Michael Jordan wore the “Olympic” Air Jordan VIIs at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The red, white and blue colorway made its debut on the world stage, shortly after Mike wore the “Bred” VIIs in the ’92 NBA Finals. Everything he was doing on the court that year was instantly translating to wins and his shoes were coming along for the ride.
Mike was an international superstar by that point. He was eight years into his career and not only was he inspiring kids in America, but his play was influencing people around the world to start hooping.
“Michael Jordan was the one who showed us all that the combination of talent and work is the real secret,” Sergio Hernandez, Argentina’s National Coach, tells SLAM. “He never fell asleep in that and he constantly strengthened and nourished it to the point that it was one of the key factors to take him to be the best in history. That is his legacy. Sometimes we think that only talent will take you to incredible places, but the reality is that you have to combine it with a lot of work to get to the top.”
His sneakers were impossible to ignore, no matter where fans were watching the game from.
“To say that Air Jordan sneakers are iconic would be an understatement,” Blake Griffin tells SLAM. “MJ and his sneakers have influenced kids and adults around the world. To have that kind of impact 30-plus years after his career began is crazy.”
The world got to see MJ up close at the ’92 Olympics, when those American-themed VIIs were in the spotlight. And they were hooked, just like us.
“What’s so unique about MJ is that he truly has a global legacy, and we hear the same message about him wherever we go – that he represents greatness,” Brian O’Connor, VP of Global Jordan Brand Marketing, says.
Jordan averaged a light 15 points, 5 assists, 5 steals and 2 rebounds that summer, helping the USA capture Gold. But his influence went far beyond the hardwood.
“For a young team like Argentina, the image of Michael Jordan is so strong that it generated a huge impression,” Hernandez says. “Jordan is a symbolic brand on which they grew up with.”
And Jordan’s brand continued to grow, just as those young fans who saw him that summer did. When he returned to the NBA, the Air Jordan VIII was front and center as he won his third championship. And then after he came back from his first retirement, the Air Jordan XI shifted everything. It featured patent leather, marking a first for a basketball sneaker. MJ debuted the “Space Jam” colorway in the ’95 playoffs, ahead of schedule.
When the “Concord” colorway dropped a few months later, it was a wrap.
“Probably the ‘Concord’ XIs or the ‘Space Jam’ XIs,” Griffin says, when asked about the most popular Jordan silhouette.
Griffin, now one of the Jumpman’s key athletes, was on board early.
“My first pair of J’s were some black and infrared 6’s that I got as a hand-me-down from one of my cousins… circa 1992,” he says. “Loved ‘em.”
Griffin had just turned 3 in ’92, when Mike was out there in Barcelona. He wasn’t ready to understand everything the GOAT was doing, but Sergio Hernandez immediately recognized no. 23’s greatness.
“His playing style was the best in history for many factors–not only was he a great offensive player but also one of the best defensive players ever. Details like this were shown through his added factors such as effort, defense and work to resolve issues that went beyond his enormous offensive talent which he did purely and exclusively for the collective benefit of the team.”
The rest is history. Jordan, in front of the whole world, went on to win six titles, establish a sneaker empire and stake his claim as TBE.