Nike Air Soles
We've been led to believe that the black and red colorwaycolorways, and in order to gather the history and evolution of the brand, we must first look back at its roots.
As the story goes, Michael Jordan was, or would be fined, $5, 000 per game if he wore a certain pair of red and black Nike basketball shoes, as evidenced by 2011's "Banned" Air Jordan 1 High. Per the "uniformity of uniform rule" set by the NBA,
"A player must wear shoes that not only matched their uniforms, but matched the shoes worn by their teammates."
At the time, red and black was much more rebellious than plain black and white shoes. That being said, first year NBA commissioner, David Stern "threw them out of the game." Legend has it that MJ continued wearing the pair anyway, while Nike footed the bill. Does this story sound familiar to you? Let's take a look at an interview conducted by legendary late night talk show host, David Letterman. Fast forward to 4:48.
Here is a letter written by then NBA Executive Vice President, Russ Granik, addressed to Nike Vice President, Rob Strasser. It states that Michael Jordan wore a certain pair of Nike basketball shoes that violated the league's rules and procedures on or around October 18, 1984.
There are so many questions to be asked. For one, how many games did MJ wear the Black/Red Air Jordan 1? And did Nike really pay said imposed fines? And here's the biggest question: Was the Black/Red Air Jordan 1 even the right sneaker that was first "banned" by the NBA
No, and here's why.
I've had regular discussions with people on the matter. In particular, bigbostrong on Instagram, who has provided detailed pictures of Air Jordan history, as well as our friends from Australia, Adam Ryan and Aaron Stehn—both of whom who run a popular podcast on inallairness.com. A mutual colleague of theirs, Adam Howes, runs bullsonparade.me and does the same, but with all focus on the rich historical events of Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls history.
We have already scratched the surface as to what MJ first wore during his rookie campaign, which is identified as the Nike Air Ship—a mysterious shoe that has yet to be retroed. To my knowledge, Jordan wore three colorways of the Air Ship: White/Natural Grey, White/Red and Black/Red. And that Black/Red version of the Nike Air Ship is the actual sneaker that was banned, not the Air Jordan 1. Jordan did however had a PE edition of the Air Ship, which read "Air Jordan" on the heels.Close-up shot of the "Air Jordan" PE Air Ship - Image via Getty Bettmann / Contributor
Here is Michael in a 1984 preseason game against the New York Knicks wearing the Black/Red Nike Air Ship. The game was played on October 18, 1984 at Madison Square Garden. It was the 6th preseason game the Bulls had played, and they were going into the game with a 4-1 record. A few days earlier on October 15, 1984, the two teams played each other at Glens Falls, NY some 200 miles north of Madison Square Garden. The NBA notified Nike and/or the Bulls that the black and red sneaker from the October 18 game broke the "uniformity of uniform rule." He would immediately have to stop wearing the colorway on court.
In this YouTube video, you can see Michael wearing the Black/Red Nike Air Ship during practice at Madison Square Garden from a interview conducted on October 18, 1984. Fast forward to 0:26. The game following is the regular season debut at Madison Square Garden on November 8, 1984 with Michael wearing the White/Red Nike Air Ship.