Pushing the envelope can be a blessing and a curse. The Air Jordan XX8, perhaps the most innovative and polarizing basketball sneaker in recent memory, cemented that the Jordan Brand is not satisfied to rest on its laurels and its retros. At the same time, it permanently raised stakes and expectations: What act could possibly follow the XX8?
The answer is to take what works, and build around it. At an invitation-only event in midtown Manhattan, the Jordan Brand rolled out the XX9 in style, with Michael Jordan himself bringing the new game shoe to the stage.
The sneaker gives off a bespoke-type theme hinted at by the teaser trailer’s theme of “Tailored for Flight.” Designed around its revolutionary flight plate pioneered in the XX8, the sneaker features a “flight web” upper that designer Tinker Hatfield said was weaved to specifically feel unique on the foot.
Jordan said Hatfield checks in with him to see what kind of clothes he’s wearing, what kind of car he’s driving, and then begins to build the sneaker over the course of two years. Hatfield added, “He’ll call me up in the middle of the night to bitch about it. … When someone buys an Air Jordan, they’re buying a part of Michael’s DNA.”
Their work has paid off. The sneaker looks clean, and the conditioning is the best in the game today, which Michael said will eventually extend to running and other sports shoes in the future. In terms of its benefit for the user, Jordan asked…
“Have you ever driven a Ferrari?”
Virtually nobody has, so he added that the heel-to-toe transition is as smooth as when you shift a Ferrari’s gears.
The big question, as posed by ESPN’s Michael Smith, is whether Jordan can step back on the court and drop 30 in it.
“My mind says that way,” Jordan said. “My body says, ‘Are you crazy?’”
Much more to come here at Dime.