A Look Back Review: Nike Air Jordan II

Nike Air Jordan II

It’s really mind-boggling and even comical when you refresh your memory of just how ridiculously easy Michael Jordan used to make the game look.  Many former players and coaches preach about how hard a player must work to adapt and thrive at the NBA level and while I’m sure they are speaking nothing but the absolute truth, MJ shattered all preconceived notions about how much time one requires to achieve the adjustment.  Clearly, two years was more than sufficient to give his Airness an idea of what it was going to take for him to flourish.

If you thought Kobe Bryant’s scoring average of 35.4 ppg in the 2005-2006 season was amazing, Michael scorched the league for an average of 37.1 every time he took the court.  Just to put that in perspective, it took Kobe nine years to reach that scoring mark, but Jordan did it in only his third NBA season.  Oh and by the way, he would also average over 30 points per game for the next six seasons.  Isn’t the game supposed to be hard?  Yes, but he was just that damn good.

'Eminem' colorway.

After wearing the Nike Air Jordan I for his first two years in the Association, designer Bruce Kilgore was handed with the burdensome task of designing MJ’s second signature shoe.  Now, you’re probably asking yourself why that assignment would even be a burden.  In his sophomore season, Michael appeared in only 18 contests because three games into the schedule, he fractured a bone in his left foot.  To Nike’s dismay, his feet were suited in the Jordan I when he incurred the injury.

With a sense of urgency being felt throughout Phil Knight’s still premature sportswear empire, Kilgore, whose major claim to sneaker immortality is the mega-iconic Nike Air Force I, drew his inspiration from a rather unorthodox source – a 19th century Italian boot for women.  Even designing and producing the shoes directly in Italy, Bruce created a basketball sneaker that was geared towards providing MJ with a pair of kicks that were going to protect his feet much more adequately, but not at the expense of ground-breaking style.

The upper on the original II’s were composed of a high quality Italian leather that even mocked lizard skin on portions of the side panels.  In contrast to the Air Jordan I, these sneakers featured a much thicker midsole with a full-length Air-Sole unit enclosed within.  The attention to injury prevention was clearly addressed as the shoe had much more cushion and forefoot support whereas the I’s mainly accommodated heel stability.  The Air Jordan II was also the first pair of signature kicks to ditch Nike’s world-renowned Swoosh logo, rather opting for the “AIR” badge on the heel collar.  Also, MJ’s Jumpman logo had not yet been created as Nike repeated the use of his classic Wings logo on the the fat tongue.  To get an idea of just how much of a priority safety was, we can also see a high and thick ankle collar that has three eyelets for maximum protection.

Yes, I do have wings.

Since their original 1986 release when they sold for $105 retail, the II’s were released as Retros in 1994 and again in 2004.  One interesting note about these sneakers is that they are the only pair of Jordans that never had an original release in a primarily black colorway, which there is still no solid explanation for.

The very first pairs released for sale came in a White/Red/Black colorway.  Subsequent Retros were produced in Black/Silver and even special editions such as the ‘Melo’ White/Carolina Blue/Varsity Maize and the ‘Eminem’ Black/Grey/Varsity Red (with lyrics printed).  There have even been low-top versions released as well.

Although the Air Jordan II isn’t as highly coveted as some of Michael’s other signature kicks from his legendary line, it does in fact stand out as one of the most unique given its Italian inspired design.  Don’t forget to peep the old school commercial for the II’s below that gives a new meaning to “hang time”, even for MJ.

[Original Release: 1986; Players: Michael Jordan / Juwan Howard (Retro) / Quentin Richardson (Retro)]

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Available at Footlocker – $134.99


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