The movie “Air” just released, revealing the true story behind Michael Jordan’s signature at Nike. Even though Sneakerheads mostly knew this story, even with more details than in the film, it got a warm welcome, and many of them liked it. However, this story was only the beginning of a bigger story.
Because in 1985, Michael got injured very early in the season, a year after his signature, putting the sales of the Air Jordan 1 in great danger. And that’s when Nike felt it was time to go for the second generation, for the new Air Jordan model. However, this sneaker wasn’t well welcomed. Even worse, Michael Jordan almost left Nike because of it.
The Urgency To Create A New Air Jordan
To design the Air Jordan 2, Nike called Peter Moore, designer of the Dunk and, of course, the Air Jordan 1, and Bruce Kilgore, designer of the Air Force 1. When tasked to do it, they knew they wouldn’t have as much success as the One because they had much less time to design it. However, they had to relaunch the hype of the Jordan Brand quickly, so they still had to do something revolutionary. Bruce Kilgore and Peter Moore noticed that Michael Jordan was someone who liked to flex because he was always wearing extravagant clothes and gold chains, even during games, and that’s how they had to idea to create a luxury sneaker that would fit this image of him. This pair would be unique in terms of performance but also in terms of style. Michael Jordan could wear it on the court and an hour later with a suit & tie at a party. This could be the first multifunction sneaker that people who used to wear classic leather shoes could wear on the street or at work.
So, Nike was again working on something revolutionary but mostly based on style. Yes, they would increase the performance and the comfort, but this wasn’t their main idea. Instead, they wanted to create the sneaker with the best premium materials they could find. That’s why they decided to opt for fake iguana for one part and premium leather for another, and also, the pair would be manufactured in Italy. However, all those premium materials had a cost. The Air Jordan 2 cost 100 dollars, while the Air Jordan 1 was only 65 dollars. And contrary to today, this price was justified since the premium materials and Italy manufacture cost a lot. But now it was time to launch it finally, and unfortunately for Nike, Michael Jordan didn’t like it at all.
The Shoe That Created Tension
Finally, after a lot of brainstorming from the two genius designers, the Air Jordan 2 is out in two colorways, the home colorway, and the away colorway. Nicknamed “Air Jordan Imagination,” this pair shocked the fans because of its price, which was high for the time, as already said, but also because of its commercial directed again by the Wieden + Kennedy agency. In this commercial, Michael Jordan jumps in the air with the Air Jordan 2 and executes his “rock-a-baby” dunk. At the end of the ad, the narrator tells us: “Air Jordan, it’s all in the imagination,” to conclude a legendary ad to many fans today.
Michael Jordan will play the opening game with it and score 50 points against the New York Knicks at The Madison Square Garden, adding six rebounds and three assists. And during the season, he will score 3000 points in one season with around 37 points per game and score 40 points 9 games in a row, breaking records again and again, only in his third season. In 1987, he became the NBA All-Star and won the Slam Dunk Contest in Seattle. Michael was starting to be the player he always wanted to be. With the Air Jordan 2, he was already tracing the legacy of the future GOAT. But even though he achieved all that with it, he didn’t like the design.
For Michael Jordan, the shoe was too heavy and ugly. The thickness of the Italian leather upper wasn’t practical, and because of the thicker midsole, Michael was feeling less the court than with the Air Jordan 1. So right when it came out, the tensions between Nike and Michael Jordan started. And he wasn’t the only one to dislike the model because the hype wasn’t the same as the Air Jordan 1 at all. The legend says Nike sold as many Air Jordan Twos as Air Jordan Ones. But this is not a good result when you see what Michael Jordan has done this year.
Also, he wasn’t a rookie anymore; it was already his third year, so usually, the sales are supposed to rise, not stay the same. And contrary to the Air Jordan 1 which stayed a long time in shops and was still selling well after months, the sales of the Air Jordan 2 stopped quickly due to less demand, making the expensive Air Jordan 2 a failure for Nike. Consequently, Peter Moore and Bruce Kilgore left the Air Jordan boat and will never design an Air Jordan anymore. After that, the Air Jordan 2 disappeared, but in 2022, Nike decided to change history for this pair; they wanted to transform the past failure into a modern success.
The Revival of the Air Jordan 2
In 2021, a leak online said that the late Virgil Abloh and his Off-White team were working on the Air Jordan 2. And the result released in November 2021 is mesmerizing. Both colorways were made from a 3D scan of an old pair of Michael Jordan. He used to wear that white/red low colorway and got them signed. When seeing that, Virgil Abloh knew this would be amazing for the fans, it would feel like a piece of history even though it wasn’t unique. And for the first time, the Air Jordan 2 became hype, with the White/Red Off-White Lows reselling for more than a thousand dollars.
Seeing that success, Nike thought it was time to revive that model once and for all. That’s why they decided to call Chris Gibbs from Union LA to design a new Air Jordan 2. Released in two colorways, Grey Fog and Rattan. Union perfectly revisited this pair and almost made it hype, even though times for the resell game started to be tough. Right after, they also asked A Ma Manière, who has done fantastic Jordan 3s and 4s, to work on the Air Jordan 2. The pair wasn’t a big success but stayed true to the brand’s image.
Maison Chateau Rouge also worked on the Air Jordan 2, as well as J Balvin and finally, Nike re-released of the OG Chicago colorway at the end of 2022, but unfortunately, nothing worked. We have the feeling that even if they called Travis Scott to work on it, it wouldn’t have worked in the end. So unfortunately for this pair, the conclusion is that it is destined to fail until the end of the times.
Yes, the Air Jordan 2 might be, for most people, the worst Air Jordan or the failed Air Jordan, but without that pair, the Jordan Brand wouldn’t be what it is today, and maybe Michael Jordan wouldn’t have won the Dunk Contest, and we wouldn’t have that beautiful Air Jordan 2 Off White. The Air Jordan 2 is not the greatest Air Jordan for sure, but it shaped the transition to the real Jordan Brand with another designer that will change for sure the sneaker’s history, Tinker Hatfield.