words by @sneakergrandpa
Growing up, the NBA All-Star Game took place every year around my birthday (February 3rd) and for years I had a traditional slumber party with six to eight of my best friends and basketball teammates. A highlight of the weekend would be watching the Slam Dunk contest and in ’85, ’87 and ’88, no one dominated that competition quite like Michael Jordan.
In ’85 he wore the black and red 1s (I refuse to call them breds) and then the white, red and black pair for the game.
Thus began the Jordan tradition of the All-Star Weekend debut for signature shoes.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
The Jordan 2 doesn’t quite translate today like it did back upon its release in 1987.
Eschewing the traditional Nike Swoosh, this Made in Italy shoe with the black stripe around the midsole, black laces, faux lizard print and Air Jordan wings logo on the tongue, broke all the rules present at the time.
Retailing for over $100, the shoe was definitely one that had my parents saying “not a chance” and that only made me want them even more.
Michael debuted them at the ’87 dunk contest (his first win) where he displayed gravity-defying dunks that blew away the competition.
For the game the next day, he unveiled the white midsole version.
The day after the Slam Dunk competitions, my friends and I would rush over to a neighbor’s house (where they had an adjustable rim) to try and reenact the dunks we had seen the night before.
Whether we were wearing Air Jordans or not, we all did our best to “be like Mike” impression to defy gravity (or at least gave it an attempt).
When 1988 rolled around, my friends were still coming over to spend the night and celebrate my birthday, and the Slam Dunk Contest had become part of the tradition.
That year, Jordan debuted the Air Jordan 3, designed by none other than Tinker Hatfield.
While we had no idea who had designed it or the cultural impact the shoe would have, the three quarter pair with the elephant print on the heel did not go unnoticed.
Michael wore the mostly white pair while he took off from the free throw line that night en route to his second Slam Dunk title.
He then sported the black pair during the actual All-Star Game the following afternoon.
Along came the Jordan 4 and Jordan 5 the next couple of years, but it wouldn’t be until the Jordan 6 that I would finally have my first pair of Air Jordans.
By that time I was a senior in high school and the black and infrared 6s would finally be mine.
While he no longer competed in the Slam Dunk contest, that season Mike and the Bulls won their first NBA championship, on their way to many more.
As the All Star Game again approaches and I look back on my connection to the Jordan shoe, I can’t help but think back to the Jordan 1 and how long it took me to get my first pair of Jordan 1s.
While I’ve been critical of Jordan releases in the past, it wasn’t as much about the shoes themselves as it was about the expectations I had placed on the pairs and the memories attached to them.
Today I would have to say that the recent retros are nice, but I’m honestly not sure that any reissue of a Jordan 1-6 could ever live up to the standard they uphold in my recollection of that period of time in my life.
No matter what, no one can ever take away those birthday sleepovers or the dunk competitions we had in our neighbor’s driveway.