At first glance, and without the proper historical context, you could easily label the upcoming “Chicago” Air Jordan 1.5 a “hybrid” and write the sneaker off as part of the litany of modern day Jordan fusion releases which, for the most part, are looked upon as amalgamations that lack the purity of an “OG”. Ironically, if you do this, you would be writing off one of the purest OG Air Jordan sneakers ever created and you would be ignoring an integral part of Air Jordan history. Yes, the Air Jordan 1.5 is a combination of the Air Jordan 1 upper and the Air Jordan II sole but it is far from a “hybrid sneaker” in the modern sense of the term. The Air Jordan 1.5 is actually a very rare peek into the design history of the Air Jordan line and to understand why this sneaker even exists, we have to go back over 30 years.
Known more for their running, and even Tennis, sneakers at the time, Nike boldly stepped into the professional Basketball spotlight in 1982 with the release of the Bruce Kilgore designed Nike Air Force 1. While several professional Basketball athletes, and several college programs, wore Nike basketball sneakers prior to the release of the Air Force 1, the Air Force 1 served as Nike’s official public entrance into the professional Basketball world as the brand supported the sneaker with a campaign that featured a group of professional players that included Moses Malone, Jamaal Wilkes, Calvin Natt, Mychal Thompson, Bobby Jones, and Michael Cooper. After breaking into the professional Basketball world in 1982/1983 with the Air Force 1, Nike looked to make an even bigger statement in 1984 by signing their first signature Basketball athlete, Michael Jordan.
While Nike thoroughly dominates the Basketball market now with signature lines for several of the game’s biggest stars, in 1984, creating a signature basketball sneaker, and everything that comes with doing so, was completely uncharted territory for the young brand. In true Nike style, the brand took on a huge challenge by attempting to sign Michael Jordan. With an NCAA championship, an Olympic gold medal, and several college player of the year awards, Jordan was a bonafide star in the making and he drew interest from brands with much more Basketball sneaker experience including adidas, the brand that Jordan originally wanted to sign with, and Converse, which boasted a roster that included Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. In addition, Jordan had never worn a pair of Nike sneakers before 1984 and he was very particular with what he wore on court. It was clear, Nike had their work cut out for them.
Despite all of this, Nike inked Jordan to an incentive laden contract worth millions, which was absolutely unheard of at the time, and in doing so, changed the landscape off athletic footwear, forever.