Jordan 17: The Business Side of MJ
Michael was no slouch during retirement. After leaving the Bulls in January of ’99, he became a part owner of the struggling Washington Wizards NBA franchise and was their President of Basketball Operations. After a dismal first full season in his new position, Michael resigned from his front office job to do the unthinkable. He suited back up as a free agent to hit the court in September of 2001, donating his yearly salary to the families of the September 11th victims. As a Wizard and wearing the Jordan 17, Michael scored his 30,000th career point (against the Bulls) and led the team in scoring, assists and steals before a season ending cartilage tear in his right knee.
Designed again by Wilson Smith, the Jordan 17 debuted to its own controversy. Originally released to the public in February of 2002, it was a pricey drop at $200, the most expensive Jordan release up to that point. While it came packaged in a suitcase with a CD inside, that didn’t do much to stop complaints. The Jordan 17 seemed a return to a more traditional design after some serious statements, but it wasn’t exactly conventional either. The Jordan Brand had recently signed on to sponsor Jazz musician Mike Philips and incorporated textured notes into the leather on the upper. With Michael being an avid golfer, the sole of the shoe took its design cue from the layout a golf course he enjoyed playing. The overall aesthetic for the Jordan 17 was driven once again by an automobile and the details and clean lines of an Aston Martin.
Function wise the Jordan 17 was a beast. It’s reinforced mid sole with full length shank plate and TPU heel stabilizer made for a durable on court tank. With a dynamic fit sleeve and Zoom Air units in the heel and fore foot, it also kept things comfortable. The quick lace system was back as were lace locks and a smooth toe. A modified removable mid foot shroud was incorporated into the Jordan 17 covering only the laces of the shoe rather than a majority like the gaiter of the 16. Originally dropped in four mid colorways and three lows, they also came with corresponding brief cases. The white/ college blue – black came in the silver case, while the black/ metallic silver came in a black case and the white/ varsity red – charcoal came in a red case. They looked pretty ill and even if you hated the price tag, you loved opening that case.
While full on gimmicky, the Jordan 17 still had vision and style in the attempt. The briefcase was a nod to Michael’s time and transition as a business man, becoming part owner and branching out into unconventional sponsorships with musicians like Mike Phillips. Additionally, the CD was of Phillips’ music and a behind the scenes look at how the Jordan 17 went from conceptualization to production. The golf course nod on the bottom of the shoe was meant as a tribute to Michael’s retirement. Ironically neither his business dealings nor his retirement lasted long enough for this shoe to have those design concepts be relevant at the time, but whether Jalen Rose’s wacky prediction that MJ will return for one more game comes true or not, Michael has been retired long enough for the Jordan 17 to finally make sense of its muse.