Retired? Michael Jordan
RETIRED? Fortunately, as sneakers go, the design of the Air Jordan 9 (Air Jordan IX) was already finished before Jordan made his shocking announcement in the fall of ’93, and the shoe dropped like any other Air Jordan. The simple upper harkened back to the Air Jordan 2 (and foreshadowed the Air Jordan 11), while the tech was closer to a stripped-down Air Jordan 8 crossed with the Air Jordan 7 (the Air Jordan 9 also featured an inner bootie). Speedlacing and a heeltab made them far easier to get on than their chunky predecessors, and a much more reasonable game shoe.
The inspiration for much of the detail — ironic since MJ was off playing minor-league baseball at the time— was Jordan’s global impact, which had become all too evident when the Dream Team ran roughshod over the world in Barcelona and were met with wild acclaim and extraordinary reverence even by their opponents. Messages in a variety of languages were inscribed in the outsoles, and, on the heel, the Jumpman covered the globe. That particular message needed no translation.
While Mike himself received a basic black and white cleated version in which to roam the outfield in Birmingham, the buying public was blessed with the usual Bulls
colors, along with a (for the first time since the Air Jordan 1) North Carolina inspired white and powder blue. While not necessarily intended as a college shoe per se, the Carolina IX did do away with the 23 on the heel, instead going with plain backs allowing players to fill in their own number. And there was also a black/olive pair that had no team allegiance whatsoever, which came out long before such muted lifestyle-based colors were popular. It was met with indifference (and landed in outlets), as was the first retro—good luck finding a pair that wasn’t dyed all black.