retired again, but his line carried on. The oddly proportioned and somewhat clunky Air Jordan 15 (Air Jordan XV) took inspiration from the X-15 experimental rocket plane and Prada Sport luxury sneakers. But it was the pointed tongue — designed to pay homage to MJ’s own wagging tongue — that defined the Air Jordan XV, for good or bad (the “elf shoe” contingent went with “bad”). A woven-looking upper was offset by a red stripe up the heel that noted the model number, Jordan’s number 23, and his birthdate.
Like the Air Jordan 10 (X), the Air Jordan 15 relied on other NBA
players to get it court time. Reggie Miller
and Ray Allen
were bigger names than Hubert Davis and Kendall Gill, but they still weren’t Michael Jordan. And the ensuing colorways, including grey and white and obsidian and white, which departed from the Prada/X-15 theme, did nothing to endear the design to would-be buyers. Nor did the lowtop or slip-on versions. Maybe it was a sign that the shoe wasn’t very easy to put on, even with convenient heel tabs and that pointy tongue.
The Air Jordan 15 (XV) also represented a whole new challenge for Jordan Brand—how to sell the flagship shoe without the on-court help of the greatest player of all-time? Because when all else failed (not that it ever did, mind you) there was always Jordan to bring the attention back. Even some of the most beloved designs—the Air Jordan 11 (XI), for instance—may have received quite a different reception if it weren’t for the fact that they were worn by Jordan himself. And while Jordan was pictured wearing the Air Jordan 15 in ads—and made it look good—things would never be the same. And if that wasn’t enough, Tinker Hatfield
was no longer the lead designer. Would the Jordan line survive without Jordan? This was a crucial time.