words // Nick Schonberger

What’s your favorite Jordan release of the past 10 years? The Jordan Retro IV Laser? Those slick graphic embellishments haven’t stood the test of time. How about the Jordan III ’88? Cool, but not as cool as actually owning an OG. The Air Jordan 2011? Sure, Tinker Hatfield and Tom Luedeke’s collaborative design might be worthy of contention. But, when the dust settles, the answer is obvious: The Spizike is the greatest Jordan of the past decade, and today marks the 8th anniversary of its original release.

Released in 2006, the Jordan Spizike blends distinctive elements from the Jordan III, Jordan IV, Jordan V, Jordan VI, and Jordan 20. In that, the sneaker evokes memories of that ’88 free throw line dunk, THE SHOT in ’89, and MJ’s first taste of NBA championship glory. Plus, of course, significant events in popular culture: Do the Right Thing, Mars Blackmon, and the 2005 All Star Game. (The latter is just a added bonus.) It screams, “Celebrate MJ!” And, it also proclaims, “I AM THE MOTHERFUCKING FUTURE.” Because, of course, we can celebrate MJ with retro shoes, and packs, and midnight viewings of Space Jam, but in order to break free of the mire that is reminiscence, we also need to shake shit up.

The Spizike shook shit up. Yes, the Dubzero dropped two years prior. However, Jordan Brand’s first crack at a hybrid model fizzled. No disrespect to Gerry McNamara, the Syracuse guard did the Dubzero proud (and sold players on the sneakers performance benefits), but the joint just didn’t have street potential—flailing after unfortunate Sponge Bob Square Pants variants. It was too childish; too flex fit and a Bluetooth earpiece; too much.

The design of the Spizike is a document of post-9/11 hybridized nostalgia—cherry picking from iconic moments to tug on the heartstrings of a cross-generational history. It follows hip-hop’s infatuation with throwback jerseys, benefits from the emergence of a true retro shoe market, and, ultimately, offers a delightful challenge to purists. While one could quickly dismiss the Dub Zero, the appeal of the Spizike (once fully understood) became undeniable. Consumers were forced to reconcile that a powerful trend (mash-up sneaker design) was upon us.

Performance? Who cares? The future of JB was street focused. Sure, some bro from the University of Miami rocked the outlandish BHM Spizike in 2013. He was just an asshole, trolling sneaker blogs and trying to be Nick Young 2.0. The Spizike was made for and championed by people for whom basketball represents- a lifestyle rather than a physical pursuit. The Spizike is better suited to Project Pat than an AAU hoops star.

That’s the glory of the Spizike; it has all the MJ, none of the need to believe you can physically fly. Leave what you need to hit the court to the CP and Melo lines. Get your hops in the SuperFly or the Air Jordan XX9. Us regular folks don’t need all that shit. The Spizike allows for Jordan flavor without improbable claims of game.

For those that still turn a nose up at hybrids, we see your Lil’ Penny Posites. We notice the Air Tech Challenge tooling of the Yeezy 2. Thank the Spizike for making all that possible. Salute Steven Jackson too, his 34-odd Spizike IDs are one of the sneaker world’s most magnificent marvels...and, a reminder that potential for customization is the true measure of sound contemporary sneaker design.

With the Spizike’s original edition, a tribute to Spike Lee and his 40 Acres and Mule production company, dropping in retro form this week, the need to accurately assess the shoe has arrived.

This is the Jordan that best represents Jordan Brand post-career. We’re over 10 years from MJ’s last hurrah in D.C., and (aside from the quiet Kawhi Leonard) still (fingers crossed) a few years from a truly transcendent JB athlete. What we have is a brand that speaks to basketball’s powerful impact on streetwear. In the Spizike, Jordan Brand owns that story. And, ultimately, became a trailblazer in the hoop-inspired, vintage-crazed aesthetic that rules today.

For that truth alone, the Spizike is the greatest Jordan of our time; an ultimate expression of the internet era, and a pitch perfect articulation of married memories.