Tinker back. After a long (and likely much-needed) break from Air Jordan, Tinker Hatfield
returned to take the reins of the Air Jordan 20 (Air Jordan XX) design, working up a fitting tribute to Michael Jordan
’s legendary career. He was assisted on this by Mark Smith, who was responsible for the lasered details that would actually tell the story. Hatfield had some of his longest conversations with Jordan while developing the Air Jordan 20, discussing parts of MJ’s life and career that they’d never covered before. Many of these subjects became icons that were lasered on the shoe.
For such a significant shoe, the design was crucial, and what Hatfield and Smith came up with was as distinctive as anything that had come before. The laces were hidden beneath a massive Velcro midfoot strap, and the ankle was stabilized by a “leash” that could either float free or connect to the tongue. Performance-wise, the Air Jordan 20 (XX) utilized a new system called “IPS” (Independent Podular Suspension), which was exactly what it said: independent suspension for your feet delivered via a series of columns spread throughout the midsole. Sort of a full-length, more finely tuned (and hidden) Shox system. The outsole pattern mimicked motorcycle tires, another of Jordan’s passions, while reflective material both paid tribute to the Air Jordan 5 (V) and added some much-needed flash.
While the Air Jordan 20 was worn plenty on NBA
courts—it was first and foremost a perfectly functional basketball shoe—it’s remembered more for the tale it told than any of its performance characteristics. When Tinker first started designing signature shoes, his intention was to infuse each shoe with the athlete’s personality and DNA, and with the Air Jordan 20 he achieved this on the highest level. The Air Jordan 20 was a once-in-a-lifetime shoe for a once-in-a-lifetime athlete. Never to be repeated.