Several weeks ago, basketball and footwear royalty Michael Jordan celebrated his 50th birthday in Houston during the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) annual All-Star Weekend. Yes, the man we know as His Airness is that old. Wasn’t it just yesterday when he entertained us with his gravity-defying, buzzer-beating, tongue-wagging, Gatorade-chugging presence? Celebrities, athletes and entertainers alike came in droves at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts to party with the icon many consider to be the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) and to witness the official release of his latest sneaker, the Air Jordan XX8.
Almost 10 years after his last game, it seems MJ still hasn’t left the building because he is still the benchmark for superstars in the NBA and remains ever present in the sneaker game with his line of Air Jordans. The former North Carolina and Chicago Bulls star put Nike on the map 29 years ago and transformed the swoosh brand into the world’s top supplier of athletic shoes and apparel. Elite athletes like Jordan inspire designers to create the most advanced footwear that will help them perform better in their respective sports. Here are some of the most sophisticated shoes produced:
Nike Vapor Laser Talon
Have you been watching the National Football League’s (NFL) Scouting Combine? If you have, then you’ve probably noticed some of the hopefuls rocking new yellow cleats from Nike, the Vapor Laser Talon. Weighing just 5.6 ounces, these cleats were made using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), a technology which uses high-powered lasers to selectively fuse small materials into a desired solid shape. SLS technology allows Nike to make cleats faster while reducing the overall weight. In a sport where speed is supreme, the new 3D printed plate is designed to help NFL players accelerate faster on the field, increasing their chances of getting the block or a sack. It is also possible for SLS to be used to develop new running and soccer shoes, so that is something to watch out for in the future.
In 1985, the first Air Jordan was banned by NBA Commissioner David Stern because it didn’t conform to the league’s "dress code." In 2010, 25 years after MJ’s first signature kicks were outlawed (the ban was subsequently lifted, allowing His Airness to claim his throne as king of the sneaker game), the NBA imposed a ban on Concept 1, a basketball shoe created by Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL), which claims that it can increase a player’s vertical leap by three inches or more. The ban on the shoe essentially confirms that it works. Concept 1 looks like a regular basketball shoe, but a closer look at the forefoot reveals the patented Load N’ Launch technology. It’s a metal spring embedded inside plastic designed to capture the maximum amount of energy that you generate when you exert pressure on the forefoot, and releasing the energy when you jump to increase your vertical leap. Tests conducted by APL show that 11 out of 12 participants instantly jumped higher when they used Concept 1, which somehow justifies its $300 price tag.
The Air Jordan XX8
The Jordan Brand has consistently produced some of the most revolutionary basketball sneakers in history. The first Air Jordan ushered in a new era in basketball shoes in terms of aesthetic appeal and performance. The Air Jordan XX8, the lightest and most tested Jordan sneaker to date, raised some eyebrows with its unconventional design for a basketball shoe because it looks more like a boot. Why a shoe that’s almost eight inches taller than most basketball shoes? "With the ongoing evolution of the game shoe, I encouraged our entire function to push the boundary when it comes to design, technology and performance," says co-designer Tinker Hatfield. The XX8 pushes the performance limits of a basketball shoe, providing maximum responsiveness, support and traction. At $250, most people would probably think twice before calling Nike’s business phone number to inquire about the shoe, but the Jordan brand says those who cop a pair will not be disappointed.