They shone under the lights of Orlando. They were almost glowing, an eternal lightning that had not been seen before. It was the patent leather. A shimmering black tone that stands out against a clean white base. And as Michael Jordan rose to his jump, a hint of purple shimmered out.
This Sunday in May 1995, MJ gave the world a first look at the "Concord" Air Jordan XI.
It was just a preview. Tinker Hatfield, the man who brought the XI to life, had asked MJ not to wear the Concords because the silhouette was meant for the following season. But Mike knew that he immediately had a classic in his hands.
"I remember when we first showed MJ, he said," That's it! That's what I'm talking about. They understand it, "says Howard White, now senior vice president of Jordan Brand, to SLAM.
White and Hatfield were part of the team that continued to set the benchmark for basketball shoes. MJ provided the inspiration, Hatfield brought the vision to life and White drove the brand forward. They have provided an endless stream of legendary kicks. And yet, the "Concord" Air Jordan XI could be their most revolutionary creation.
His clear, understated, flowing designs have influenced basketball sneakers for years. The performance features of the XI on the court also helped to inform the design. Carbon fiber can still be seen in sneakers today.
The desire for the XI has not faded since this Sunday in Orlando. The "Concords" will fall on December 8 and his legendary reputation is not lost on White. We teamed up with Jordan Brand's Senior Vice President to discuss the famous couple.
SLAM: At what point did you step back and realize that you not only have a certified classic on your hands, but also a sneaker that influences the entire design of shoes for a whole generation?
Howard White: Well, I'm not sure when this moment is the moment when you realize that you are shaping the story when you find that you have helped to create something that people will one day consider the ultimate grail , But I know Michael always stuck to something with patent leather. He had the vision that it would be something bigger that people would wear it to their Prom. He had imagined that. But then Tinker took that idea and he was the one who brought it to life. Do you know that you made the story at this point, or do you just know that you are an artist? Has Michelangelo noticed that he does something historical like the Sistine Chapel? He did not really want that because he was a sculptor at heart. But look how it came out. So I think Michael Jordan is an artist in his heart. By chance, this vision came to him when he returned from another love baseball. He stopped and when he returned, some people said, "We want the real thing back, the real MJ," because they eventually lost this series (against Orlando.) But let's see what that did to him. That summer, I got a phone call from him and the call just said, "If I had done my part, we could have won." I told him, "Michael, this is a team game, so not everything can be up to you. He said, "I know, but if I had done my part, we could have won."
That was the summer he turned Space Jam and Warner Brothers built him a gym on one of the parking lots. He would need two hours for his lunch break and Tim Grover and he would only lift weights. At night, when he was done, people came from all over to play. He would get the best of the best there and play them.
SLAM: What made the patent leather of the XI functional?
HW: To this day, MJ is obsessed with the performance of the Air Jordan on-court, so patent leather was first and foremost an idea for keeping his foot on hard stops and cuts.
SLAM: The white and black is so, so clean. But the touch of Concord Purple on the sneaker is incredible. Why was this color added with a touch of purple, giving it the famous name "Concord"?
HW: Handicrafts were handicrafts. I can not tell you if there was a specific reason, but he had a chance to put together the perfect and sometimes unexpected color mix.
SLAM: Why is it important to have the "45" for this retro release on the heel?
HW: In the opinion of a man where we are as a people, I ask, "How do you get where you're going, where you want to go?" This # 45 really represents how he left behind something he liked to bring back to the basketball game. It's amazing that he did not cross the mountain this year. The effort needed to overcome the hump and return to the top, the effort to not give up, to push a city, a team, a country to their own limits. So, # 45 stands for overcoming your own limitations or the one imposed on you by someone. For example, "Hey, you're not that good." And we've obviously seen MJ react to that with three more championships.
SLAM: What is the legacy of "Concord" in sneaker and basketball history?
HW: I think if you look at the legacy, when you look at how something becomes a grail, when you look at what that particular item can mean to a populous population, it is actually falling apart into the sacrifices people are ready to repeat a dream. Come back to No. 45 and feel that you do not live up to what the world thought was yours. This shoe says you really do not worry about what the world thinks. It means you really want to be your self-conceptualization of what you know you can. Are you ready to overcome these limits?
I was with him when he came back. Nobody saw the times we were in the gym, and only he did wind sprints and liners. Then he would shoot bad shots. Then jumps while he was tired, then he would go back and let those lines run again and then he would come back and do those jumps again. Actually, everything people saw was the result, but it was those quiet moments when no one else was there. Only me and he and he worked. He sacrificed this year the year he pursued his love of baseball. His body was completely different. When he played baseball, he changed all the weights he had in his house. He exchanged all basketball equipment for baseball equipment. Make his wrist strong, make his hands strong, make his arm strong. He changed everything. When he returned to basketball, he had to start over to become the best in the world again. This is the legacy of the Air Jordan XI "Concord". That's why she earned her place as a grail.
The "Concord" Air Jordan XI will be released on December 8 for $ 220.