Throwback Thursday: Michael Jordan’s Greatest Playoff Sneaker Moments
By Drew Hammell
The NBA Playoffs are well underway, and plenty of players are bringing the sneaker heat right out of the gate. When it comes to all-time great sneaker moments, however, few compare to those of Michael Jordan. Year after year, MJ dominated on the court while wearing some of the most memorable sneakers ever. When it comes to reliving those moments, there are few who are more passionate than the OG Support Group (@ogsupportgroup). I asked a few of them to share their favorite Michael Jordan sneaker playoff moments. Please note: this is not an exhaustive list – only the moments that are most unforgettable to the members of this group.
Sean (@scollard23): When thinking about my favorite NBA playoff moments of all time, all of them include Michael Jordan. I was 11 years old when MJ entered the NBA in 1984, so I had the pleasure and privilege of witnessing his entire career. One of my all time favorite moments happened in the fifth and final game of the first round of the 1989 playoffs versus the Cavs. The Bulls were down one with 3 seconds left on the clock and facing elimination. An inbounds pass to MJ, the shot at the foul line on Ehlo…GOOD! The Bulls win! The image of MJ jumping in the air, pumping his fist in celebration, his teammates surrounding him, coach Doug Collins running through the crowd: unforgettable. I was jumping up and down right along with MJ! But the other image that is burned into my memory from that moment is the image of the black/cement Air Jordan IV MJ wore while hitting that shot. I NEEDED them. Initially it seemed like I would never be able to get them as they were sold out everywhere, however, a local retailer got a very late shipment and I was finally able to get a pair, which I still own today. Almost 29 years later, when I think of “The Shot” I immediately think of the black/cement Air Jordan IV.
Brian (@ogsneakernerd): There are so many iconic moments to choose from, but if you know MJ, you know some of his greatest moments came right after his biggest failures. Before “The Shot,” MJ missed the game winning free throws in Game 4. Just before the hand switch move in Game 2 of the 1991 Finals, MJ missed the game winning shot in Game 1. This leads me to my favorite playoff moment and my favorite sneaker. Michael Jordan’s performance in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals against the Pistons is one of the greatest of all time. MJ was incredible and did it all. Dunks, threes, assists, defense, etc. Playing mostly point guard, MJ was all over the place while also getting literally beaten down by the Jordan Rules. MJ, who typically kept his emotions in check, was visibly pumped up. Fist pumping and gesturing to the fans constantly. Taking the eventual champs to 7 games, it was clear that one man could carry a team on his back to the NBA Finals. This series was clearly the last step for MJ to reach the top and he made it known that he wasn’t about to lose again.
Zane (@inzanekicks): Personally for me, a defining moment that stands out is when the seconds ticked away to end Game 5 of the NBA Finals versus the Lakers in 1991. Michael would raise his fist in triumph as his teammates and fans swarmed around him. Even as the Bulls made their way into the locker room, he would keep his fist raised as champagne flowed endlessly among teammates celebrating the ultimate prize. His fist would only come down as he embraced the championship trophy while tears and sweat poured. With that, the Air Jordan VI would be given the distinction as the sneaker that MJ would win his first Championship in. As a Bulls fan to this day, the Black/Infrared VI will always take me back to that time.
Cory (@ijapino): One of my all time favorite moments is when Jordan caught fire in Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals against the Trail Blazers. The shoes he had on were the black/red VII, aka the “Playoffs.” They have also become commonly known as “The Shrug Games” (sorry newbs, these shall never be known as “Raptors”). The game started out with the Bulls and Blazers trading buckets. But soon, MJ found his niche. He began hoisting 3-pointers like they had always been part of his repertoire. By the time his fifth one sank, the roof was ready to blow. I remember jumping off the couch after each one. Then came his sixth. MJ sunk it just as he did the previous five. He didn’t pound his chest or throw up 3 fingers. He didn’t stare down Cliff Robinson. He turned to the camera and just shrugged. As if to say he didn’t even know what the hell was happening. Nobody knew. Well maybe Clyde did as he realized just how far apart he now was from MJ’s level. The black/red VII became mythical after that game. When you see or hear older folks get all hell bent whenever we see the term, “Raptors” it’s because the shoe has so much more meaning than sharing colors with an expansion team that didn’t even exist in 1992. The man, the game, and the moment made the shoes legendary.
Nick (@ogorbust): If I had to pick my favorite playoff game or moment, it would have to be the 1992 Playoffs versus the New York Knicks, Game Two. My parents scored tickets to the game! I remember so many emotions as we approached Chicago Stadium and the anticipation of seeing my idol in person. As Michael Jordan came out for pregame warm-ups, I was in shock and awe. There he was, my hero in front of my eyes. As the game got under way, MJ came out blazing as he scored 17 points in the first quarter and the Bulls didn’t look back. Chicago Stadium went nuts throughout the game. People always commented about how loud it was at the Madhouse, but experiencing it in person was unreal. Like Mike, I wore my Infrared 6’s to the game as MJ was burning up the court in the Playoff VII. Most people tie the Playoff VII to the Finals “Shrug Game,” but to me the shoe will always be the one I saw the GOAT dominate in versus the Knicks.
Drew (@nikestories): Seeing MJ in the Air Jordan XI for the first time in 1995 was definitely a memorable moment for me. Jordan returned to the NBA that year after a brief retirement, and though he had some incredible games, he was still shaking off the rust as well. The Bulls were getting all they could handle from the young upstart Orlando Magic in the Playoffs. In an incredible turn of events in Game 1, Jordan turned the ball over late in the game when the Magic’s Nick Anderson ran up from behind and forced the steal. Though it was strange to see Jordan and the Bulls end up losing to the Magic in that series, it was only motivation for them the next season. Jordan would wear those same XI’s (only with a 23 on the heel instead of a 45) in ’95-’96, and the Bulls would get their revenge on the Magic (MJ would be wearing a black/red colorway in that playoff series). The XI’s represent failure and redemption for MJ – a very challenging time in his career when he was able to overcome adversity and prove he was still the greatest player of all time.
Seth (@souliisole): “It is all over, the Chicago Bulls have won at the buzzer by a jump shot by Michael Jordan!” One of the all-time great NBA playoff moments: Jordan’s game-winning shot in Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Jazz. The ‘90s epitomized the height of vintage NBA basketball, an era characterized by some of the most forward-thinking, trendsetting, and iconic basketball sneakers ever made. I recall watching countless NBA on NBC telecasts which featured the game’s premier artist showcase his talent on the NBA hardwood canvas. The ‘97 playoffs proved to be one of the most memorable in history filled with multiple buzzer-beating, game-winning shots, the most iconic of which belongs to Jordan. The son of a single parent, I was given a strict set of “Jordan Rules” which forbade me from receiving more than one pair of sneakers for the entire year. I chose not to ask my Mom for a birthday gift earlier that year and instead waited until June to receive my gift: a pair of Jordan XII’s in the black/white/metallic silver colorway. An iconic silhouette, the Jordan XII is notable for being the first pair of Air Jordans to feature Zoom Air cushioning and remains one of the most popular models in the Air Jordan collection. The image of MJ hitting the shot and making a fist will remain an everlasting, timeless moment, forever synonymous with this sneaker. Money walks.
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