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Bred For Greatness: Michael and His Black and Red Jordan Basketball Shoes from Nike
Nike basketball (including subsidiary Jordan Brand) was not always the shoe behemoth it is known today. From 1917 until the ‘60s, Converse (now owned by Nike) enjoyed a period of dominance and was the world leader in basketball footwear. The brand’s Chuck Taylor All-Star was worn on-court by basketball legends such as Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
In 1964, Phil Knit and Bill Bowerman established Blue Ribbon Sports—a startup company that distributed Onitsuka Tiger running shoes in North America until 1971.
By the end of 1971, BRS (Blue Ribbon Sports) then rebranded itself into Nike and moved into sneaker production. Meanwhile, Converse was still on top of the basketball footwear market with Dr. J Julius Erving as its main athlete sponsor.
Nike was enjoying a lot of success outside of basketball. Having developed the ‘waffle’ sole, the Swoosh was able to corner the running market. “One of Bowerman’s more legendary innovations is the Waffle outsole, which he discovered by pouring rubber into a waffle iron," Knight explained. "The Waffle Trainer later became the best-selling training shoe in the United States."
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80, Converse still had a strong grip on the basketball market. Their stable of athletes includes NBA legends Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. In the meantime, the fledgling company’s marketing executive Sonny Vacarro was sowing the seeds that would eventually shift the tide in Nike’s favor. “The next fall I said, ‘you want to really get involved?’” It was pretty simple in Vaccaro’s eyes. “I said ‘pay the college coaches.’”
Converse followed suit and started paying college coaches. The coaches on their payroll included Dean Smith from North Carolina. Because of this, UNC standout Michael Jordan was already wearing (and loving) Converse basketball sneakers when he won a National championship in 1982.
In 1984, Nike had a revolutionary plan to sign what would become the greatest basketball player of all time. Instead of just a fraction, The Swoosh gave Michael the whole budget for rookies that season (including an entirely new shoe line made specifically for him). “In all honesty, I never wore Nike shoes until I signed with Nike,” Michael expressed. “I was a big Adidas, Converse guy coming out of college. Then actually my parents made me go out to (Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.) to hear their proposal.” During the proposal, Peter Moore showed Michael a pair of black and red basketball shoes that mirror the Chicago Bulls’ color scheme. With Michael’s inputs, these high-top sneakers would become the now-iconic Air Jordan 1.
Dubbed ‘Bred,’ the OG colorway of the Air Jordan 1 was supposedly banned by the league because it went against the NBA’s uniform rules.
Nike took advantage of the situation and created a new television ad to promote the company's latest basketball shoe:
”On October 15, Nike created a revolutionary new basketball shoe,” the narrator said. “On October 18, the NBA threw them out of the game. Fortunately, the NBA can't stop you from wearing them. Air Jordans. From Nike."
Much of Nike’s current success and the explosion of basketball shoes in the mainstream can be traced back to Michael and his ‘banned’ Air Jordans. Because of his on-court greatness and the immense popularity of his basketball sneakers, Jordan became a brand and debuted as its own company (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nike) in 1997.
Aside from being recognized as the greatest player of all time (GOAT), Michael can also be considered as the godfather of sneakers for leaving an indelible mark in sneaker culture.
Raging Bull: The Most Popular Red Jordan Basketball Shoes
Jordan Brand has a plethora of red-based basketball shoes because of Michael’s tenure with the Chicago Bulls. Here, we will look at examples of the most talked about red Jordan basketball shoes the brand has released, as well as some limited-edition custom-made pairs.
Let us start things off with the red and black Jordans that kicked off the sneaker revolution—the legendary ‘Banned’ colorway of the Air Jordan 1.
‘Banned’ aka ‘Bred.’ Launched in 1985, these red and black Jordan basketball shoes caught the ire of then-Commissioner David Stern and Executive Vice President Russ Granik.
Apparently, Jordan was not a fan of the Chicago Bulls-inspired color scheme either. Being a Tar Heel, he was not that eager to wear the colors of crosstown rival North Carolina State. When presented with what would be his first sneaker, Michael Jordan said, "I can't wear that shoe, those are the Devil colors."
During his rookie campaign, Michael became the most exciting player in the NBA. He flew from the foul line during the 1985 slam dunk contest, and his 65-dollar black and red Jordan basketball shoes also flew off the shelves.
‘Bordeaux.’ This women’s exclusive colorway features a full nubuck upper dressed in dark red (Bordeaux). A sail-colored midsole and outsole complete the shoe’s silhouette.
‘Chicago.’ As its name suggests, this colorway pays homage to the city of Chicago. These red Jordan basketball shoes boast a premium leather upper. “CHI” and “CITY” are stitched on each shoe’s lateral heel to complete the Chicago-inspired theme.
‘Crimson Flash.’ Part of the ‘Highlighter Pack,’ the ‘Crimson Flash’ colorway features a crimson leather upper with an elephant print overlay done in cement grey.
Edited by Vogue: AWOK. ‘AWOK’ is touted as the first-ever women’s only Jordan Brand collaboration. The design draws inspiration from Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour who approves of anything creative or editorial by simply writing “AWOK” (which stands for Anna Wintour OK). An "Edited by Vogue" keychain completes the theme.
‘Ferrari.’ Some of Michael Jordan’s sneakers take design cues from high-performance cars so it is only fitting that a few pairs receive the Ferrari red treatment. The ‘Ferrari’ colorway features an all suede upper with carbon fiber detailing around the midsole.
‘Flight Suit.’ The ‘Flight Suit’ colorway pays tribute to some early ‘90s Jordan apparel. It boasts an all suede upper dipped in red with 3M reflective material on the tongue.
‘Flu Game.’ Because of Michael’s heroics during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, the Air Jordan basketball shoes he wore that night have become iconic. Made of premium tumbled leather, these black and red Jordans will take you back in time.
‘Homage to Home.’ Paying tribute to the city of Chicago, the ‘Homage to Home’ colorway combines two of the most iconic hues of the first Michael Jordan basketball shoes—‘Bred’/’Banned’ and ‘Chicago.’
This limited-edition Air Jordan colorway is split right down the middle. The ‘Chicago’ theme is placed on the medial side while the ‘Banned’ theme is seen on the lateral side. Die-hard fans may have a hard time copping these white, red and black Jordan basketball shoes since only 2,300 numbered pairs were made.
‘Motorboat Jones.’ The ‘Motorboat Jones’ colorway is part of the ‘Johnny Kilroy Pack’ that pays tribute to Michael’s fictional alter-egos who continued to play basketball after his first retirement.
‘Motorboat Jones’ boasts an all-red nubuck upper highlighted with black stitching. “Motorboat Jones” is stitched across the tongue.
‘Origin Story.’ ‘Origin Story’ celebrates the release of the animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In the movie, Miles Morales can be spotted rocking a pair of ‘Chicago’ Air Jordan 1s while fighting evil.
Putting a twist to the classic ‘Chicago’ colorway, the ‘Origin Story’ features comics-inspired Ben Day dot detailing on the red overlays. Completing the Spider-Man-inspired theme is an icy blue translucent outsole.
‘Red Elephant.’ Sporting a similar design to the ‘Unsupreme’ (aka ‘Black Elephant) colorway, these all red Jordans features a full leather upper that is almost covered in elephant print.
‘Red Suede.’ These all red Jordans boast a rich suede upper matched with a full red outsole. All the branding are also done in red to keep things uniform.
‘Rosso Corsa.’ Like the ‘Ferrari’ colorway, ‘Rossa Corsa’ (racing red in English) features a race car-inspired theme.
‘Single’s Day.’ Jordan Brand expands on its women’s exclusive release with the launch of the ‘Single’s Day’ colorway. These all red Jordans are complemented with black accents and a gum outsole.
Commemorated every 11th of November, Single’s Day is celebrated by Chinese people who take pride in being single.
Steve Wiebe Collaboration. This House of Hoops-exclusive colorway is a collaboration between tattoo artist to NBA stars Steve Wiebe and Jordan Brand.
The Steve Wiebe collab is covered in the Chicago Bulls’ red with black accents. A mix of textured and smooth leather across the upper make this pair extra special.
Supreme X Louis Vuitton Custom. The Supreme X Louis Vuitton Custom was crafted by sneaker customizer Red Ribbon Recon. According to their Instagram post:
“Handcrafted using the @louisvuitton x @supremenewyork red denim baseball jersey, this Air Jordan 1 High is constructed in the OG styling with laser engraved tongue tags, satin printed tongues, pearlized white lamb skin leather swooshes, and lamb skin leather sockliners. Each pair comes with three sets of laces, a custom box, and a custom LV keychain.
Created in collaboration with @sneakpeekluxury for their grand opening on August 31 in Miami, FL. Only 4 pairs will be available for sale.”
The Remade ‘Chinese New Year’ Custom. Sneaker customizer The Remade crafted a special pair of Air Jordans to celebrate the 2016 Chinese New Year. These red and white Jordans boast a tumbled leather upper, and a nubuck mudguard dipped in red. The midsole and translucent outsole are all finished in white.
The Remade X 400ml ‘Chinese New Year’ Custom. The Remade teamed up with graffiti design team 400ml to craft another Chinese New Year-inspired Air Jordan.
The Remade ‘Chinese New Year’ custom is constructed with premium caviar leather covered in red. On the tongue, the phrase “Happy New Year” is done in Chinese characters while at the heel, the Jumpman logo is replaced by a gold-plated Chinese symbol for “wealth.”
Each pair of these red Air Jordan basketball shoes takes 20 hours to make and comes with a premium wooden box, red handkerchief, as well as other accessories.
‘Toro.’ Inspired by the Chicago Bulls’ team colors, the ‘Toro’ colorway features an all red suede leather upper with black accents and an icy blue outsole.
‘Toro Bravo’ aka ‘Fire Red.’ The ‘Toro Bravo’ colorway boasts an all nubuck upper covered in fire red. Black accents, a white midsole, and a cement grey outsole complete the silhouette.
‘Track Red.’ Part of the best hand in the game collection, the ‘Track Red’ colorway celebrates Michael’s six championships. These high-top basketball shoes are dressed in white, black, and red.
‘Valentine’s Day.’ The ‘Valentine’s Day’ colorway is another women’s exclusive from Jordan Brand. These all red Jordans feature a palette that consists of gym red, team red, and ember glow covering the entire silhouette. The inner side of the straps also comes with phrases that read “Loves Me” and “Loves Me Not.”
‘Win Like ‘96.’ There is no question that the Michael-led Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA throughout most of the ‘90s. From 1991 until 1998, Michael and the Bulls won 6 NBA titles.
To celebrate Michael’s winning ways, Jordan brand launched the ‘Win Like ‘96’ colorway that is dressed in the Bulls’ red color scheme. A black Jumpman logo and translucent outsole complete the Chicago Bulls-inspired theme.
Other Striking Red Jordan Basketball Shoes From The Jumpman
On September 9, 1997, Nike officially launched the Jordan Brand. In a statement the Swoosh said:
“A sub-brand of NIKE, Inc. the JORDAN brand is a pure, authentic basketball brand of premium, high-performance basketball footwear and apparel inspired by the performance legacy, vision and direct involvement of Michael Jordan. The brand will carry the Jumpman logo and will be packaged together to make its retail debut on November 1 for the Holiday ’97 season.”
Not long after, Michael Jordan started recruiting top athletes to become part of Team Jordan. Jordan Brand’s original five ambassadors were Ray Allen, Derek Anderson, Eddie Jones, Vin Baker, and Michael Finley.
The first five all donned player exclusive Air Jordans. Eventually, Jordan Brand would outfit some of their top stars such as Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony with their signature sneakers.
Here, we will take a look at just some of the most striking red basketball shoes Jordan Brand has crafted for their stable of stars.
Carmelo Anthony has 13 signature sneakers under his belt. In 2017, news broke out that his signature line would be coming to an end. Below are a couple of colorways of his signature shoes that are dipped in red:
‘Red Gum.’ The ‘Red Gum’ colorway is inspired by New York City’s nickname “Big Apple.”
‘Red October.’ The ‘Red October’ colorway features an all red theme. From the upper down to the outsole, all you’ll be seeing is red.
Chris Paul isn’t far behind Carmelo Anthony with 12 signature sneakers from Jordan Brand. Below are just a few colorways of Chris Paul’s basketball sneakers that have a red theme:
‘China’ aka ‘Chinese New Year.’ These all-red Jordans feature a combination of Infrared 23, Gym Red, and Chilling Red. The CP3 logo is done in Chinese characters to complete the theme.
‘Infrared.’ 'Infrared’ is one of the first colorways of Chris Paul’s tenth signature basketball shoe with Jordan Brand. These basketball shoes feature a red one-piece upper with hints of white and black for contrast.
‘Rocket Fuel.’ These red and black Jordan basketball shoes pay homage to Chris Paul’s team the Houston Rockets.
The 2017 NBA MVP has two performance models with Jordan Brand. Russell Westbrook’s signature shoes don’t have a lot of red since his team’s colors are blue and orange.
‘University Red.’ Making its debut during Russell Westbrook’s 2018 China tour, the ‘University Red’ colorway is dipped from heel to toe in red. Hints of black are seen on the Jumpman and Westbrook’s logo.
Why are the Chicago Bulls called the Bulls?
In 1966, the Chicago Bulls joined the NBA and became the league's tenth franchise. Then-team owner Richard Klein chose the 'Bulls' as the club's nickname because it denotes strength and power. The 'Bulls' nickname also tied into the city's meatpacking tradition and Chicago Amphitheater's—the team's first home court—proximity to the city's famed stockyards.
"We were the meat capital of the world," Richard Klein explained. "At first, I was thinking of names like Matadors (funny how that worked out given today's Matadors) or Toreadors, but if you think about it, no team with as many as three syllables in its nickname has ever had much success except for the Canadians. I was sitting around the house, kicking these names around with my wife and three sons, when my little son Mark said, 'Dad, that's a bunch of bull!' I said, 'That's it! We'll call them the Bulls!' And that's how the team got its nickname."