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Purple Craze: The Air Jordan XI “Concord” Arrives At Midnight

If you’re a sneakerhead, you’ve had tonight at midnight circled on your calendar for months. It’s not every year the Air Jordan XI “Concord” comes out – in fact, it’s pretty much not every decade. Though the Concords are not a limited release, they’ll sell out in mere minutes online, and however many pairs exist will probably sell out in most areas before Friday is over.

Copping Concords in the past has proved somewhat treacherous. Back when they were first released, you heard stories of people getting robbed for their Jordans – which isn’t necessarily unheard of today. In addition, when last year’s Cool Grey 11s released, there were reports of riots and such at malls – and the Concords are far more hyped than the Cool Greys.

So what is it exactly that makes the Concord so coveted? A little of everything, really.

For one, they haven’t been available in stores for quite some time. The Concords were originally released in 1995 and were retroed in 2000, and haven’t been seen since. (The black/white version of the 11s in the Defining Moments pack in January 2006 had gold accents and black soles, rather than Concord purple.) Heretofore, if you wanted a pair of Concords, you had to get a well-preserved pair of the ones released in 2000, which proves costly.

Besides that, the shoe was a trailblazer. Plenty of sneakers use patent leather now, but the Jordan XIs were the first. It’s a testament to Michael Jordan‘s eternal cool factor that he made basketball sneakers with patent leather – previously restricted to tuxedo shoes or women’s pumps – not only viable, but valuable.

For that matter, Nike designer Tinker Hatfield recalled Jordan predicting people would wear XIs with suits and tuxes. Even among sneakerheads, it’s a polarizing notion, but it has been known to happen, for better or worse.

This all speaks to the sheer beauty of the sneaker from a design perspective. It’s not just the patent leather, it’s the heavy-duty nylon and icy blue soles – both of which do tend to yellow over time, but all that shimmers is sure to fade. It’s the stylized 23 on the back, and the elegant black Jumpman insignia simultaneously standing out and perfectly blending in. If you don’t think it’s a magnificent sneaker, you either don’t really get sneaker culture, or you’re a contrarian. It’s not a matter of taste, it’s a matter of fact.

However, the main selling point for the booming Jordan retro market is Jordan himself having worn them during significant moments of his career. Even today, Jordan is his own best advertisement, stirring the pot a bit more by being photographed in Concords lows two days prior to the re-release.

The real subliminal advertising, as always, is what Jordan accomplished while wearing them. Besides the classic television ad with Jordan dunking on a thousand-foot rim, he led the Bulls to a record 72 wins in 1995-96. Jordan also won both MVP and Finals MVP honors and averaged over 30 points per game for the final time.

“The XI represented another new beginning,” said Jordan in his 2005 book, Driven From Within. “We were coming off a bad year where I had left baseball and we flopped in the playoffs. They said I was too old. The same focus Tinker took into designing that shoe, I took into the summer and then right into the next season.”

It wasn’t just Jordan wearing them, of course. As if the Georgetown-era Allen Iverson needed to be any cooler, the Concords were arguably just as notorious on his feet as they were on Jordan’s. Kobe Bryant wore them, as did Busta Rhymes. While a senior at Duke in ’01, I dug Nate James blurring Duke/Carolina lines while playing on a title team. Just a week ago, Chris Paul showed up in L.A. wearing a fresh pair. I could go on and on, and it’s all just another brick in the wall.

As you might have expected by now, I have a high level of critical bias. I’ve always wanted a pair of Concords, but I was in college with not a lot of cash flow for the 2000 retros, and I tried but missed out on the DMPs. I didn’t want to take any chances this time; I have a pair coming from a store in France and another from England. (I’m just hoping I don’t get nailed too bad with customs fees.)

For people who want to grab a pair tonight or tomorrow, here are (in my opinion) the best ways to do it:

1. Follow the @nikestore Twitter account; barring technical difficulties, they’ll tweet out the purchase link at midnight ET sharp. Other retailers will have the Concords too, such as Eastbay and the NBA Store, but Nike’s web site is the most reliable and the least likely to crash.

2. Head out a few hours early for a midnight or early-morning release at Nike, Foot Locker or House of Hoops stores. But given the hype involved with these, I’d only do this if you live in a relatively safe area and/or go with a decent group of friends.

3. As I elected to do, take your chances overseas, though you do have to deal with the possibility of customs fees and slow, expensive shipping. Caliroots is one known-to-be-legit European site selling the Concords tonight for 149 Euros, which equals 194 American dollars, not a whole lot more than the $180 retail price. If you go this route, take a few minutes on Google to make sure the site actually deals in non-fake sneakers.

Follow Bryan on Twitter at @SportsAngle.

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