The Air Jordan 11 made its debut in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals—a series in which the Bulls fell to the Orlando Magic, following Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA. MJ went on to wear the model for the entirety of the following season, in which he led to Bulls to the then-all-time best regular season record of 72-10, while averaging over 30 points per game, and winning an NBA title. That’s an impressive basketball resume, but if there’s ever been a sneaker that transcends its lofty on-court achievements, it’s the Air Jordan 11. In honor of the upcoming release of the Air Jordan 11 "Space Jam," we’re remembering the shoe’s top five off-court moments in these illustrations by Burn & Broad.
the sideline story
Before sites like Sole Collector, getting a first look at an Air Jordan required watching Bulls games and hoping for a close-up of Michael Jordan's feet during a replay. However, Ahmad Rashad did everyone a solid before Game 4 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals, a series in which MJ decided to break out the Air Jordan 11 before it released. During his sideline report, Rashad not only showed Jordan's PE, but offered a look at the "Concord" colorway on-foot. The report was pivotal in generating buzz for an unorthodox sneaker that had raised nothing but questions since Jordan debuted it three games earlier. The rest is history.
Sneakerz II Shoes
A co-sign by Boyz II Men is what truly cemented the off-court credentials for the designer of the Air Jordan 11. MJ told Tinker Hatfield that people would be wearing them with tuxdeos—a prediction Hatfield balked at. He was proved wrong a few months later, following an awards show. "Michael called me up that night, and said, ‘See, I told you so,’ Tinker said in issue 22 of Sole Collector. "I just said, ‘You probably paid those guys, didn’t you?’ He said, ‘No way! They did it on their own.’ The shoe sort of developed a life of its own because it transcended basketball a little bit, and ended up in modern culture and music history. It’s my favorite because of all of those things.”
The Fresh Kicks of Bel-Air
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air began with a scene featuring Air Jordans, so it was only right that it concluded with one as well. As Will Smith's character bid farewell to the Banks family in the series finale, he was left standing in the middle of an empty mansion laced up in the "Columbia" Air Jordan 11. One of the most memorable exits in sitcom history, the scene also gives additional context to a sneaker that's otherwise only known for being worn in a single game.
The words “Space Jam” have become so connected to the Air Jordan 11 that when mentioned, you have to ask whether someone is referring to the shoe or the movie. It’s only fitting that one of the biggest highlights of Michael Jordan’s off-court career has a sneaker to so closely associated with it. MJ’s foray onto the silver screen may have been brief, but it was so successful that it’s still being celebrated 20 years later.
The “Concord” Air Jordan 11 Low didn’t release at retail until 2014, but it existed in PE form dating all the way back to Bulls’ 1996 NBA Championship parade. That may have been how the shoe’s off-court legacy started, but its reintroduction is how it will be remembered. MJ ignited rumors of a retail release when the shoes were spotted on his feet as he played a game of beer pong, atop a Miami Dolphins-themed table, in late 2013. A glamorous addition to the shoe’s legacy? Probably not. Fitting in telling the entire story? Absolutely.