Twenty years ago, Warner Brothers Pictures dropped the masterpiece that inspired some of the most iconic franchise merchandise in cinema history. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a masterpiece. Maybe it wasn’t even that good, but 1996’s Space Jam has withstood the pages of history for a few reasons. First, it was one of the many Michael Jordan related things to occur in an era he dominated. In fact, Space Jam was his first starring role.
Regardless where you stood on MJ as a player, there was no denying his star power throughout the 90’s. Then, there was the fact that him, Bill Murray, Newman from Seinfeld, and a slew of NBA greats were on screen with one of the most iconic cartoon characters playing one of America’s favorite sports. This wasn’t necessarily the recipe for an outstanding film, but for kids, it was enough to get them in the theater.
(Source: Rolling Stone)
When all was said and done, it was a pretty terrible movie, but it did bring about one of the most coveted pieces to come out of the Air Jordan archive, ever. For a company like Jordan, with so many “big deal releases” throughout it’s history, that’s really saying a lot. In terms of timeline, the Air Jordan XI’s debuted during the NBA season prior to the film’s release.
MJ had recently returned from his first retirement stint, so to see him on the court was already fascinating, and the XI would soon become known as his “comeback shoes.” He first showed up in the White/Black-Dark Concord, which are loosely known as the first or “original” pair of XIs. The Air Jordan XI “Space Jams” though, came later in that series. This colorway first debuted in Game 4 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Orlando Magic.
The Bulls didn’t make it that season, but 1996 recalled the Jordan hysteria first seen during the 1991-1993 threepeat era. While the ‘95 season saw Jordan in a 45 jersey, he brought back the legendary 23 in ‘96 along with his comeback sneakers. Part of Jordan’s comeback and return to pop-culture’s limelight included his debut as an “actor.” Essentially, Jordan’s second coming was back in full swing.
Although the XI’s hit the market during the 1996/1996 season, that mysterious colorway season in Game 4 wasn’t part of these original releases. It wasn’t until the climactic game against the Monstars (yeah, that was seriously their name) that these specific XI’s were seen again. Maybe this was a throwback to Jordan’s first series back after retirement, but whatever the reason, this colorway was solidified in sneaker history as the “Space Jam.”
20 years later, the simple mostly-Black-with-some-Concord colorway has inspired legions of sneakerheads since. With a retro dropping this month in honor of Jordan’s adventures with Bugs Bunny, it’s no doubt that we’ll be seeing plenty of Space Jam inspired customs coming out. If you’ve got a Space Jam project you think is worthy of MJ himself, tag us at #angelusdirect!