2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Quai 54, the world’s biggest streetball tournament held annually in Paris, France. With Jordan Brand sponsoring the international tribute to outdoor hoop culture since its inception, the Beaverton banner made sure this year’s celebration was more than fitting for the City of Lights.
On the bank of Port de Javel Haut, Jordan Brand pulled the curtains back on their Fall 2023 basketball lineup featuring a few guest appearances; more on that to come. Joining the initial five colorways of the Jordan Luka 2 and introducing the next four flavors of the Tatum 1, Jordan Brand officially unveiled both the Air Jordan 38 and Zion 3 to round out its hoops lineup leading up to Holiday 2023.
From detailed designer interviews to the announcement of a new addition to the Jumpman family, check out our recap of the Quai 54 experience and what to expect from Jordan Brand’s premier on-court roster in the coming months.
The Pinnacle, The Air Jordan 38
Each year the Jordan game shoe represents the brand’s apex of hoops technology and innovation. 2023 is no different as five of the brand’s key designers and product developers broke down the transformative changes made to the 38th iteration of Michael Jordan’s signature shoe.
Making its first strategic appearance via the feet of UCLA sophomore Kiki Rice during the March Madness tournament, the Air Jordan 38 is the ultimate hybrid harnessing flight and speed.
Gold chains, baggy matching track suits and a transcendent game quickly iconized the Black Cat both on and off the hardwood. With an ineffable allure constantly surrounding His Airness, the design team chose to dive into the mystique surrounding Michael during his 1993 Championship season.
As lead footwear designer Joel Greenspan explained, the team thus fixated on one of Jordan’s most graceful and dominating moves, the turnaround step-back.
“His footwork around that jump shot is so beautiful and so iconic that we thought, let’s just reverse engineer that and build a shoe for it,” Greenspan said during Saturday’s panel interview.
The latter is achieved through a collaboration between full-length Zoom Strobel and a Cushlon 3.0 wedge, providing maximum comfort with a silky smooth responsive feel underfoot. The strobel system acts as a springboard for the wearer in any and every direction while the Cushlon wedge provides that long-lasting comfort associated with the Nike KD 15 and the Air Jordan 11 CMFT.
Just like the Air Jordan 35 featured nods to the Air Jordan 5 and the recent Air Jordan 37 paid homage to the Air Jordan 7, the 38 follows in the latter footsteps by introducing an all-new X-Plate centered at the forefoot that draws inspiration from the tongue straps affixed to the AJ 8. Aesthetics aside, the torsional inclusion enables further control over multi-directional and lateral movements with a synonymous herringbone traction pattern.
Decked out below, the Air Jordan 38 introduces an all-new engineered embroidery technology that cures the entirety of the mid-tops upper. Material Designer Jacqueline Lefferts describes that the lightweight material has spent years in the making after its initiation with the AJ 35 while recently pushing the fabrics technical limits further with the Jordan Luka 1.
Working with Nike’s embroidery expert, Lefferts learned the endless possibilities at their disposal with the threaded technology, exploring more than its typical use as a decorative element.
“Because this material is literally just made from Flightwire, its incredibly strong,” Leffrets told us. “Joel and I’s ambition with the forefoot was that it would harness your forefoot. This material really synches and fits around you’re forefoot and gives you that support and trust that you need to play 100 percent.”
Receiving our own chance to play in the silhouette on Friday night at the historic Stade Roland Garros tennis courts, the cross-stitched forefoot area does indeed feature a snug, tight fit while the embroidered heel effortlessly melds to your heel and ankle for a plush ride.
However, the intricately detailed model is not without its carefully crafted embellishments which further nod to MJ and the Chicago Bull’s historic 1993 season that set off the first of two three-peats.
In connection to his 41 points per game during the 1993 Finals, an equal amount of crosshatches are stitched into the collar. Just below, Mike’s 6.3 assists and 8.5 rebounds are represented with patterns cues while the top portion of the medial side’s upper tips its hat to the Bulls 57-25 record and three rings.
Above the complex features and technical details, the threaded tooling additionally provides the design team with an immediate solution to the silhouette’s Tier 2 classification; meaning the model must be constructed with at least 20 percent recycled content.
“It showed me that with embroidery you can make any shape. So you can literally make the shape of the component with no waste. So really discovering a zero-waste process for us was very exciting,” Leffrets continued.
The eco-friendly approach is most notably found within the marbled look of the padded tongue made from the scraps of past sock liners while the underside of the insole has been fused together with grind rubber.
“Every element of that shoe is designed specifically for those movements from Michael Jordan. And the idea is that players today can wear the shoe, feel the benefits of the engineering, but also feel connected to Michael as an icon and a player,” Greenspan added.
The Air Jordan 38 will debut in the brands staple black/white/red palette on August 18th in full-family sizing for a retail price of $200. On September 25th, the model will dress in a pristine white color blocking with hits of golden accents in honor of FIBA while a WNBA-inspired clad-orange ensemble will release on September 25th.
Made Out The Mud, The Jordan Zion 3
Every Jordan signature athlete has been studied meticulously by the brand’s design team, cranking out film sessions and dissecting frame-by-frame movements like NBA video coordinators.
As a force beyond reckoning with on the hardwood, Zion Williamson continues to push the Beaverton-based banner to discover unique design solutions for the two-time All-Star.
“There are three truths that we always look at when we build for Zion,” Product Development Director Tri Tran said. “We want to make sure it’s well-cushioned to support the impact that he has on the ground. His lateral containment because you know he’s going to do this crazy spin move so he puts a lot of force behind his lateral side. Then at the end of the day, its court feel because he’s a point-forward.”
The Jordan Zion 3 has been three years in the making according to Global Footwear Director Jarrett Mann. As the pandemic lingered, Zion often spent time on the Pacific Northwest campus diving into the misconceptions of his journey to stardom.
“I told the Jordan Brand that I wanted my third signature shoe to really represent my dedication to my craft despite hard times growing up,” Williamson said. “The success I’ve had so far hasn’t just happened because of my natural abilities. I kept saying I had to get it out the mud, you know, I had to really work for everything I have now.”
During a three-hour meeting with his step father, high school coach and members of the brand, Zion remained his typical jubilant self amidst a number of injuries.
“We were like, what grounded you in that,” Mann said. “He was like, ‘Where I’m from. Everything I had to go through. This has not been overnight for me, this has been a journey.’ That’s when it kind of clicked, this is not a dude who’s just some random overnight 6-8 success. He was the skinny middle school kid from South Carolina who no one knew, and that’s where we started to resonate with thinking about SC.”
Envisioning the red clay of his South Carolina home, Joel Greenspan took a 3-D last of Zion’s foot and digitally rendered a sequence featuring his third signature being dropped into a pile of mud.
Utilizing a haptic print across the upper, the mud motif provides additional reinforcement along high stress points. “We really wanted the mud to act like his armor,” Lefferts said.
Unlike his past bulkier builds featuring secured straps and tactical overlays, the Zion 3 isn’t just tooled for the four or five, “this is for everyone,” Mann said.
Embarking on a streamlined composition, the Marion, SC native’s third Jordan signature introduces a Formula23 Foam drop-in midsole to his burgeoning line. While the height of the sidewalls have been lowered significantly, Zion will naturally sit lower in the model as a mid-foot shank offers the necessary rigidity to prevent from rolling over the lateral collar.
“This is my first low-top sneaker. And even though its a low top, where my foot sits in the shoe, I sit lower. So I still have my containment for my power but the low-top gives me more of a finesse look,” Zion said during the event.
Stacked with a forefoot Zoom Air unit, the Jordan Zion 3 debuts this September in a North America-exclusive pair that mirrors the stained glass windows of the gym Zion works out in during the offseason. The vibrant mint-based “Mud, Sweat and Tears” colorway follows in October alongside the Air Jordan 4-inspired “Fresh Paint” in November and the simplistic monochrome ensemble in December.
Jordan Tatum 1 Revealed In Four New Colorways
As the lightest shoe ever constructed by the brand, the Jordan Tatum 1 is as equally durable as it is efficiently weightless. Connected to his foot like its second nature, the see-through mesh knit upper took inspiration from a NASA and MIT concept wing project while a strong TPU frame underfoot provides stability for four-quarters worth of size-ups and drives through the lane.
“It just showed how lightweight it was actually made. We used that as a metaphor visually to cut out everything that we could, reduce as much waste as we could,” said David Cin, Footwear Design Director.
Following his first signature silhouette’s debut in four personally detailed colorways, the uncaged Zoom Air cushioned ensemble now taps into the reigning All-Star MVP’s off-court style.
“I love the colorways,” Tatum said. “We were able to stay consistent in terms of bringing some of my previous Air Jordan PEs to the first colorways of my signature shoe, giving fans the opportunity to wear what they already like. It’s a direct reflection of me, and that’s what I hope people see and feel.”
On his 21st birthday, Tatum began his indulgence in classic automobiles with the purchase of a 1966 GT Mustang. The black and metallic palette has made a connection across both his Air Jordan 14 and Air Jordan 36 PEs and now releases to the public on July 15th in the “Old School” colorway.
“I just try to get inspiration from anything in my life and the storytelling came to the shoes. I look for inspiration from my cars and a bunch of things came to life,” Tatum said while at the Basketball Design Studio in Paris.
As a back to back All League Fits selection, Jayson Tatum’s tunnel fits are just as smooth as his jumper. Featuring a denim-textured heel counter and upper overlays, bronze and bright red contrasts illuminate the dressed-up proposition that lands at retailers on August 10th.
Throughout the offseason you’ll most likely find Jayson Tatum hanging out with his family near a body of water or even a pool. With his son Deuce by his side, the Jordan Tatum 1 “Wave Runner” pays tribute to the father and son water sports and activities that memorialize their summer vacations.
In one of his first meetings with the brand, Jayson Tatum mentioned his favorite pair of Jordans of all-time is the Air Jordan 11 “Cool Grey”. Borrowing the same classic greyscale palette, the Jordan Tatum 1 “Cool Grey” takes after the iconic silhouette with the buttery nubuck embellishments anchoring the synonymous hue.
The Sly Fox, Luka Doncic
Let’s face it, Luka Doncic’s step-back is unstoppable. On foot, the Jordan Luka 2 has matched the evolution of of his offensive arsenal with a uniquely tooled sole unit crafted for the Slovenian superstar’s signature move.
While his first signature silhouette gave us an introduction into his myserteous image, the Luka 2 has already made plans for a number of efforts further exploring the balance within his life.
“Each colorway is filtered through the idea of ‘What would Luka Magic look like?'”, Mann said. “Through each of these models, the Luka specifically, we’re really focused on bringing colors that not only tell the story of the shoe but also help relate his off-court persona so the kids can better understand who he is.”
As one of the judges at Saturday evenings Slam Dunk Contest, Doncic was sporting a pair of his Luka 2’s dressed in the same double-x print celebrating the Quai 54 20th anniversary. Contrasted by crisp white overlays, the July 8th release imbues the country’s Pan-African imprint with its mix of red, green and seldom yellow shades.
Draped in futuristic glamour, the Luk.AI pair siphons energy from the launch of his own Artificial Intelligence program last year with glow-in-the-dark speckled detailing and lush violet accents.
Applying the same marbled use of orange, pink, purple and white tones as his Air Jordan 35 Low PE, the upcoming “Nebula” offering paints its upper in a pastel-infused state of harmony.
Just like a matador gracefully maneuvering around a bullring, Luka Doncic’s connection to his early professional career in Madrid shows up in the vibrant jade color blocking finished off by metallic gold speckles and logos.
Retaining his appreciation for the sustainable efforts of his home country, the Jordan Luka 2 “Lake Bled” extends recycled foam throughout the tongue and stitched upper while the tonal shades of blue enact a reflection of the body of water in the Julian Alps.
Gabby Williams Signs With Jordan Brand
To cap off the afternoon, the brand doubled-down on its commitment toward empowering and championing women both on and off the court, announcing the signing of Seattle Storm forward Gabby Williams to an endorsement deal.
Joining Dearica Hamby, Rhyne Howard, Satuou Sabally and more as the latest women’s hooper to sign with the Beaverton brand, the French-American forward will join the latter as those within the WNBA headlining the Air Jordan 38. After rocking the Three-Stripes throughout the first four years of her career, Williams joins an elite roster of change makers and bucker getters that are advancing the women’s game on a global scale.
“I’m just excited. This doesn’t even feel real that I have these opportunities so just trying to soak in that moment and just take everything in,” Williams said as the panel came to a close.