Michael Jordan Through The Years: Air Jordan XVI
The post-Michael Jordan era brought the NBA back to its earlier roots. The game wasn’t dominated by slashing guards, but instead by big-men of two kinds – the hulking behemoth and the flawless fundamentalist. In 1999, the San Antonio Spurs, led by second-year Center Tim Duncan, won the NBA Title during a lockout-shortened season, and the following year, the Lakers won its first title in eleven seasons with Shaquille O’neal and young and talented guard Kobe Bryant – a player many deemed to be the ‘next Michael Jordan’. By Summer of 2001, the Lakers had repeated as NBA Champs, but the news-wire was buzzing not because of a budding dynasty in Los Angeles. The ‘third coming’ of Michael Jordan, who hinted at a possible come-back during the earlier parts of the year, had Jordan fans and the NBA at the edge of their seats, and on September 25th, 2001, Michael’s love for the game brought him out of retirement for the second time. Sparked by close friend Mario Lemieux’s return to hockey in the winter of 2000, Jordan decided to lace up his shoes for the team he served as President of Basketball Operations and debuted against the New York Knicks on October 30th, 2001.
For a short period of the 2001-02 pre-season and regular season, Michael Jordan wore the Air Jordan XVI; the shoe marked a brand new era for Jordan Brand, as it was the first shoe since the Air Jordan II that was not designed by Tinker Hatfield. Instead, it was Nike’s Senior Footwear Designer Wilson Smith who was at the helm or this daunting task. One of the more interesting notes about the Air Jordan XVI was Smith’s decision to pay tribute to past Air Jordan designs – particularly the Air Jordan III, V, and XI. The bottom sole was designed after the golf course, which referenced Michael’s love for the sport and his celebrity golf tournament charity held in the Bahamas. The XVI was also the first Air Jordan shoe to feature a removable upper gaiter, which gave the shoe a dual personality – a lifestyle/casual shoe with the shroud, an athletic performance shoe without.
The Air Jordan XVI was released in a classic Chicago Bulls colorway of Black/Varsity Red as well as a White/Midnight Navy colorway to closely match the Wizards uniforms. A luxurious ‘Cherrywood’ colorway was also introduced in mid-2001, followed by a Light Ginger colorway in November – the only Air Jordan XVI colorway worn by Michael during a game. Two low-top versions of the Air Jordan XVI in White/Varsity Red and Black/Metallic Silver also made its way to shelves, but did not feature the signature removable gaiter that made the shoe supremely distinct from the rest of the Air Jordan line. While Michael did not wear the XVI for long, the shoe was represented well by Jordan Brand athletes Ray Allen, Michael Finley, and Eddie Jones, and was also worn by Jason Kidd and Chris Webber. Continue reading for a full summary of the Air Jordan XVI, and stay tuned to Sneaker News for the next installment of Michael Jordan Through The Years.