To kick off every new season, NBA teams will take time to honor great players by retiring their jerseys, raising them to the rafters of the stadium to show respect, and also celebrate their legacy. On November 1, 21 years ago today, Michael Jordan’s jersey was retired by the Chicago Bulls.
It’s safe to say that most people were still shocked that the greatest NBA player of all time would choose to give up the game, and of course, there are those that believe it was all a conspiracy. Regardless of the actual reasoning or what team you cheered for, MJ leaving shook up the entire sports world.
Of course, we all know MJ returned to the NBA with the infamous “I’m Back” letter, but what if he hadn’t? What impact would it have had on the game of basketball? Or more importantly for us, sneakers?!? There is no doubt Michael Jordan and his sneakers are the most important part of sneaker history. You’d have a hard time finding anyone (aside from maybe Knicks fans) that wasn’t fascinated by MJ and his shoes that grew up during that era.
Take a look at The Iconic Moments That May Have Never Been and let us know what your favorite MJ memory is.
Air Jordan 1s at Madison Square Garden
Some of the greatest memories for most Jordan fans came with MJ in New York City against the New York Knicks. “The world’s biggest stage” is often where Michael Jordan stepped it up to unbelievable levels. For his “final” game at Madison Square Garden, MJ laced up a pair of Jordan 1s.
There Would Be No Air Jordan 11
The Jordan 11 has a personal connection to nearly everyone. Think six degrees of separation, that Kevin Bacon thing, and it’s possible, everyone in the world can be connected to a story around the Jordan 11.
There Would Be No “Last Shot”
While nobody ever asks why 1998 was the only year MJ wore both the current and upcoming models of his Jordan shoes, it was likely the one thing that kept the Air Jordan 14 relevant to sneakerheads. It was also one of the most special moments in NBA history unless of course, you are a Utah Jazz fan. In that case, we’re sorry.
Players Would Not Be Wearing Jordans
Sure, a handful of players in the NBA wore Jordans before MJ’s first retirement, but it wasn’t until the late 90s that players wearing Jordans became an everyday sight on the court. Not to mention, retros like the Cool Grey 11 worn by guys like Reggie Miller and Ray Allen probably would have never hit the hardwood.
Sneaker Stores Would Not Exist The Way They Do Now
You can easily understand that without Jordans after the Air Jordan 8, places like Flight Club or RIF LA could not survive. But the impact of Jordan Retros is even bigger than that. Companies like Foot Locker and other chain stores depend on Jordan Retro product to stay in business; in fact, some retailers would lose upwards of 70% of their business if there weren’t retro models.
The Incredible Commercials
The commercials for Air Jordans have always been an important part of the sneakers and if MJ never returned from retirement, Jordan commercials would have never evolved into the inspiration that they are today. Remember, up until his first retirement, Jordan commercials were mostly funny and featured Spike Lee.
Nick Engvall is a sneaker enthusiast with over 15 years of experience in the footwear business. He has written for publications such as Complex, Sole Collector, and Sneaker News, helped companies like Eastbay, Finish Line, Foot Locker, StockX, and Stadium Goods better connect with their consumers, has an addiction to burritos and Sour Patch Kids, and owns way too many shoes for his own good.