These days, many of us are staying home and trying to be as safe as we can during the COVID-19 pandemic. During our quarantine, I am sure binge-watching has been at an all time high, as well as trying out shows and movies that you probably wouldn’t consider watching on a normal day.
I am nowhere near a sports fan. I dabble a little here and there between various sports. Particularly football and basketball. However, the last two weeks I have invested in ESPN’s The Last Dance. The 10-part series follows Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls from start to finish as they went for their sixth NBA title in eight seasons.
As I watch the evolution of Jordan in each episode, I gain a better understanding of him and his impact to not only sports, but also to fashion. Then it dawned on me that the oldest pairs of shoes in my closet are Air Jordans. It got me to then thinking about my very first pair of Air Jordans.
Our shoes tell a story. That includes sneakers. Here’s my story…
Growing up I attended Catholic school, which meant the same uniform everyday. However, on the weekends, or days I had a N.U.T. Card (No Uniform Today card), my sense of style leaned more towards the tomboy side. Baggy Tommy Hilfiger or Perry Ellis shirts, baggy jeans, and sneakers. Hard to believe right? My sneaker collection at the time included Grant Hills, Air Max 95’s, Tuned Air’s and a 54 11’s. Not one pair of Jordans. At the time it wasn’t a MUST-HAVE for me. That was until the Air Jordan 13’s came out.
Picture it… Brownsville, Brooklyn, Winter 1998 (see what I did there?)
My latest Eastbay catalog arrived in the mail and on the first page were the red and white Air Jordan 13. The sneakers originally came out September 1997. Eastbay debuted them a few months later in their January 1998 catalog. It was love at first sight. It was inspired by Jordan’s nickname “Black Cat” I think what I loved the most about it was the hologram Jordan symbol on the side of shoe, which was inspired by a cat’s eye (it’s the little things). I remember taking the catalog to my mother and showing it to her. That led to a huge laugh after looking at the price of my dream kicks. $150. Her laugh got louder and louder, which made it evident to me that I was wasting my time even asking her to get them for me.
Well…on to the five-letter Plan B… D-A-D-D-Y.
My parents were separated so on the weekends I spent them with my dad. One of those weekends were coming up and I remember making sure my Eastbay catalog was in my weekend bag and my “sales pitch” was ready. It would start with looking through the catalog as if it were my first time looking at it and showing him the sneakers. Then before it was time for me to go back to my mom, I would hit him with my innocent request. The weekend came, I showed my dad the catalog, and on the drive back to Brooklyn that Sunday (my dad lived New Jersey), I hit him with the BIG ASK. His reaction was the total opposite of my mother’s, but it wasn’t a YES either. Instead it was, “Well, I’ll see what I can do.” I humbly accepted that answer. I mean, it’s not like I can dispute or ask him “What do you mean ‘you’ll see what you can do?'”. He’s my dad and I could NEVER give him nor my mom a snarky response. I took the answer for what it was. Knowing that it was either I don’t get my dream kicks or I do get them. I also factored in how hard it would be for him to even get the sneakers for me. You see, back then, getting a pair of Jordan’s was like a part-time job. You either had to make sure your order got in on time or you sacrificed your time waiting on long lines at Foot Locker, Modell’s, or some local sneaker store. If you had a hook-up at one of those stores where an employee or manager can hold a pair for you so you wouldn’t have to wait on those long lines, you were the real MVP.
One or two weekends after my pitch, I met up with my dad and he had something for me. To my anticipation, I looked at the black plastic shopping bag in his hand and automatically thought, “OMG! He got them! I wonder if he went to Get Set or one of the spots Downtown Brooklyn??!” I took the bag, excited to pull out my dream kicks and jump up and down like a maniac. As I start to pull out the shoe box, I noticed it wasn’t black and there wasn’t a Jumpman symbol on the box! I don’t recall what brand box it was, but I know it wasn’t a Jordan box. My excitement turned into confusion with a smile. Why? Because the last thing you want to do as a child in front of your parents is act like you’re ungrateful. At least I did. When I think about it now, I wonder if my facial expressions were as bad as a kid and they are now as an adult? As I look at the box in my hand, I gave my dad a pleasant “Thank you”. He says, “Well you gotta try them on and make sure they fit.” I reluctantly opened the box and pulled back the white tissue paper and to my surprise… there were my dream kicks!! My dad pulled a fast one on the kid and put my Jordans in a different box as a prank. He got me good. I remember smelling them because I loved the smell of fresh shoes (don’t judge me!). The outfit ideas started rolling through my head. I was looking forward to the next Dress Down Day at school.
It was about to be on like Donkey Kong.
The first time I officially wore them outside, I felt “Like Mike”. And every pair I got after that, the feeling was the same. Fast forward to the days of me watching The Last Dance and reminiscing on the days of copping a pair Jordan’s, it was more than just that. It was more than being able to rock a pair or simply say you had a pair. It was a statement…a symbol that you too can be “Like Mike” in anything that you do. It motivated and pushed people, especially of color, to go beyond their own expectations. Because if Jordan can do it, so can we. His “No Excuses” mentality sparked a fire in many to simply go out and be GREAT! When you put on a pair of Jordan’s, you felt that extra drive to go out and DO IT! The cockiness that Jordan had on the court according to his teammates, you felt that too in your new pair of Jordans. Looking back, having a pair back then meant being a part of history. The Last Dance was our friendly reminder as to why.
So where are they now?
Twenty-two years later, I still have those Air Jordan 13s. You never forget your first. Although not in the greatest condition and unwearable, it’s hard for me to part with them.
Do you remember your very first pair of Air Jordans?
I want to hear your Jordan story. Share it with me in the comments. Tag me on Instagram.