When Worlds Collide: Michael Jordan & Michael Jackson

09.06.11 7 years ago 14 Comments
The thing people don’t get about sneaker collectors is that it’s often not about the sneakers themselves, but rather the stories behind them. You always remember your first pair of Jordans in eighth grade, or the sneakers you started college in, or the pair you got to celebrate getting a job you really wanted.

Nearly 20 years after I got those first gleaming white Cardinal VIIs, the magic of lacing up a fresh pair still hasn’t faded. If anything, it’s been bolstered by a growing sense of nostalgia; the sneakers you love bring you back to another time in your life when they were prominent, either on your feet or in general.

This gets to the heart of Nike’s inherent marketing genius with the Jordan Brand: Michael simply wearing the sneakers through the years. The ad campaigns have of course always been fantastic, but as his resume built, Jordan’s career timeline itself became the best selling point. To this day, collectors mindful of basketball history are drawn to Flu Games, or Last Shots, or Space Jams – or even the original Banned 1s, as that initial ad wizardry continues to pay dividends nearly 30 years later.

Along those lines, I didn’t think twice when Jordan re-released the Bordeaux VII back in the spring, despite never having owned a pair. One look at the above photo, a Bordeaux-clad Michael Jordan going one-on-one with Michael Jackson while making the “Jam” music video, and that was that. I bought them at midnight on release day, and broke them out for the first time this past week, when Jackson would have turned 53.

The picture itself is one of those entertainment/sports hybrid works of art reminiscent of Muhammad Ali punching out The Beatles in Miami, or any picture of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. It’s staggering to think how much talent there is between Jackson and Jordan, the most prominent entertainer and the greatest athlete – both pop culture icons nearly without peer in the American mainstream and abroad.

After all, who was on their level in the early-’90s in terms of worldwide recognizability? Bush and Clinton, Saddam and Gorbachev, probably Madonna, and a fictional Bart Simpson. I think that’s it, at least until O.J.‘s mad dash to notoriety.

Back before the Internet, when the music video was far more relevant and prevalent than it is now, the premiere of a new Michael Jackson video was a cultural event. They premiered “Black or White”, “Remember the Time” and “Jam” after episodes of “The Simpsons,” and it was all anyone at school would talk about the next day. (There was no Twitter to make things obsolete nearly as soon as they happened.)

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