Jordan’s back with some Jordan 9’s! But…. he’s on the Whitesox?
Released in November of 1993, the basketball and sneaker worlds were still in shock over MJs retirement announcement when the Jordan 9 dropped. At the top of his game and only 30 years old, Michael stepped away from the NBA amidst personal and professional turmoil. In June of ’93 Jordan was under a league investigation into his gambling habit after it was revealed that he had won over a million dollars on golf bets and was gambling in Atlantic City the night before he and the Bulls played Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Two months later the remains of Michael’s father, James Jordan, were found in a swamp near his South Carolina home after he was murdered during a robbery.
Tinker Hatfield designed the Jordan 9 to reflect the massive globalization of the Air Jordan brand. In 1991, Gatorade had landed an exclusive and unheard of 10 year deal with Michael. They launched the legendary “Be Like Mike” campaign that went around the world and back in the song and commercial of the same name. The song got regular rotation on radio stations and had people singing the catchy lyrics every time they thought of MJ. Now, more than ever, Jordan was a world wide phenomenon. Hatfield wanted the Jordan 9 to translate that universal dominance into the shoe. He drew heavily from Japanese culture in this design, which is most notable on the heel where a “Rising Sun” emblem with the Jumpman in the middle is as prominent as the largely stitched number 23. The Jordan 9 is also remembered for its sole that incorporated words like “intense”, “freedom”, “dedicated,” and “force,” in various languages including French, Russian, and Swahili, amongst several others.
Outside of just design aesthetics, the Jordan 9 was also a clean, but rugged creation of function. While the Jordan 9 featured an inner sock like previous models, the heavy padding from the 8 was gone and comfort was back. An encapsulated Air-Sole unit in the forefoot, and a large volume Air-Sole unit in the heel, were big on support when matched with the polyurethane midsole. The newly added one-pull lacing system also made tightening the shoe as much a draw as the look of the laces themselves. However, flat traction on the bottoms, while a good look, didn’t sit well with most ballers. Only 4 color ways represented the original Jordan 9 release: black/ dark charcoal – true red, black/light olive – true red, white/ black – true red, and white/ black – dark power blue.
The Jordan 9 was the first Air Jordan to never be worn on the basketball court by Michael. However, a pair of Jordan 9 baseball cleats were designed for Michael to wear during his time as a Birmingham Baron, the minor league baseball team for the Chicago White Sox. His easy entrance onto the team, thanks to Bulls and White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, as well as his subsequent poor performance, lead conspiracy theorists to believe that Jordan’s retirement from the NBA was a planned media diversion to protect the Jordan brand from being tarnished by the gambling investigation that had been resolved just three days after he announced his retirement. It’s the Jordan 9 that adorns Michael’s feet on his bronze statue outside of the United Center in Chicago. Hatfield once said that the Jordan 9 was chosen because of its global significance to Jordan’s brand and legacy.