Elegant Flight to Italy
Everyone wondered how Nike would follow up its huge Air Jordan debut, but nobody foresaw the bold decisions they made. While the first Air Jordan was a glorified Nike Dunk, complete with the first AJ logo and canonized for its black colorway, the follow up was anything but. Inspired by a 19th century women’s Italian boot, the shoe was as elegant as a slow-motion Jordan dunk. It had faux leopard skin for style and a full length air sole for comfort. It was the first Nike made in Italy, the only Jordan not to include a black colorway in its original run, and perhaps most memorably, the first without a swoosh. The Air Jordan 2 definitely set the tone for what would be a string of envelope-pushing designs by Nike.
Slam Dunk Season
The 1986-87 season was one for the records. In his elegant new Air Jordan 2’s, Michael Jordan established himself as the most fearsome player in the game. He became the 2nd player in NBA history to score over 3000 points in one season, averaging 37.1 points per game while winning his first of seven straight scoring titles. Not content to be just a scorer, he also became the first player with over 200 steals and 100 blocks in the same season. And for casual fans who didn’t track his numbers, there was his first Slam Dunk Championship, a display of beauty and grace that established him as the premier dunker in the game.
The NBA suffered two big losses in the 86-87 season. Dr. J’s incomparable career came to a close with his retirement, and Len Bias, the first round choice of the Boston Celtics, lost his life to a cocaine overdose before his career could start.
While Nike was buying street cred with every tongue-wagging dunk by their young star MJ, Adidas was having theirs handed to them on a silver platter. Serving up some Adidas-mania was none other than Run-DMC, the hottest hip hop group in the world. Their 1986 anthem, “My Adidas” told of their love for Adidas (always worn without laces as a fashion statement honoring the men and women in jail who weren’t allowed to wear laces). The mega-hit immediately elevated adidas’ desirability in the fast-growing world of hip hop. Run-DMC’s relationship with adidas was formalized when their manager, the savvy Russell Simmons, invited top adidas executives to a concert. When singer Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels asked fans to “wave their adidas in the air”, the executives witnessed 3,000 screaming fans holding their shell toes over their heads. Adidas promptly sponsored Run-DMC with a $1.6 million dollar contract, and a long-term relationship was born between the group, the brand, the genre and the kicks.