Soar through Michael Jordan's amazing career at History of Flight.
Coming off a foot fracture that sidelined him for most of the season, MJ scored a playoff record 63 points against Boston prompting his opponent to comment that his effort was nothing less than divine.
Nike exceeded the efforts of other companies with a high-energy video presentation. But when MJ saw the sketches of the black and red Air Jordan I he commented, "I can't wear that shoe, those are Devil colors."
"I did not want to go to the Nike meeting. I didn't know Nike. I didn't think I liked Nike." Though MJ was leaning towards another brand, his parents insisted he meet with Nike and its founder Phil Knight.
Despite grumblings from the old guard, the trend-setting gold chains and tracksuit MJ rocked during his first slam-dunk contest were more than just swagger, "I thought I was doing Nike a favor. They had invested so much in me."
The black and red Air Jordan I flipped the script on traditionally white basketball shoes and the league responded by banning them. However, Nike gladly paid the fine for the exposure generated by MJ during his spectacular rookie year.
After smashing on Utah's 6' guard a courtside fan challenged MJ to pick on someone his own size. So on the next possession Jordan did just that, crowning a 7'1" center then responding to the heckler, "Is that big enough?"
Found in bedrooms all over the world, Wings was one of the most popular posters of all times and included these fitting words by William Blake, "No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings."
The limited-edition Eminem Jordan Retro 2 included the rapper's lyrics on the shoe and only 313 pairs were released to represent his Detroit area code.
Inspired by a 19th century woman's boot, the II was the only Air Jordan to be made in Italy.
MJ credited his game-winning shot in North Carolina's 1982 college title victory over Georgetown with setting him on the road to greatness. As a testament to his love for the Tarheels , Michael would wear his UNC shorts under his uniform in every game he played in the pros.
With its faux lizard skin upper and sleek lines, the Air Jordan II introduced luxury to the court.
MJ faced his slamming Atlanta rival in one most electrifying dunk contests ever. It came down to the final round where His Airness earned his nickname with a foul-line slam that slapped gravity in the chops and earned him the hardware.
A previous designer had created a logo sketch based on an image of MJ doing his spread-eagle dunk. Realizing the need to make the Air Jordan more about MJ, designer Tinker Hatfield added it to the AJIII, "Without discussing it with Michael, I incorporated the Jumpman into the shoe design."
The Air Jordan III featured a number of innovations, but none more iconic than the elephant-skin textured 'floater' leather developed to accommodate MJ's wish for an animal print on his kicks. Tinker Hatfield recalled the pressure at the time, "We developed the whole line in a matter of weeks. No one slept for days."
MJ defied critics who labeled him a purely offensive baller by winning Defensive Player of the Year and being the first ever to do so and lead the league in scoring. He also was the first player to be named to the Defensive First Team nine times.
Copywriter Jim Riswold convinced Nike to use comedy for the first time in a campaign featuring unknown filmmaker Spike Lee and his Mars Blackmon character. As Spike observed, "Never before in the history of American business has a company put a black individual as the face of a company, and what Phillip [Knight] did was revolutionary."
Tinker Hatfield, a former architect, took over Air Jordan design duties in grand fashion, working closely with MJ to make the AJIII the first signature shoe to truly represent an athlete's personality. Tinker remembers MJ's initial reaction to the shoe, "At that point, he realized the shoe was him. It was a part of who he was at the moment."
It was the first round of the playoffs, Game 5, Cleveland up by one with three seconds left when MJ hit an incredulous 15-foot series winner that would set the tone for his pro career. In his own words, "That is probably the biggest shot I've hit... mainly because I put my credibility on the line."
The Air Jordan IV was featured in Spike Lee's 'Do the Right Thing' in that had character 'Buggin Out' freaking out when a bicyclist scuffed his pristine Js. Like any true kicks lover, he immediately cleans his kicks with a toothbrush.
The short socks and wristbands sported by MJ became standard-issue accessories for aspiring Jordans everywhere.
As noted by Tinker Hatfield, with improved cushioning, fit, support and traction, the AJIV took the franchise to the next level in performance, "With the Jordan IV, I wanted to get further into performance innovation, which was essentially what Michael was doing on the basketball."
The plastic-coated mesh on the AJIV was especially developed to reduce the shoe's weight and add a level of never-before-seen innovation.
The 'Flight' script logo simply stated what Air Jordans made you feel like you could do.
Air Jordans had always been popular in other countries, but the AJ IV was the first year they were marketed globally.
MJ's career high 69 points came in a masterpiece overtime win over Cleveland that also saw him haul in 18 boards. MJ put the feat in perspective during his post game interview, "It was my best game ever, by far, especially because we won."
MJ would lean over and pull down on his shorts when he needed to catch his breath and eventually asked for them to be made a few inches longer, inadvertently starting a long-short trend that exists to this day.
The World War II Mustang fighter plane inspiration for the AJV represented the narrative approach that would add depth to the Air Jordan design legacy. Tinker Hatfield describes his thinking behind the AJV, "He would be floating around the edges of the game and come out of nowhere to attack. ..As I worked through the design of the shoe, I thought I'd try to make it look a little bit like a fighter plane."
MJ's celebrity quickly reached an iconic status normally reserved for movie stars and rock gods
The fat meaty tongue on the AJV not only influenced a whole generation of footwear, but was coated in a reflective material that would light up when hit by a camera flash.
On Valentine's Day, before a game in Orlando, MJ's road jersey was stolen from the locker room and he had to play in number '12'. He scored a game high 26 points, but Chicago lost.
"No he didn't!" echoed throughout New York when, during the Round 2 playoffs, MJ drove baseline, doubled back through two defenders and then facialize NY's Hall of Fame center.
When faced with a choice between a special shoe to protect a recent injury or his normal kicks to provide better court feel during Game 3 of the championships against LA, MJ told the training staff, "Give me the pain".
The pull tab at the rear of the AJVI was designed to look like the spoiler on MJ's slant-nosed Porsche.
MJ not only hosted Saturday night's most famous live TV show, but was genuinely funny.
All doubts were erased about the ability of man to fly when MJ executed his 'spectacular' right-to-left midair hand switch against Los Angeles in Game 2 of the championships.
The reach of MJ's fame as perhaps the most recognized person on the planet was demonstrated by the frenzy caused during his gold medal run in Barcelona.
MJ's 'I can't believe it either' shrug during his record tying six three-pointer performance in Game 1 of the championships summed up how the series would go for Portland.
At the medal ceremony in Barcelona, MJ faced the prospect of receiving his gold in a competitor's team track suit. The solution was the strategic placement of an American flag. Regardless, MJ glowed about his experience in Spain, "(Barcelona) was one the best times in my life."
West African tribal art and Afropop were the key inspirations on the vibrant AJVII.
The AJVII employed Nike's Huarache running shoe technology for a shoe that fit like a glove.
Game winning buzzer-beaters, like MJ's haul from about ten miles beyond the three-point arc against Detroit, became the norm for Michael.
Tinker Hatfield made Air Jordans all about MJ as witnessed by the absence of the Nike swoosh on the AJVII, "By the time we started on the Jordan VII, Michael didn't need the swoosh."
In the 1993 conference championships lighting struck twice as MJ hit another once-in-a-lifetime series-ending buzzer beater against, you guessed it, Cleveland.
At his father's funeral MJ stepped up during one of the most emotional moments of his life and gave an unplanned, but infinitely touching eulogy, "My father always said, only be accountable for what you can control."
As Tinker Hatfield observed, MJ brought a culture of professionalism to basketball which rubbed off on everyone around him. "So you found that everybody around Michael was well dressed, and represented themselves in a way that followed Michael's example. Take that message. Integrate those values, his example into your life, and then let's see what you have."
During home games, even the critical ones, MJ would make a detour on the way to the stadium and give tickets to the same four kids from a rough South Side Chicago neighborhood.
Long before the world knew, MJ and his father had planned for his retirement. So during the 1993 championships he told his family to come to Phoenix and when he won a third ring announced he was playing baseball the following year.
MJ became the spokesperson for a $10 million/year program aimed at getting adults to spend more time with America's youth and within three months over 200,000 calls were received by the campaign's hotline.
Tinker Hatfield on the AJIX, "When I was asked which shoe should go on the statue in Chicago, I chose the Jordan IX. They showed me a clay model of the pose, and I thought the neatest outsole we had that actually told the story was the IX. When Michael retired in 1993, he wanted to wear something familiar, so we turned the Jordan IX into a baseball shoe."
MJ's retirement shocked the world, but put him at ease as he was living a dream come true in Air Jordan IX cleats,"My father's biggest passion was baseball. He was the one who got me started in baseball, and it was my first love, too."
The AJIX was inspired by Japanese simplicity and featured the first use of "speed-lacing". The sole called out MJ's special characteristics in numerous tongues as Tinker Hatfield put it, "We were trying to find words in multiple languages that define Michael, because by that point he had become a global superstar."
In his first game back in NY after his retirement MJ showed no sign of rust dropping 55 points and a crafty game-winning pass.
Unlike practically any player in the league, MJ had a "Love of the Game" clause written into his contract that let him play a pick-up game anywhere at any time.
"I'm back," declared MJ, returning to basketball in the same number 45 he wore as a baseball player with Birmingham. However, after Chicago fell to Orlando in the conference championships he switched back to his familiar 23 the following season.
Part of MJ's appeal stemmed from his willingness to not take himself too seriously. Like in the Mars 'Dream' ad with the line, "'I had this dream. I retired. I was a weak-hitting AA outfielder with a below-average arm." Michael knew the importance of humor, "Laughter has always been the way people can get to know me, and it's the way I try to get to know them. It takes the walls down a little bit so the real person can come out."
The AJX's special striped sole commemorated MJ's phenomenal accomplishments:
85 ROOKIE OF YEAR,
86 63 POINTS,
87 SCORING TITLE,
88 DUNK CHAMP,
89 ALL DEFENSE,
90 SCORES 69 POINTS,
For the 1994-95 season Jordan started sponsoring four college teams - University of California , Cincinnati, North Carolina A&T and MJ's alma mater North Carolina.
MJ was wearing the AJ XI when Chicago lost to Orlando in the 95 playoffs, so it was only fitting that the same shoe was on his feet when he claimed his forth title against Seattle on Father's Day.
MJ's first full season back from retirement was one for the ages. Chicago went a historical 72-10 in the regular season and only lost three games en route to the championship, for a best ever 87-13 record.
Shiny patent leather gave the AJXI a formal look as demonstrated when Boyz II Men rocked theirs on stage in tuxedos during a major awards show. Tinker Hatfield remembers MJ's prophetic words, "Michael had predicted that people would start wearing Is with suits and tuxedos and that's exactly what happened."
MJ wore black/white/royal blue Air Jordan XIs model in "Space Jam", which went on to make over $230 million worldwide, showing how Michael's popularity had transcended basketball.
Despite instructions to keep the AJXI to himself until they were released, MJ wore them in the playoffs. However, the premature appearance of the shoe and the exceptional design created huge lines and near riots when they were released the next season.
In Air Jordans it seemed like MJ could dunk on a 100-foot rim. Getting down? That was another story.
Tinker Hatfield found inspiration in the unlikeliest of places, like a well-designed, but rugged lawnmower with its protective wrap-around bumper.
During the 1997 championship against Utah, with the series knotted up at two-all, MJ became ill. However he gutted it out, barely able to stand at times, scoring 38 points in an inspirational performance that would become known as the 'Flu Game'.
The 1997 All-Star Game and 50 Greatest Player Tribute was special, so MJ put on a show notching the event's first-ever triple-double.
Many felt MJ deserved to be 1997 league MVP. So when Michael faced the winner of the award in Game 1 of the championships against Utah, he made his case in typical Jordan fashion - a dominant performance and game winning dagger.
Another game, another buzzer beater. MJ lifted Chicago from the ashes of defeat to sting Charlotte in a last minute thriller.
Critics argued that MJ was past his prime. He used those words as motivation to soar even higher.
The CEO Jordan campaign showed consumers MJ's business life off the court. In 1998 the "Jordan Effect", including ticket sales, merchandising, endorsements and the Jordan brand, was estimated at $10 billion dollars.
At the dawn of his second retirement, MJ thought the final regular season game in NY might be his last, so he went old school, playing in an original pair of Air Jordan Is and pouring in 42 in the process. "I was doing some cleaning at home and ran into them. I decided to wear them as a sign of appreciation for all of the respect I have received here."
In 1997 Jordan became its own brand under the Nike umbrella and marked the occasion with a special release of the Air Jordan XIII, Air Jordan Team and Air Jordan Trainers.
MJ thought he was finished for the night in Atlanta when Chicago squandered a 23 point lead. So in Jordan-esque fashion, he took off the warm-ups, scored 12 of his team's last 15 points and drilled home the last second game clincher.
Tinker Hatfield designed the AJXIII around a black panther theme, unaware that it was MJ's secret nickname. Michael was thrilled by the serendipity, "About two years before the XIII came out, my friends started calling me "Black Cat."...It was one of those things Tinker picked up from my world. I loved it."
MJ's game winning shot against Utah in Game 6 of the 1998 championships for Chicago's sixth ring was simply one of the greatest moments in sport history.
MJ was older, but also wiser. Coming off his retirement he had worked relentlessly on an unguardable new shot. The fade-away jumper would help him find success in the second phase of his career.
The AJXIV was built to emulate the look and performance of MJ's Maranello 550. Tinker Hatfield on the XIV, "The back stories just kept getting more rich and interesting. The XIV was revisiting Michael's passion for cars, in this case an Italian race car he had at the time."
Designed with a differential cut, thin leather and low-profile Zoom Air, the AJXIV acted like an extension of the player's foot.
MJ hand picked baseball great Derek Jeter to join Team Jordan saying, "He's (Jeter) focused; he works hard. He's in a major market with a lot of pressure, but he handles the pressure. I'm proud of him; I'm glad we're working together."
The Jordan Fundamentals Grant Program was established in 1999 to recognize outstanding teaching and instructional creativity in public secondary schools that serve economically disadvantaged students.
While ratings dropped for basketball after MJ's retirement, demand continued for Air Jordans like the XV, even though MJ never played in them.
The daring AJXV with its woven Kevlar upper and aggressive futuristic look, took its design cues from the X-15 rocket plane.
MJ's clean dome not only defined his signature look but played a major role making head shaving an acceptable style choice worldwide.
Early in his career MJ would stick his tongue out during games as a result of watching his father making the same gesture while working on the family car. The AJ XV played homage to this fact with a tongue that 'stuck out', just like Michael's did.
MJ's legendary love of golf drove him to start a celebrity tournament in the Bahamas that has raised nearly $5 million for charity to date.
The AJ XVI featured a removable magnetic "Jordan Shroud" inspired by marching footwear that flipped it from a game to a street shoe.
The AJXVI was the first Air Jordan that reflected on the brand's rich history integrating past features like the AJIII's midcut upper, the AJV's mesh and the AJXI's patent leather.
The "Much Respect" commercial, set to a moving hip hop soundtrack, showed what would happen if MJ dropped by the local court to shoot a few hoops.
Michael returned once again, but with a new team stating, "I am returning as a player to the game I love." He led Washington in scoring, registered his 30,000th career point and unloaded 51 points in a single game'and he could still dunk.
Tinker on the AJXVII, "The XVII was inspired by jazz. The shoe had jazz notes molded into them. The story was about improvisation, which is what jazz is all about."
In a nod to MJ's retirement and new role as a business man the AJXVII's sole design was based on a golf course and the shoes came in a metal briefcase with an interactive CD-ROM.
When young jazz saxophonist Mike Phillips was signed to Jordan as its first musician, MJ noticed he wasn't wearing Jordans and got him to throw his old shoes away.
Founded in 2002, the Jordan Brand Classic is a showcase of the top high school basketball players in the US and abroad Held annually in New York and featuring top celebrity entertainment, past participants have included All-Stars like Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.
The XVIII holds the distinction of being the final Air Jordan worn in-game by MJ during his landmark career.
Though MJ would retire for good, he knew his brand was prepared for the future, "If we maintain the same innovative technology and creativity, the brand is going to be around for another 20 years. I do believe that."
In his "Yes Mars" ad, Spike Lee confirmed that MJ was finally hanging up his Jordans.
The sleek, obscenely fast Lamborghini Murcielago serves as the inspiration for the one-piece AJ XVIII.
Carmelo Anthony, outstanding player from the 2003 college championship tournament and third overall pick in the 2003 draft by Denver, is named to Team Jordan.
"What do you love?" Fans got an opportunity to celebrate MJ's legacy in a cross-country tour featuring a traveling Jordan exhibit, concerts and community events with Jordan Athletes.
In 2004 MJ, an avid motorcyclist, formed Michael Jordan Motorsports in 2004 as a result of his passion for motorcycle racing.
The AJXIX was the lightest, most breathable Jordan to date thanks to an innovative Tech Flex upper.
When the marketing department positioned the AJXIX around snakes, MJ bit back. "I will never do anything that isn't authentic or representative of me. So there was no way I was going to agree to any ads that had any relationship to snakes, which is what they wanted me to do for the Jordan XIX. I'm scared of snakes. I can't even watch them on television. If anybody drops a snake near me, somebody's going to get hurt."
MJ's first Asian Tour in 2004 took him to Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo. Of the historic visit he said, "During my tour of Asia, I want to pass along this knowledge and encourage youth around the world that positive energy and high aspirations will lead to excellence, which has helped me and the Jordan brand reach our levels of success."
Landmark designer Tinker Hatfield returned to help bring the twentieth anniversary AJXX to life. MJ commented on the shoe, "Tinker was coming back on board to create the Jordan XX, which would be designed on the idea of looking back over the last 20 years."
MJ's passion for motorcycles and his new racing team were integrated into the supercharged design of the AJXX.
Mark Smith employed laser etching on the AJXX for the first time on a Jordan to tell MJ's story through a series of over 200 symbols.
The revolutionary Independent Podular Suspension cushioning system for the AJXX also graphically represented the last 20 Air Jordans.
In January of 2006 Jordan released its first two-pair set named the Defining Moments Package, which consisted of the AJVI and AJXI Retro models.
Showing that his passion for the game was still strong, in 2006 MJ became a part-owner of Charlotte's basketball team and was named "Managing Member of Basketball Operations."
To raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and commemorate the launch of the AJXX1, Jordan auctioned Air Jordan shoes I through XX1 ' all personally autographed by Michael Jordan.
The Independent Podular Suspension found on the AJXX1 included cushioning technology that could be switched-out with either encapsulated or Zoom Air pillars.
The AJXX1's full grain leather upper, diamond-quilted internal bootie, grille-like lower foot vents and molded heel counter showcased the influence of the Bentley Continental GT coupe on the design.
The AJXX1 contained a special cipher message that could only be viewed under black light.
The Air Jordan Spizike paid respect to the six Air Jordans - III, IV, V, VI, IX and XX - Spike Lee created commercials for. Originally only released along the I-95 as per Spike's request, the Spiz'ikes were immensely popular.
In 2006 Jordan signed 2005-06 Rookie of the Year Chris Paul to Team Jordan.
The 2006 Jordan Europe Tour took MJ to Paris, London, Hamburg, Berlin, Barcelona and Milan during a nine-day trip that included special brand events and Jordan Classic basketball games in each city.
The F-22 Raptor's influence on the AJXX2 could be seen in the radar-inspired stitching, reflective 'Jordan' camouflage pattern and cockpit glass heel logo.
Lightweight and super-strong titanium was utilized in both the mid foot support system and lace eyelets on the AJXX2.
IPS cushioning technology evolved to a color-coded, visible interchangeable pillar with either responsive double-stacked Zoom Air or shock-absorbing Encapsulated Air.
In 2007 the first Jordan-only stores in the world were opened in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou & Shenyang. To mark the occasion, Jordan released its first products made specifically for non-U.S. consumers with the XQ Collection, meaning "celebration" in Mandarin Chinese.
Michael explains the genesis of his famous jersey number, "In high school, I idolized my older brother Larry and wanted to wear his number. Problem was, so did he. Determined, I did the next best thing by halving it and rounding up. It wasn't 45, but it was mine. The number 23."
While approximately 500 people work on a pair of Air Jordans during their construction for the AJXX3 that number was over 600, demonstrating an unheard-of level of craftsmanship.
The AJXX3 became the world's first sustainable basketball shoe by minimizing the use of harmful chemicals, reducing waste and incorporating environmentally friendly materials.
Special MJ touches on the AJXX3 included an outsole and pull tab based on his thumbprint, an upper with an intricate stitched 'MJ' argyle pattern and his signature on the toe cap.
The twenty-third Air Jordan anniversary represented a major milestone for Jordan as witnessed by this challenge from Michael, "I made 23 mine. It's your turn. Own it."
Current and future Jordan Athletes Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade joined MJ as gold medalists after taking home the top hardware from the 2008 summer games in Beijing.
The AJ2009 featured Articulated Propulsion Technology, which helped to return a player's energy and increased ground contact for lightning-quick lateral movement.
MJ's mastery of the Art of Defense and his ability to control opponents through spacing, contact and willpower was a big part of the story surrounding the ultra-responsive AJ2009.
The pleated-silk upper, metallic mesh breathability ports and a sword-slash traction pattern on the AJ 2009 were inspired by the skill, strategy and athleticism seen in world class fencing.
The move from numbered Air Jordan shoes to those indicated by years marked a new focus on pure performance technology.
Dwyane Wade - 2006 Finals champion and MVP, 2008 Beijing gold medalist and 2009 scoring champion - goes back to his Chicago roots and signs on to Jordan.