Michael Jordan Through The Years: Air Jordan XV
The 1998-99 season was a bonafide new ‘era’ in the NBA. A player lockout shortened the season by 32 games, and the Chicago Bulls were without Scottie Pippen, without Phil Jackson, without Dennis Rodman, and of course, without Michael Jordan. Michael officially announced his (second) retirement from the Chicago Bulls on January 13th, 1999. His final list of accomplishments was one not that could not be matched by 10 other All-Stars of that time; six NBA championships, 10 scoring titles, five MVPs, two Olympic Gold Medals, twenty-five game-winning shots – most notably the ‘Last Shot’ during Game 6 of the ’98 Finals or his floating jumper over the Cavaliers in ’90. Michael Jordan was one part comic-book super-hero; his incredible aerial maneuvers, electric aura, and spine-tingling presence made Jordan a caped crusader than a uniformed and coached athlete, but his emotions stemming from his father’s tragic death, his alleged gambling troubles, and the occasional loss reminded us the ‘Air Jordan’ was in fact human.
With Jordan’s retirement, the NBA horizon was entirely anew; the championship was any team’s to be had, and a gaping vacancy of the NBA throne was quite clear. But Michael poignantly and bluntly stated in his Hall of Fame Induction Speech, “Don’t look for the next Michael Jordan. There won’t be another Michael Jordan.” That statement is true any way you view it through the looking glass; there won’t be a dominant like figure like Michael ever again, but the game has changed and greatness can thrive elsewhere – in team play, in leadership, in defense, and so on. Michael and Jordan Brand teamed up to find greatness in other sports as well as basketball, pointing at Ray Allen, the talented shooting guard of the Milwaukee Bucks, Randy Moss, the lightning-fast wide receiver of the Minnesota Vikings, and Derek Jeter, the playoff performer and young leader of the New York Yankees. In those three individuals, Michael saw a reflection of his own greatness, and the four athletes along with Mary J. Blige’s ‘Overjoyed’ single were the central figures of Jordan Brand’s marketing campaign for the Air Jordan XV.
The Air Jordan XV was the first Air Jordan shoe to debut during Michael’s retirement. It was designed by Tinker Hatfield and inspired by the X-15 Aircraft, a NASA-developed futuristic rocket plane. The protruding tongue was a tribute to Michael’s signature habit of sticking out his tongue during games, and the woven kevlar upper and unique rubberized heel added futuristic notions to the shoe. The Air Jordan XV was also a significant milestone in the Air Jordan Legacy at the time, as Tinker Hatfield, the mastermind behind the Air Jordan series from the III, would call the XV his final Air Jordan shoe. The XV released in four different colorways alongside three low-top versions and an all-new ‘moc’ slip-on version – something useful for Michael now that he would spend his time lounging around rather than running up and down the court. The Air Jordan XV joins the Air Jordan IX as the only two Air Jordan shoes never to be worn by Michael (up to that point), but Air Jordans remained high in popularity despite Michael hanging it up for good. Continue reading for a recap of the Air Jordan XV and Michael’s retirement from the Bulls, and stay tuned to Sneaker News for the next segment of Michael Jordan Through The Years.