Michael Jordan is the most iconic face in footwear, hands down.
He bounced onto the scene as a fresh-faced rookie with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, and he was an instant star. He averaged 28 points a game, scored 3,000 points in a season, and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated just four weeks into his career with a headline that read, “A Star Is Born.”
He’s a billionaire—the third-richest Black person behind Oprah and Robert F. Smith—with the value of the Charlotte Hornets and the Air Jordan sneaker line steadily increasing.
And he’s got some acting cred, too. Back in ’96, His Airness was the star of Space Jam, an unexpected hit starring the greatest basketball player of all time… and Bugs Bunny.
But even bigger than the movie were the sneakers that came along with it. Jordan first debuted the Air Jordan 11 “Space Jam” against the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Playoffs. It was his first year back on the hardwood after taking his talents to the baseball dugout.
The Jordan 11s were already a hit prior to the film’s release, with three colors in store. After the movie debuted, a new pair was created; it was completely blacked out save for a white sole, clear outsole, and some royal blue detailing. But it was four years before the public had a chance to cop this coveted pair. They only costed $125 when they dropped on December 13, 2000, which is way less than today’s standard $220 for Retro 11s. They flew off shelves, and original pairs can easily go for a cool $500 today.
The pop culture phenomenon of Space Jam made the 11s a must have for sneaker heads and casual movie fans as well.
Jordan Brand knew it had a hit, and didn’t release the sneakers again until 2009, the second year of the near-annual tradition of releasing an Air Jordan 11 during the holiday season. The brand went all out. The black and silver box with Jordan’s face etched on it was gone; the special slide-out back featured a royal blue plastic cover with the roman numerals XI on the front, and matching shoehorns, too. But that icy outsole was all sneaker heads needed to see to line up outside two days before Christmas.
Things came full circle on December 10, 2016, when Jordan Brand celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Space Jam movie by retroing the sneakers again, with even more intriguing packaging. Since Jordan came back wearing the 45, his second jersey number is on the box in a simple, shiny font, with his iconic number 23 wrapped around it. The Warner Bros Looney Tunes logo graces the bottom of the box. Inside, the patent leather was high on the toebox, and sneaker purists were thrilled.
Few sneakers will reach the level of love that the Air Jordan 11 “Space Jam” holds. When pop culture and style come together, the hype can’t be stopped.