IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve started doing some writing for Dime Magazine — itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really sort of a full-circle kind of thing, since they were the first publication that ever let me write anything way back almost a decade ago. I lost touch with them for a while while I pursued some other things, but I always enjoyed checking in to see how they were evolving, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m excited to have recently gotten back in touch.
The post below is the second piece I wrote for Dime; this one was the first. (I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t plan to write about Michael Jordan in every post, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just how itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worked out so far.) Check out their web site, they have great content every single day. And IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m excited, as always, to broaden my horizons a bit.
The thing people donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get about sneaker collectors is that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s often not about the sneakers themselves, but rather the stories behind them. You always remember your first pair of Jordans in eighth grade, or the sneakers you started college in, or the pair you got to celebrate getting a job you really wanted.
Nearly 20 years after I got those first gleaming white Cardinal VIIs, the magic of lacing up a fresh pair still hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t faded. If anything, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been bolstered by a growing sense of nostalgia; the sneakers you love bring you back to another time in your life when they were prominent, either on your feet or in general.
This gets to the heart of NikeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inherent marketing genius with the Jordan brand: Michael simply wearing the sneakers through the years. The ad campaigns have of course always been fantastic, but as his resume built, JordanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s career timeline itself became the best selling point. To this day, collectors mindful of basketball history are drawn to Flu Games, or Last Shots, or Space Jams Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or even the original Banned 1s, as that initial ad wizardry continues to pay dividends nearly 30 years later.
Along those lines, I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think twice when Jordan re-released the Bordeaux VII back in the spring, despite never having owned a pair. One look at the above photo, a Bordeaux-clad Michael Jordan going one-on-one with Michael Jackson while making the Jam music video, and that was that. I bought them at midnight on release day, and broke them out for the first time this past week, when Jackson would have turned 53.
The picture itself is one of those entertainment/sports hybrid works of art reminiscent of Muhammad Ali punching out the Beatles in Miami, or any picture of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s staggering to think how much talent there is between Jackson and Jordan, the most prominent entertainer and the greatest athlete Ã¢â‚¬â€œ both pop culture icons nearly without peer in the American mainstream and abroad.
After all, who was on their level in the early 90Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s in terms of worldwide recognizability? Bush and Clinton, Saddam Hussein and Gorbachev, probably Madonna, and a fictional Bart Simpson. I think thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s it, at least until O.J.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s mad dash to notoriety. (Feel free to add a few more. I considered but decided against Tom Cruise and Whitney Houston.)
Back before the Internet, when the music video was far more relevant and prevalent than it is now, the premiere of a new Michael Jackson video was a cultural event. They premiered Black or White, Remember the Time and Jam after episodes of The Simpsons, and it was all anyone at school would talk about the next day. (There was no Twitter to make things obsolete nearly as soon as they happened.)
Despite the participants, the video itself is actually relatively underwhelming. Jam isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a terrible song, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not even one of the best on Dangerous — which wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exactly Off the Wall or Thriller. But considering the talent at work here, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like saying Clyde DrexlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good, but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not quite Jordan. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just that Jam has a very early 90Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s vibe, while most of his music is timeless; youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d expect it would be right at home in the soundtrack for White Men CanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Jump, but that isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t what you came to expect from Michael Jackson.
This isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t to say the video doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have its share of classic moments. Jackson kicks things off by hurling a basketball from outside a gym through a window and directly into a basket; could the climax of Spike LeeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s He Got Game be an homage? That resulted in JordanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s trademark whimsical eyebrow raise toward the camera, one of his patented moves en route to melting the hearts and wallets of Middle America.
Heavy D made an appearance in Jam, rapping a brief and incongruous interlude while Jackson executes an exaggerated and fairly ridiculous Ã¢â‚¬â€œ intentionally so, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d have to assume Ã¢â‚¬â€œ gangsta lean.
Jackson also had Kris Kross in the video, and took them on tour with him. Kris KrossÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ time on top of the world didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t last long, but at that moment in time, every kid in my middle school had taken to wearing his pants backwards. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s much like how a modern-day Jay-Z will work with whoever has buzz at the moment Ã¢â‚¬â€œ witness Frank Ocean singing hooks on Watch The Throne. (Macaulay Culkin appearing in Black or White, and then weirdly becoming JacksonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best friend, was another example.)
The highlight of the video, of course, is Jackson attempting to teach Jordan how to dance, in return for basketball lessons. It all comes off quite surreal; Jackson looks so completely out of place playing any sport and almost certainly has little interest in doing so anyway, and for someone eternally graceful on a basketball court, Jordan dances like he has about 10 left feet.
But watching them awkwardly enter each otherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worlds nonetheless humanizes them both Ã¢â‚¬â€œ especially Jackson, who lets his guard down a bit despite being on the brink of becoming even more bizarre than he already was.
The two were, then and now, regarded as demigods in their respective arenas, men to emulate in terms of sheer talent, excellence and achievement. No less than Notorious B.I.G. famously lumped them together with Mike Tyson in rapping that he performs like Mike, any one.
The sentiment remains: 13 years after Victory, Jay-Z Ã¢â‚¬Å“paid tributeÃ¢â‚¬Â to BiggieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s iconic line as heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wont to do. (No shame in continuing to invoke Tyson, by the way Ã¢â‚¬â€œ heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a comedic figure now, but anyone who remembers what he was in his prime would understand.)
All these years later, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve witnessed Michael Jackson descend most of the way into madness, and then pass away. Jordan is pushing 50 and doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have nearly the aura he used to.
That said, while itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s doubtful Biggie had Jam in mind, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still significant simply in that we get to see them together. For a time, Jackson and Jordan, at the very height of their powers, were in the presence of greatness Ã¢â‚¬â€œ each otherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, and their own.
While Jam is mostly a footnote in the respective oeuvres of both men, it remains a precious time capsule Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and a worthy reason on its own to own a pair of Bordeauxs.