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The Rise, Fall & Revival of the Air Jordan 1 Banned

Inside the enduring history of the Bred.


By all estimates, the Air Jordan 1 should’ve been dead in the water from the jump. Nike’s novel idea of marketing a team sports star as an individual icon was against the grain and unproven. The same could be said of the kid from North Carolina who’d never played in a pro game. 

Over the fall of 1984, all those notions began to change.  

The Rise 

Michael Jordan was different. He’d shown glimpses of this at UNC and at the 1984 Olympics, but was officially unleashed once he arrived at training camp for the Chicago Bulls. Those first few practice sessions saw a young MJ quickly turning teammates into rivals and Bulls staff into evangelicals. While Mike was putting in the work for his pro debut, Nike execs Peter Moore and Rob Strasser were working up a way to make the rebellious rookie standout even more. 

The plan? Give MJ his own signature sneaker and apparel line, both branded with ‘Air Jordan’ tagging and colored up with three tones rather than the typical two. 

To Jordan, the mix of shades was a ‘no.’ Just as he resisted taking a meeting with Nike as an amateur, he pushed back against the initial sample of the Air Jordan 1 with the same stubbornness.  However, the more he looked at the Air Jordan 1, the more he liked it. While his shoe was being finished, MJ was just getting started. In his first preseason games, MJ would rock a revamped rendition of the Nike Air Ship as a prototype placeholder while the AJ1 was being finalized. Peter Moore and Robert Strasser had retooled and rebranded Mike’s on-court Ship PE with a ¾ cut, Air Jordan heel tagging and a Pro Circuit sole.

Photo: Courtesy of Nike
Photo: Courtesy of NBA
Video: Courtesy of Nike
Photo: GOAT
Photo: GOAT
Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Writer: Ian Stonebrook