fame Edition is even sicker. see it on my blog. Just click on my name.

  • kevin

    Revolutionary shoes! Changed the game FOREVER!

  • http://www.another48minutes.blogspot.com Gerard Himself

    a thing of beauty

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    A classic.

  • Teddy-the-Bear


  • http://slamonline.com Jhaney

    A must have. Go get them for your collection.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    Can I get a pair for free? Please? No? Well, I tried. =P

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » http://www.slamonline.com/online/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=17359

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » http://www.slamonline.com/online/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=17359

  • Ben

    Good rookie season, not as good as Wilt’s but still pretty good.

  • http://N/A Robert C.

    This “article” is full of inaccuracies. And it’s not even remotely objective. The Air Jordan is not a mishmash of a Big Nike, an Air Force and a Dunk. Dunks and Big Nikes didn’t hit retail until the ’86-’87 season, the same year the Air Jordan II came out. Sure, the shoes are similar, but no one outside of anyone at Nike that witnessed the development of those shoes can really say for sure that a Dunk or a Big Nike inspired the design for the Air Jordan. Originally, the Air Jordan was just another basketball shoe. Nike needed something to develop quickly as a signature shoe for Michael Jordan. They picked the shoe that they did out of timely convenience. They slapped some wild colors together, and added a logo. They marketed it well and it sold through the roof. They got lucky. I thought that shoe was ugly, ugly, ugly. I detested it at first, but it was popular. Ultimately I wanted a more conservative version. So I bought one with a metallic blue Swoosh. Then I got the black and grey pair. Loved them. But I hated the white, red and black version. A lot of others thought the same thing, especially the front office of the NBA. The shoe’s history isn’t all glorious and wonderful like your article says. It was a controversial shoe like a lot of the other Air Jordans that are much more ghastly to look at.

    And Larry Bird did not call Michael Jordan “God.” After the 63 points, Bird said, “That was God disguised as Michael Jordan,” meaning that it wasn’t Jordan scoring the 63. It was God. Of course, Bird was making an analogy between Jordan’s performance and the power of God.

    By the way, Jordan and his team were SWEPT by the Boston Celtics in 1986, something everyone always overlooks when waxing poetic about how great Michael Jordan is. And there’s no mention of his struggle to solve the Detroit Pistons. He never really beat them when they were at their best. His lack of a championship dogged him until he and the Bulls beat the Lakers. No one talks about that. It’s all about “Michael did this. Michael did that.” But he wasn’t winning on the highest level. Everyone forgets. Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever play, but hearing about how great he is is so boring. Such commentary is completely one-dimensional, and it really doesn’t capture the fire, the irreverence and the determination he needed to win it all. It doesn’t capture the difficulty of winning like he did. And a lot of Jordan’s complexities are downright ugly to look at straight on. No one talks about that. It’s dumb.

    Great player, but his legacy isn’t all roses. It’s grittier than that.

  • Orlando Woolridge

    Got these for my birthday when they came out. They were $40, which was hella expensive for shoes back then. One of the best presents I ever got.

  • http://www.twitter.com/from_the_chi Bryan Crawford

    Robert C, you’ve managed to take hating to an eloquent and very well spoken level.

  • http://www.infamousklav.blogspot.com Klav

    To add to Robert’s point, the Air Jordan 1 came out before Dunks. So really, the Dunk was just a variant of the AJ1, but what do you know…Nike recycled a lot of their uppers and soles. AJ1′s and Dunks were also both created by Bruce Kilgore.

  • http://www.associatedcontent.com/sandydover Sandy Dover

    Robert C: I’m working on some other stuff at the moment, but from glancing at your commentary, I’m gonna hit you back and explain some of this stuff, because in the case of the makings of the Air Jordan I, it was a test-shoe for the prototypes of the Dunks and Big Nikes, in terms of the variant soles Jordan’s PEs had. If you look at certain clip photos, you can see there are overlay and sole differences at certain points of his in-game wearings from ’84-86–as Klav just mentioned. Trust me.
    (Never mind, I’ll just continue…)

    Also, isn’t Bird saying “That was God disguised as Michael Jordan” the same as calling him God? Sure sounds like it, and you know what? Even Scoop Jackson picked up on that when you did those classic Jordan features; I guarantee that he would reference the times when he called Jordan “God” to when Larry Bird first said it.

    Anyway, this is a love fest about Jordan, not about Nike. I also can’t get into a bunch of jargon because I have communicate on a broad level (and not everyone is a sneakerhead like you and me). Hopefully you enjoyed the read anyway–or if you didn’t, thanks for taking the time to look. I can’t win ‘em all, but I respect your opinion regardless.

  • chintao

    “F” Jordan.

  • sutton

    Well if you can’t get the simple fact that Redick went to a public school (Cave Spring HS)how do we expect that anything else is correct.

    BTW DeAngelo Hall was 15 or 16 when he beat a 14 year old Redick and that was the last time that happened. Redick’s AAU team won the championship the next 3 years.

    As to MJ and the shoe I hope you got those facts better then you did the rest.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Blinguo

    Well chintao, the last time he wore these at MSG, they were a size or two – too small and tortured his feet. He probably won’t soon forget that memory.

  • C-Mac

    man i’m still loving these.

  • GLB

    More good stuff and another excellent trip down memory lane..

  • chintao

    Small consolation, Blinguo, but thank you.

  • http://N/A Robert C.

    Sandy, thanks for the response. I do take your word about the test-shoe scenario. I love information like that. I still don’t think Bird was calling Jordan God. I think he was calling God God disguised as Michael Jordan but not really Michael Jordan because it’s God in disguise. If you want to believe Bird was insinuating that God had taken control of Jordan’s body to score all of those points then I guess that would make sense, too. that’s just a matter of perception. We differ on that issue, and that’s okay. Did I like the read? I wish it presented multiple facets along with the high points of Jordan’s career. Again though, thanks for the response.

  • http://neworleanssaintsmerchandise.net/ NeW OlEanS Saints Merchandise

    Is blogengine greater than wordpress somewhat? Really needs to be as it would be ever more popluar as of late.

  • http://hashtuiotshely.com Jules Imel

    in a position talk about the first part once again amuse