Things weren’t looking great in 1987 for the relationship between Nike and Michael Jordan after MJ had missed 64 games due to a foot injury. The designer of the first two Air Jordans, Peter Moore, had abruptly left for adidas and Nike employees were hearing that Michael may follow him to the exit doors. With not much time to prepare, a green sneaker designer named Tinker Hatfield was tasked with designing the Air Jordan 3 to appease MJ.
Jordan arrived four hours late to the design meeting, apparently out golfing and having to be convinced by his father to show up. Tinker had previously tailed Jordan in Chicago, noting Mike’s attention to detail when picking out a suit. This led Hatfield to believe that Michael should have more input into designs and really own his brand. Enter the Jumpman logo; a Jordan Brand signifier for greatness for years to come. That logo along with a stern talking to from Jordan’s dad convinced MJ to stay with Nike.
The Air Jordan 3 originally featured exotic elephant print panels to draw the eyes and to appease Michael’s request for animal patterns on his shoes. The Nike Air on the heel was placed to make Nike execs happy to have brand awareness, while the visible Air unit also showed how cushioned the shoe would be.
This AJ3 translated on and off the courts in 1988, with the legendary Mars Blackmon commercials providing an added cool factor for basketball fans.
On the court, MJ soared figuratively and literally. Jordan took home his second straight dunk contest win in a showdown with Dominique Wilkins in the AJ3. More importantly, Michael would have his first winning season with the Chicago Bulls on his way to his first NBA MVP award for the 1987-88 season.