Michael Jordan's 2006 visit to London
A report on Michael Jordan's 2006 visit to NikeTown London
I wanted to share with you a great moment that happened 3 years ago when Michael Jordan, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith came to NikeTown London. I touched on this in my first blog HERE and will now elaborate further. Michael Jordan completed a nine day European tour back in October 2006, starting in Paris, then onto London, Hamburg, Berlin, Barcelona and Milan. The purpose of which was to see some of the young talent and also expose the brand to the youth and to the culture here in Europe. In the build up to this event Sole Collector's Steve Mullholand came over from the States in January 2006 and together we attended a meeting with the marketing department at NikeTown London. The plan was to work alongside NikeTown and raise the profile of Sole Collector in England at a time when the store would be the centre of attention. Imagine how it felt to be laying down plans to see Michael Jordan in person, at the time the whole thing seemed so surreal and words really cannot describe how I felt. Plus can you imagine being sworn to secrecy about the whole subject? I was honoured to be asked to provide a display of Air Jordans I-XXI as the centrepiece to NikeTown London's store display - especially when MJ would be there to see the shoes. Naturally I had reservations of having my prised possessions being openly displayed to the public but I was assured they would be safe and secure. In order to put out the best display possible I made contact with Eric Hsieh; an OG Jordan collector probably better known as OGAhliang119 on the Sole Collector forums. He was only to happy to help out with the display shoes and shipped over a boxed pair of original metallic Jordan I's along with original Fire Red V's, original Carmine VI's, original Powder Blue IX's and original Chicago X's. Putting these Jordans along side the Jordans from my own collection (including original Fire Red IV's, original Olympic VII's and my all time favourites the Flint XIII's) we put out a collection to be very proud of. The day before Michael Jordan was due at NikeTown he made a surprise visit to the London Jordan Classic camp being held at the Brixton Recreational Centre. The camp brought together 30 of the best under 16 players in the UK to participate in a premium coaching camp with a competitive element. Unknown to the youngsters participating, Michael made a guest appearance to watch the All Star final and present the MVP trophy. Jordan went on to visit a basketball camp at each European city on his tour, selecting an MVP from each. His aim was to show these kids how it's done in the States, exposing them to that kind of life and hopefully that would motivate them to get better as basketball players. Later that evening Michael hosted a dinner at London's prestigious Roundhouse venue. Two hundred guests were seated on a make-shift basketball court in the middle of the dining room, the guest list read like an international who's who - confirming MJ's truly global appeal. Guests included Baseball's Derek Jeter, England's Football stars Joe Cole and Theo Walcott, Rugby's Lawrence Dallaglio and Soul II Soul's legendary front man Jazzy B. During the dinner Michael gave a speech where he spoke of his deep love for shoe design, assured us that the future of British basketball was bright and also regaled the guests with an anecdote about his old basketball sparring partner Sir Charles Barkley. Incidentally, my Jordan I-XXI display was taken out of the NikeTown store for the evening and set-up at the dinner venue - I didn't get to attend, but at least my shoes did! The next morning I arrived at NikeTown at 6am in the rain but that didn't stop me rocking my oldest wearable Jordans, a pair of 15 year old original 'Hare Jordan' VII's - it was a really hard choice deciding what pair of Jordans to wear in front of the man himself. Over the next hour or so a crowd of 250 fans gathered around the stage, a crowd of very lucky individuals that had worked hard to win their places there from competitions and a few others very lucky to have a more than exclusive invitation. Michael entered NikeTown via the back door and took the service elevator to the first floor where he was greeted by the NikeTown staff and took the time to briefly chat with them and pose for a group photograph before taking a tour of the basketball pavilion which had just undergone an overnight makeover, now with 100% Jordan apparel including some of the US exclusive Lifestyle sneakers and clothing brought over especially to tie in with the event. Following the tour upstairs Michael entered the ground floor where we had our first glimpse of him and the crowd simultaneously erupted into cheers as he made his way onto the stage to be joined by Tinker Hatfield. The video screens were also showing the video clips of several English fans (including myself) that were filmed earlier that year. What an honour to see myself on the screens talking about Michael Jordan and saying "Thanks for the memories" right as he walks onto the stage! Michael and Tinker took their seats and were interviewed for about half an hour, they starting off talking about London and the UK basketball culture, moving onto some of their favourite Air Jordan designs and Michael's relationship with Tinker. Also reflecting back on the design process of the Jordan IV's and the influences behind Jordan XI and XIII plus a brief insight into the (then) forthcoming XXII's, the 'Stealth' concept behind the design and on the screens just a glimpse of what we would be queuing up for in February 2007. Naturally I need to mention what shoes Michael and Tinker were wearing, Michael wore a fresh pair of Retro Jordan III's Pure's (an unreleased colourway at the time) with some additional patent leather on the uppers while Tinker Hatfield wore the 'Green Bean' Retro Jordan V's. Unfortunately, despite holding out my copy of Sole Collector issue 7 and a permanent marker pen, I was unable to get a signature from Michael, he left without signing an autograph but then again I could understand that, if he signed one signature then everybody would want one too. He thanked us, said goodbye and swiftly left NikeTown, heading straight to the Airport for a flight to Germany. Tinker Hatfield stayed on for a couple more interviews, this time conducted within the Basketball Pavilion upstairs amidst the chaos that ensued once the store had been opened to the public - add the hype of a visit from Michael Jordan with the hype of the Jordan V released in the Grape colourway, throw in the Lifestyle clothing and the legendary Tinker Hatfield signing shoes - believe me when I say it was chaos!! I was lucky enough to have a brief chat with Tinker and he willingly signed my copy of Sole Collector Issue 7 and shook my hand. Mark Smith was also there and I managed to speak to him too, this guy loves Sole Collector and he wrote a great message across the cover of Issue 14 (the Vegas competition prize AF1's on the cover of Issue 14 were designed by Mark) it reads "To SC thanks for the love and keep up the passion!! - Mark Smith. As things started to calm down I was able to get on with promoting Sole Collector magazine. I work for Sole Collector as the UK distributor (more on that in a future blog) and it was very generous of NikeTown London to allow me to set-up a Sole Collector stand in store for 3 days, allowing me to approach their customers and promote the magazine. Overall this was a priceless experience; I finally got to see Michael Jordan. My dream was always to see him playing basketball but this was a pretty close second. With the added bonus of meeting both Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith too. Not a bad day overall!