Sneaker News Top 30 of 2012
12 | AIR JORDAN IX KILROY PACK
From Air Jordan 1 to Air Jordan Infinity, a rich story is ready to be told. The plotlines are rooted deeply in calculated design and rich history, but the significance of 1994’s Air Jordan IX doesn’t come from the thrill of a Championship or a game-winning shot, but from the shock of Jordan’s sudden retirement from the NBA in October of 1993. The anomalous ninth Air Jordan hit stores when his loyal fans were unable to see him in action, but Nike, with the help of the creative masterminds at Wieden+Kennedy, made it absolutely clear that while Jordan was away from an NBA court, he wasn’t far from the sport of basketball. In early 1994, Nike launched what is considered to be the one of the most audacious and entertaining Jordan ad-campaigns ever created – and it was only aired once.
Steve Martin was featured as the primary narrator of a two-part investigative documentary that explored the identity of a magnificent, yet unknown, basketball player that was dominating the game at the semi-pro ranks. Rumors of this mystery man being the retired MJ in disguise began to swirl around and an audio recording that contained evidence of Michael admitting to faking his own retirement only heated up the controversy. In a pivotal moment in this titillating story, an unknown player named Johnny Kilroy suited up for the Bulls against the Hornets in a late December game, scoring 79 points in just one quarter. This “Popcorn Tape” proved to be damning evidence for Johnny Kilroy, as his true identity as Michael Jordan was finally revealed. The message of “Johnny Kilroy” was made clear by Martin, who eloquently stated that “Michael Jordan is letting nothing stand in the way of what he loves to do…and that‘s just to play basketball.”
Beginning in October, Jordan Brand embarked on an in-depth and ambitious retelling of the Johnny Kilroy saga by introducing the “Kilroy Pack” – a set of six Air Jordan IX colorways inspired by each of the fictitious assumed identities Michael Jordan took on in the infamous commercial campaign. To kick things off, a Johnny Kilroy Twitter account began throwing out cryptic messages and then hints regarding a scavenger hunt for free Kilroy-inspired gear. The growing buzz led to the release of the Air Jordan IX ‘Johnny Kilroy’ – the first of this exciting Retro-themed collection. It featured a Bulls-like color way of Silver/Black/Red and an embroidered ‘4’ on the heel, but what followed was a string of five more colorways inspired by the fictional teams and players – Fontay Montana of the Gulls, Bentley Ellis of the Crawfish, Calvin Bailey of Gary, Slim Jenkins of the Mystics, and finally, Motorboat Jones of the Billings Bandits. Each had its own team-inspired composition of colorways with tongue labels stitched with the respective player pseudonyms and their team logos printed on the sockliners.
Despite the fact that ten different Air Jordan IX releases hit stores in the last three months of the year, the entire Kilroy Pack was an outstanding success and quite frankly, a true sneaker collector‘s dream. It proved that great storylines could play as much of a role as Jordan’s winning legacy, and with such in-depth and unbridled attention to detail, many enthusiasts praised the Kilroy Pack as one of the best themed packs ever put forth by Jordan Brand. Looking back at all the specialty releases like the first “Defining Moments” Pack in 2006 and the “Old Love, New Love” Pack in 2007, it’s no mystery that the core consumers of Air Jordans certainly cherish this type of thorough memory jogging, and the Kilroy Pack is enough reason to be excited for future Retro releases inspired by the enduring history of the line.