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"MJ would give him sh*t...even though he loved it" - Air Jordan designer on the creation of Michael Jordan's favorite sneakers

It's easy to see why they have a special place in MJ's heart.
Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan in 1996

Michael Jordan

It's no secret that Michael Jordan loves his signature Air Jordans almost as much as he loves the game of basketball. This is why "His Airness" was said to be very particular with who wore them in the NBA. If MJ thinks you're not worthy of putting a pair of his signature sneakers on your feet, he might savagely tell you to take them off. He treats them like they were his children, so to speak. And if that's the case, then Jordan is a biased parent. Because, as it turns out, he has a favorite pair of Js.

Typical MJ

Nike released a wide array of Air Jordans during MJ's playing years, and each one was handcrafted to perfection by the world-renowned company's top designers. Indeed, it's hard to pick a favorite, but the Air Jordan 11s always had a special place in the GOAT's heart.

Of course, if it's Jordan's favorite pair of sneakers, then there should be an interesting story behind them. As we all know, MJ is, to this day, known for being a private person. Fortunately for us, former Nike designer Ken Black shared bits of the formative stages of the Jordan 11s.

According to Black, Jordan was always very involved in the creation of his signature shoes, and the Jordan 11s were no exception. Over time, Black's team had mastered creating a design that met the exquisite taste of "His Airness." So, they were confident in their work when they worked on the Jordan 11s in late 1993.

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Black's fellow Nike Designer Tinker Hatfield was the head designer of the group and was constantly relaying the progress to Jordan. It's worth noting that despite being amused, Jordan refused to give them props. Zero positive feedback. But deep down, they knew MJ would give them his stamp of approval.

"We hand-created and illustrated the apparel line with markers and mounted them on presentation boards to share with Michael," Black told Highsnobiety of the AJ11 in 2020. "We brought material swatches to give him a sense of what the garments would feel like… I am pretty sure Tinker [Hatfield] had already shown a version of the shoe to MJ when the rest of us weren't there… They had a great relationship already, and MJ would give him sh*t about the stuff he'd bring to share, even though he loved it."

Why the Jordan 11s were so special

Jordan hardly ever talks about it, but it's easy to see why the Jordan 11s were so special for him. For one, Nike thought about discontinuing Jordan's signature line after releasing 10 Jordan sneakers because they weren't too confident MJ would ever end his first retirement in 1993.

However, Hatfield had a feeling that Jordan would return, so he began creating the 11th signature sneaker. Soon, Nike approved it, and the Jordan 11s was released in 1995. MJ wore them regularly during the Chicago Bulls' historic 72-10 season, including the NBA Finals.

Jordan copped his fourth NBA championship, his first since his father's death, with the Jordan 11s on his feet.

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