GAME CHANGER – AIR JORDAN 1 “BANNED”

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Saturday, Sept. 3rd 2016 is one of those days in the life of a sneakerhead, when the sun seems a little bit brighter and the smiles seem a little bit warmer.

Why? One of the absolute must-have-shoes in sneaker history is being re-released. The Air Jordan 1 Retro “Banned” is coming back. It’s the shoe that took the world by storm in the colorway that changed the game.

When coming up with a short list of basketball shoes that had a true impact on the game of basketball, undoubtedly the Air Jordan I will be on that list. If not at the top then very close to it. Without the very first Air Jordan there would be no AJ3 Black Cement or AJ11 Concord. That whole Air Jordan series gone, from 1 to 31. The signature shoes, too. No shoes for Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler or Carmelo Anthony. In all likelihood the name “Jordan” would only stand for a dude that was pretty good at basketball, not a brand. Now I don’t know about you, but if you have the same name as a COUNTRY and people think of you first, not the country, that’s a whole ‘nother level of fame. This is arguably just as much thanks to MJ’s products as his success in basketball. No other athlete – in any sport – has ever achieved that level of excellence in both areas on and off the court and no one probably ever will.

Michael Jordan and his Air Jordan 1 ‘Banned’ were a true game changer in the athletic shoe industry and it influenced how we view basketball shoes today.

HOW DID JORDAN AND NIKE COME TOGETHER?

Back when the Air Jordan 1 came out in 1985 Nike was still known primarily as a running shoe company. Michael originally wanted to sign with either Converse or adidas both of which he wore during his college days in North Carolina. At first he was really not interested in signing with Nike at all. But Converse declined and according to a Wall Street Journalarticle published in 2015 so did Adidas.

“Adidas distributors wanted to sign Mr. Jordan”, says someone who was an Adidas distributor then. But executives in Germany decided shoppers would favor taller players and wanted to sponsor centers, the person says, adding: “We kept saying, ‘no—no one can relate to those guys. Who can associate with a seven-foot-tall guy?’” – Wall Street Journal

In what would turn out to be one of the biggest errors of judgment ever (Portland picking Sam Bowie instead of Michael in the ’84 NBA Draft being one of them), the table was set for Nike simply by self-elimination of its main competitors. … Still MJ was not convinced.

Michael Jordan in his Rookie season (Getty Images)

Only when Nike offered to give MJ his own shoe- and clothing line did he change his mind. After all having your own line of signature shoes was unheard of in the NBA. Basketball players simply did not get “signature” products. Kareem was getting $100,000 from Adidas, and James Worthy got an 8-year, $1.2 million deal with New Balance, but nobody had an entire product line named after them. Up to that point this privilege was reserved for tennis players alone. (Ever heard of “Stan Smith”?) As the first basketball player with his own signature shoes Jordan would immediately become the king of basketball sneaker advertising.

Nike designer Peter Moore, designer of the Air Jordan Is and Air Jordan IIs, hastily sketched out the Wings-Logo, worked it into a presentation and the decision was made: Michael joined Nike for $2.5 million over 5 years. Just to be on the safe side Nike worked an out-clause into the contract: if Air Jordans didn’t earn Nike $3 million in the first 3 years, or if Jordan didn’t make the NBA All-Star Game in his first three years, Nike could dump him. Of course Jordan was voted into the All-Star Game as a Rookie starter and the shoe made Nike $130 million in 1985 alone.

The rest is history.

Nike’s history. Because Nike’s success ever since is of course directly linked to the Jordan signing in 1984. In fact there are a lot of people who think there would be no Nike today at all, if it wasn’t for one Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

BANNED OR NOT?

Originally tagged at $65 per pair the Air Jordan 1 shoe was more expensive than its counterparts and needed an unprecedented ad campaign and Michael Jordan’s spectacular Rookie season to convince people to buy it. At the forefront was a now famous TV commercial that claimed the NBA had banned the Air Jordan 1 from the game (see below).

But was it ever banned? No. Thanks to Sole Collector’s research we learned many years later that the shoe that had been banned was not the Air Jordan I at all. In bold to emphasize: The shoe that was banned was NOT the Air Jordan I. It was the black and red Nike Air Ship! But the Jordan line needed the publicity and from a distance (no HD TV back then) those shoes do look very much alike. So Nike went along for the ride. Once the urban legend had spread in ’85 there was no stopping it anyway. The Air Jordan 1 ‘became’ the shoe that was banned and the sales went through the roof. People just had to have the shoe that was not allowed in the NBA and the Air Jordan series began its unstoppable march through sneaker history.

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The original Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ colorway (Getty Images)

To this day, new colorways of the Air Jordan I are constantly being introduced and original colorways like the famous ‘banned’ version are being retro-ed, making it one of the most successful athletic shoes of all time. Just like other sneakers that started out as basketball performance shoes (e.g. Adidas SuperstarConverse Chuck Taylor All-StarNike Air Force 1) the Air Jordan I has transitioned into a popular lifestyle choice.

It will do so for many years to come, because the classic Air Jordan silhouette is timeless and legends never die.

That old saying goes for both the man and the shoe.

JORDAN FOR THREE

Because all good things come in threes, Nike releases the brandnew Air Jordan XXXI and the Jordan Trainer 1  low along with the Air Jordan 1 on the same day (Sept. 3rd, 2016) and in the matching ‘banned’ colorway. To learn more about the Air Jordan XXXI and its revolutionary performance features please read Max’ blogpost here.

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