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Air Jordan: The Shoe That Changed It All

Mar 2, 2010 – 3:00 AM
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FanHouse will be looking back at each Air Jordan shoe, from the first shoe that changed it all, to the present.

Michael Jordan took the next step in his distinguished career on Saturday when he finalized a deal to buy the Charlotte Bobcats. While his success as an owner is yet to be seen, his dominance on the hardwood is undisputed.

And 25 years ago, Jordan would change a game of a different nature -- shoes.

When Jordan came into the league in the 1984 draft, the sneaker scene was dominated by adidas, Converse and Reebok. Most of the shoes were white with little or no decoration on them and Nike was merely a struggling athletics apparel company looking to reinvent its image.

Searching for a high-profile star to endorse his product, Phil Knight brought the North Carolina standout and soon-to-be rookie of the year to Nike headquarters, where Jordan and Knight came to terms on a $2.5 million (plus royalties) 5-year deal and dropped a shoe that would change the sneaker industry forever.

Air Jordan I

Released in 1985, the Air Jordan I was a huge shift from the sneaker norm. The contrasting red and black color scheme flipped the shoe world on its head, and was immediately noted for its uniqueness. The design had such a vivid color combination that when Jordan first saw the design, he was reported to say, "I can't wear that shoe, those are Devil colors."

The NBA agreed, and banned the shoe from games. Regardless, Nike paid up to $5,000 a game in fines for the publicity of Jordan wearing the shoe despite the league ban.

With his controversial new shoe, Jordan blew up his rookie year. He won the 1984-85 rookie of the year, finished third in the league in points-per-game, and broke five Bulls single-season records.

He wore the AJ I through his sophomore season, including a white/red colorway that he wore in the 1986 playoffs. He was wearing the shoe in Game 2 against the Celtics, when he dropped 63 points and Larry Bird famously said "I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."

Indeed, Jordan's style of play often seemed divine, and the first Air Jordan logo derived from his awe-inspiring leaping ability. Commercials even featured the shoe with jet engine noises, as if the shoe could literally lift you to the clouds.

The original logo featured a basketball lifted by clouds, with "Air Jordan" floating above the clouds. This logo was featured on the shoe's collar, and was designed to be secondary to the Swoosh that covered the side of the shoe. Soon, Nike would realize the value of the Jordan brand and would remove the Swoosh altogether.

But that, my friends, is a story for another day.

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Filed under: Sports