Jordan

Shoutout to Jumpman: Our personal Air Jordan histories

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November 17, 1984 marks the 36th anniversary of the on-court debut of a basketball shoe that changed the game: the Nike Air Jordan 1.

Since then, Jordan Brand has become a sneaker juggernaut, the pinnacle of the game, much the same way as its namesake athlete conquered professional basketball.

To commemorate those three-plus decades of excellence in kicks, we asked Finish Line staff, industry experts and influencers about their personal Jordan stories.

Kim Nguyen

Senior Brand Development Strategist, JD | Finish Line

I grew up with blue and gold flowing through my veins. As a Pacers fan, it was a tough day when I realized I couldn’t help but be in awe of a central division rival. I kept telling myself it was wrong to be a fan of MJ and it was wrong to want his sneakers. As a 6-year-old, I felt like I was betraying #PacersNation, but couldn’t deny his greatness…plus I had the Fresh Prince on my side rockin’ his Jordans even though he was from Philly. Coming from a strict upbringing, I never begged my parents for shoes because I knew the answer. It wasn’t until high school that I was able to start getting shoes I liked like neon Nike Dunks and a crispy white pair of the Nike Huarache 2k4.

I don’t like to play favorites, but because the AJ1 is a given when it comes to iconic Jordan models, I’m going to say my personal favorites are the Air Jordan 4 ‘Bred’ that I got in 2012 for my 22nd birthday. I’ve always loved this shoe but I was a retro runner aficionado at this time, not a huge Jordan gal. This re-opened my eyes to a different side of the sneaker world and helped me learn a lot about the history I had taken for granted. I have a few favorites in my collection, but my recent dubs on the Union AJ4 and Off-White AJ5 are some great trophies.

Renick Bowman

Digital, Creative Content & Design, Indiana Pacers

The Fresh Press: What’s your favorite Air Jordan model, and why do they speak to you?

Renick Bowman: Without question, the Air Jordan XI is my favorite Jordan model of all-time. This brings me back to 1995/96 with so many great memories from the Bulls’ epic 72-10 season. Fun fact, the Pacers were the only team to beat them twice that year…so as a die-hard Pacers fan growing up in Indiana with WGN in the channel lineup, I was fully invested in each and every game.

I vividly remember the first time I saw the XI’s in person…I was in the second grade, waiting for my mom to pick me up from school. An older classmate had them on and it was the first time I had ever fallen in love with a shoe. The sleek silhouette was unreal in an era of bulky, leather-heavy designs.

Fast-forward a year, I naturally became obsessed with Space Jam, so you can imagine the excitement I had when MJ beat the Monstars in a pair of XI’s. And how about that ‘One Sweet Day’ when Boyz II Men rocked the ‘Concords’ at the Grammys!? Not as cool as a sophomore Allen Iverson leading Georgetown to the Elite 8 in them though.

FP: What was the first pair of Jordans you begged your parents for, and did you get them?

RB: I was fortunate enough to grow up with parents who were avid sports fans with an appreciation for fashion and pop culture…so naturally they’d always try and keep me laced in the latest pair of Nikes (or Jordans). But unbeknownst to my mom, when I found an old picture of my toddler-self in a pair of Jordans, she said “I never knew what they were, I just liked how they looked.” Little did she know, they were creating a monster haha.
The first pair I remember begging them for though, was the ‘Concord’ XI’s for my 16th birthday. My parents would traditionally get me one pair of basketball shoes each year, but that ask ended up being a tough one. It was 2003 and they had retro’d 3 years prior…thank goodness for my dad’s eBay account and my close attention to details for spotting fakes!

FP: What is it that makes the Jordan line special to you?

RB: The Jordan line will forever be the gold standard of signature basketball shoes. Nothing will ever compare. At the time, you had the greatest player ever introducing a new model each season, with mastermind designers conceptualizing each look. They were combining sport with fashion…shoes that could be worn on AND off the court, always looking different than their predecessor, and always accompanied with an inspirational story behind each intricate detail. Not to mention, his winning ways helped drive the market.

FP: What’s your favorite pair in your collection right now?

RB: My favorite pair in my collection right now are my 2000 Air Jordan Retro XI ‘Concords’ I received for my 16th birthday…hands down.

Mark Surridge

UK-based sneaker photographer

The Fresh Press: What’s your favorite Air Jordan model, and why do they speak to you?

Mark Surridge: My favorite Air Jordan model is the 1. Such an iconic silhouette, and one which really set the standard for the whole sneaker culture. AJ1s speak to me firstly because of what Mike did in them: A rookie coming into the league and setting it alight, dropping 63 on the Celtics in the playoffs and being described as God by Larry Bird! Things like that are what bring a sneaker to life. Secondly, 1s are so versatile. I can wear them with casually with jeans, pants or shorts, or I can dress them up with a shirt. It’s actually hard not to look good in a pair of 1s!

FP: What was the first pair of Jordans you begged your parents for, and did you get them?

MS: I grew up wearing Gola and Dunlop shoes, and there was no begging my parents for Js because at the time they could never afford anything like that. I was actually given my first pair of Js by a friend when I was 16. I was playing ball in some cheap busted Nikes. One day he asked me to come over because he had something for me and he gave me his Indiglo 14s. They were perfect. I wore them into the ground playing on outdoor courts. Then at 18, I used my birthday money to buy the Jordan 18s in black. They even came with a suede brush. Once again, I beat those into the ground, but this time on indoor courts.

FP: What is it that makes the Jordan line special to you?

MS: For me, the Jordan line has everything. From the nostalgic feeling I get when wearing the early Jordan models, to getting the latest signature model and enjoying playing ball in the newest tech, Jordan has a way of making the line seem special to so many generations of sneakerheads, and collaborations and variations of models always give us something new to be excited about. Whenever I wear earlier models it brings back great memories of watching videos of MJ in his prime, and I find myself going into YouTube wormholes whenever there’s an OG that retros so I can experience those highlights again. I’ve been obsessed with Jordans for 20 years and I still look forward to seeing the next signature model each year!

FP: What’s your favorite pair in your collection right now?

MS: My favorite pair in my collection is the 1985 “Chicago” 1s. The greatest shoe of all time, in the most iconic colorway, made in the year I was born. For me, these epitomize everything that I love about sneakers, and I feel very lucky to have a wearable pair of OG 1s (Even if they do live mostly in a display case). After that it would be the Jordan 3 White Cement ’88. This was the pair I obsessed over in SLAM magazines. The elegant and luxurious look of these with that Nike Air branding make them really special and it’s a pair I could never tire of wearing.

Anna Bediones

Toronto-based Creative Consultant

The Fresh Press: What’s your favorite Air Jordan model, and why do they speak to you?

Anna Bediones: For a long time, my simple answer to this question was the AJ1 “Chicago.” I definitely think the Chicago’s are a very important pair in my collection, but I’ve had a lot of time to really think about this, and finally decided on the AJIV “White Cement” as my favorite. This answer has changed so many times for me but I think there’s a difference between what means the most to you, what you wear the most, and what you love the most. Does that make sense? It does to me, haha. I love the silhouette — it is the easiest to wear for me, as I find it goes really well with how I like to dress, and it also came out the year I was born (’89). It’s also tied to one of my favorite movies (Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing) that influenced a lot of my style and thinking. Between the design, its timing, its significance to the Jordan line, and its cultural impact, the AJ IV is definitely my favorite model.

FP: What was the first pair of Jordans you begged your parents for, and did you get them?

AB: I truly can’t remember what was the first, but I do remember begging my dad to buy me the AJ XII “Playoffs” retro in 2004 and he refused. We were shopping for my basketball shoes for the start of a new season, and he hated that silhouette (pretty sure he still does). I also think he wanted something with newer tech versus a retro, which makes a ton of sense! We ended up with nothing because we couldn’t agree on a pair. I eventually bought those and the Taxis when they retro’d and I had my own money to spend.

FP: What is it that makes the Jordan line special to you?

AB: I think similar to anyone who grew up in the 80s/90s, there was a huge Michael Jordan influence. I grew up in a basketball household, so we saw a lot of MJ. I was also young enough that seeing him in Space Jam alongside my favorite cartoon characters was a huge deal. Additionally, for a long time, Jordans were the easiest sneakers to buy for women, because they almost always extended into small sizes (youth), so that was simply what I wore the most in my more formative years. The Jordan line will always be special to me because it transcended sport and crossed over into popular culture, and my love for sneakers opened up so many opportunities for my career.

FP: What’s your favorite pair in your collection right now?

AB: I never know the answer to this but I’ll leave it at the AJ1 Chicago and the AJIV White Cement.

Justin Long

Email Marketing Specialist, JD | Finish Line

The Fresh Press: What’s your favorite Air Jordan model, and why do they speak to you?

Justin Long: My favorite retro model would have to be the Retro 7. I think the model itself is a little under appreciated, the sharp design was Tinker at his finest and the original ‘Olympic’ and ‘Hare’ colorways are two of my all time favorites. Would love to see a ‘Pacific Blue’ retro once the 30th anniversary of the model comes around.

FP: What was the first pair of Jordans you begged your parents for, and did you get them?

JL: My senior year of high school I begged my parents for the university blue camo Jordan XX8s for basketball season. After an obscene amount of time spent bothering them about the shoes they finally caved. I loved the XX8s because they stood out from the other basketball shoes at the time and there was a lot of excitement surrounding the release. Still have my pair to this day!

FP: What is it that makes the Jordan line special to you?

JL: The Jordan line is special because it represents greatness. I’ve loved Jordans for a long time, but watching The Last Dance made me appreciate the OGs in a new way. My only memories of MJ’s playing days come from his time with the Wizards, so seeing the original run in action was a blast. How did he actually play in Retro 4s?

FP: What’s your favorite pair in your collection right now?

JL: This really is the million dollar question. I’d have to say my favorite would be my ‘Hare’ 7s, followed closely by either ‘Toro’ 4s or ‘UNC’ 3s. The Hares were the first pair that I copped as a Finish Line store employee and needless to say I knew I was working in the right industry after that.

Brandon Edler

Director of Communications, Guess

The Fresh Press: What’s your favorite Air Jordan model, and why do they speak to you?

Brandon Edler: The Jordan IV will always be my favorite model. It might not have the same legacy in terms of on-court moments and countless colorways that translate to today’s style but a pair of White Cement or Black Cement IVs with denim and a hoodie has been my uniform for a better part of the past decade. The clean shape and design with elements that made the III popular. I’d honestly pick the Flight ’89 over a handful of Jordans for the exact same reason. Two to 20 pairs of White Cement IVs in 2021 is a must.

FP: What was the first pair of Jordans you begged your parents for, and did you get them?

BE: I never did. I grew up West of Chicago and a huge Bulls fan in the ‘90s. But when it came to sneakers I always had the “you don’t have these” mentality and was begging my mom for PE Pennys like the Air Up and Air Flight One over Jordans. My first pair of Jordans were the XI Lows in white/red that came out in 2001 right before my high school’s regional tournament. Got the kicks. Knocked out in Round 1. Not my best investment.

FP: What is it that makes the Jordan line special to you?

BE: The nostalgia of games from ’91-’98. I don’t think I missed more than 50 games during that span. There was nothing like it and I’m still deep in my convictions that Jordan was a completely different beast. The shoes were such an intricate piece to the persona. I think back to big games and the first thing I associate with them is the shoes. IVs when he hit the jumper on Ehlo. The XIs he broke out early versus Orlando when he came back in ’95. The Bred XIs with black socks and black uniforms.

FP: What’s your favorite pair in your collection right now?

BE: My IVs I mentioned earlier and can never miss with some Is. I get they aren’t Dior or Off-White, but the classics are the classics for a reason. I also dislike people who put pineapple on their pizza. Who hurt you???

Adrian Crawford

Brand Content Specialist, JD | Finish Line

The Fresh Press: What’s your favorite Air Jordan model, and why do they speak to you?

Adrian Crawford: For me it’s the Air Jordan 1. They dropped the year I was born, and to my mind they’re one of the ubiquitous models when you think of “sneakers.” And it’s not a popular opinion among sneakerheads, but I personally feel that the mids and lows both have their place in the rotation. I like the lows for summertime wear, while Jordan Brand is releasing mids in some super fun colorways.

FP: What was the first pair of Jordans you begged your parents for, and did you get them?

AC: I’m admittedly very late to the Jordan Brand party from an ownership perspective; I begged my parents for another ’90s NBA star’s signature model and came up short. I’ve got wide flat feet and for years I was uncomfortable in Nike silhouettes so I figured Jordans just weren’t for me. The first pair of retros I ever copped was the spring 2019 AJ1 ‘Turbo Green” and, when I realized they fit and were comfortable, the floodgates opened.

FP: What is it that makes the Jordan line special to you?

AC: In the past year or so my tastes have changed a lot sneaker-wise and I’m significantly more interested in the origins and narratives of retro models, and obviously Jordan Brand has a 30-year archive bursting with fascinating historical information. The design and inspiration is one aspect of this, and then there’s the obvious linking of key Jordan models to career highlights from the man himself. From a narrative perspective, they’re the perfect product.

FP: What’s your favorite pair in your collection right now?

AC: I’ve had an incredibly lucky year on SNKRS, against literally all odds. I hit on both pairs of the Off-White Jordan 5s, but I think the truly special pair in my collection are the Air Jordan 1 Retro High 85 ‘Varsity Red.’ I’ve got pair #10,038 and I’ll definitely treasure them. But it’s still rock not stock!