Michael Jordan Through The Years: Air Jordan XI – Part 1
After easily handling the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 1995 NBA Playoffs, the Chicago Bulls faced off against the Orlando Magic – a team that was younger, faster, and more energetic than the Chicago Bulls. Led by Shaquille O’neal and Penny Hardaway, the #1 seed Magic were ready to face off against Michael Jordan and the rejuvenated Chicago team, and considered the match-up against Michael as a true test of greatness. Game 1 was looking good for the Bulls; with twenty seconds left in regulation and up by one, Chicago had possession of the ball and the game looked to be under their control. It was during those final twenty seconds that may have shed light on Jordan’s possible fall from greatness – that he left the game too early for his own good and let get away a supreme reign that would rival that of the greatest dynasties in history. Michael had the ball cleanly stolen from him, allowing the go-ahead bucket to score. Now with six-seconds left and an opportunity for the game-winner, Michael made an errant pass to Scottie Pippen and turned the ball over, sealing Game 1 for the Magic. Orlando went on to win the series in six games despite Michael averaging over thirty points per contest and un-retiring his #23 jersey, and Nick Anderson, who was responsible for the late-game steal in Game 1, stated that Michael “didn’t look like the old Michael Jordan”.
There was no doubt that an 18-month hiatus from the game had taken its toll, but the loss to Orlando only made Michael hungrier, angrier, and ready for a challenge. Michael and Bulls came back with a fiery vengeance and arrived at the 1996 NBA All-Star Break with an astounding 42-5 record. So how does the Air Jordan XI tie into this? Tinker Hatfield, who was again the designer for the shoe, presented Michael with a wear-test pair in the White/Black ‘Concord’ colorway during that 1995 series against Orlando. Ignoring Hatfield’s pleas to not wear the shoes, Michael simply could not resist and wore the Concords for a few games, until he was given a stern warning from the NBA for not abiding by team uniform policies. For one game, Michael had no choice but to borrow a pair of the Nike Air Flight One from rival Penny Hardaway, but wore them with the Penny one-cent heel-tab cut off from the shoe. The following game, Michael introduced the Air Jordan XI in Black/White, which is now referred to as the ‘Space Jam’ colorway – but of course, at the time of its debut, the movie wasn’t even made yet. That series would be the last time Michael would wear the Space Jam colorway, because once the 1995-96 season arrived, Michael wore the Concord colorway for the regular season until the All-Star Game, where he would debut an all-new never-before-seen version.
The design of the Air Jordan XI is clearly one of luxury, but did you know that the eleventh Air Jordan was inspired by a lawn-mower? Tinker Hatfield has found inspiration from the unlikely places, but his keen eye has certainly rewarded once the Air Jordan XI was finally released in November of 1995 to a rabid crowd of fans and Jordan-enthusiasts. The ‘Concord’ was released again in October of 2000, followed the first release of the ‘Space Jam’ version later in December. A slightly altered version of the Concord was again released in 2006 as part of the first-ever Air Jordan Defining Moments Package, which celebrated the Air Jordan VI and XI – the two shoes that jump-started both of Michael’s three-peats. Another Retro release of the Concord has also been set for 2011. The more recent release of either the Concord or Space Jam came in 2009; the Air Jordan XI Space Jam was released in late December and featured a unique slide-out packaging, solid plastic shoe trees, and a $175 price-tag. They were instantly sold out, inciting riots and overall mayhem, and was selected by Sneaker News as the best sneaker of 2009 – and deservingly so. Continue reading for a full visual recap of Michael Jordan in the Air Jordan XI Concord and Space Jam, and stay tuned to the next volume of the Air Jordan XI installment of Michael Jordan Through The Years.