Today in Sneaker History marks the re-return of Michael Jordan to the NBA. To the surprise and dismay (of some) Mike decided to lace ’em up for one last run without wearing a Bulls uniform. Being a savvy business man, Jordan invested as a minority owner with the Washington Wizards in 2000 after his last go-around with the Bulls, and also served as President of Basketball Operations. The surreality of MJ being associated with another basketball team really threw the public for a loop; his status as the GOAT was firmly cemented so his decision to return to the game (in any fashion) was odd after retiring just three years prior. Ultimately Michael’s a competitor and needs to be challenged. His basketball drive wasn’t satisfied with sitting in the front office of the Wizards so on September 25, 2001 MJ announced his return back to the hardwood as a Washington Wizard. The 38 year old’s return presented many questions for NBA fans and analysts. “Can he still play? Why’s he doing this? “Can Michael keep up?”
In short: “21 ppg average. Because he wanted to. Not like he used to, but better than most.”
A lot had changed; one of the most obvious changes came to the colors of Jordan’s footwear. Gone were the days of red, black and white – the iconic colorways we were accustomed faded into the past and we replaced by blue, white and black; literal color polar opposites. Don’t get it twisted though, Jordan Brand didn’t miss a beat in terms of shoe design and execution during MJ’s tenure as a Wizard. Building off of the success of the Air Jordan XVI JB sought to outfit Michael with the pinnacle of performance while remaining true to the line’s legacy of story telling. The Wilson Smith III design paired technology (Tuned Air, carbon fiber shank, TPU heel stabilizer) with music (the shoe such heavy influence from jazz that music notes appear across the lace caps) resulting in a look that crams substance within an elegant overall package. The XVII’s most noticeable feature is the full shroud covering the upper; shrouds would continue to be a theme for the next to entries into the line too.
Three versions of the XVII released in 2002, the original shrouded joints, a low-top pair with a sock-like bootie and the “+” that ditched the shroud but retained the mid-top cut. From a materials standpoint, the XVII used leather throughout the upper (except the nubuck CDPs from 2008) and left the heel open for variation like the croc printed ‘Coppers’. In 2016 fans were treated to a traditionally ‘Bulls’ colorway of the XVII and a faithful retro of the Metallic Coppers. Peep some pics of various XVIIs and count your blessings if you had the change to see MJ hoop again with the Wizards. It might not have been the Jordan of lure but it was Jordan non-the-less! Yes, we know Michael played two seasons with the Wizards and laced up the XVIII’s during his last season, but we’ll save that season for another day ;).