10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Air Jordan 6

  • Accolades

    Jordan won first NBA championship / First FInals MVP award / Fifth scoring title / Second MVP award while wearing AJ6

    The Air Jordan 6’s legacy is defined by Michael Jordan’s first NBA Finals victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. The 1990-91 season saw Jordan lead the Bulls to 61 wins, win his second MVP award, earn his fifth straight scoring title, and be named to both the First Team All-NBA and First Team All-Defensive Team. While the 6 isn’t as widely regarded as the 1, 2, 3, 4, or 11, the 6 marked MJ’s transition from an incredible individual player to a champion.

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  • Little Richard starred in AJ6 commercial

    Little Richard, he of “Tutti-Frutti” fame, is just about the last person you would expect to be associated with basketball sneakers. But, like they always do, Nike made it work. Starring in the Air Jordan 6 commercial, alongside longtime Jordan collaborator Spike Lee, Little Richard appeared as a genie wearing one of one pointy-toe Nikes. The singer, who had no known affiliation with hoops, played the role perfectly and grants the 5-0 nothin’ Spike his wish by turning him into Mike himself.

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  • Wore AJ6 while hitting 13 straight field goals in 1991 NBA Finals

    Unsurprisingly, Jordan won his first NBA title in spectacular fashion, averaging an incredible 31.2 points, 11.4 assists, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. In Game 2 of the ‘91 Finals against the Lakers, Jordan came out flat and only scored two points in the first 20 minutes of the game. Fortunately for the Bulls, the superstar’s cold streak didn’t last and MJ went on to hit his next 13 shots in a row and led the Bulls to a 107-86 victory to tie up the series at one game apiece.

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  • The first, the original

    The AJ6 was the first Jordan to be retroed for the Olympics and premiered on the 2000

    edition of SLAM’s Kicks

    While Jordan never wore the AJ6 during the Olympics (that distinction went to the AJ7 in 1992), the bigwigs at Jordan decided against retroing the 7 for the 2000 Olympics and went with the 6 instead. The Olympic 6 was a landmark sneaker as it marked the first time Jordan retroed a sneaker for the Olympics.

    Back in 2000, SLAM’s yearly edition of Kicks was the go-to for exclusive sneaker news and upcoming releases. On the cover of SLAM’s third issue of Kicks, alongside Kobe Bryant with a perhaps ironic headline, “Unlike Mike,” was the world premiere of the Olympic 6. Unfortunately, Vince Carter wasn’t wearing them when he dunked over Frederic Weis. Jordan Brand brought back the Olympic 6 for the 2012 Summer Games and it remains one of the top 6 colorways.

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  • Air Jordan 6
    "Butchered" AJ6

    Sneakerheads and collectors were up in arms in 2000 when images of the Retro 6 sample began to leak online. The Jordan designers made a small change and decided to switch the midsole colors from black to red and those who saw the sample pictures claimed that Jordan was butchering a classic. The response was intense enough that Nike didn’t make a full release of the design, but “Butchered” 6s do pop up every now and then and one sold for over $5,000 on eBay in 2013.

    image via ebay user lilshk54321

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  • Air Jordan 6
    Nike "Swoosh" vs. Jumpman

    The 2010 retro AJ6 saw the Nike “Swoosh” replaced with the Jumpman logo

    One of the aspects of retro Jordans are the little changes Jordan makes to the original release. For the 2010 Jordan 6 release, Jordan replaced the iconic Nike “Swoosh” logo on the heel with the equally iconic “Jordan” logo. Though the change was subtle and hardly recognizable from afar due to the black-on-black colorway, sneaker enthusiasts went back and forth with each other over the change as it further distanced itself from the original look of the 6. That trend has continued in subsequent releases.

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  • Michael Jordan
    "Give me the pain"

    After he hurt his foot in Game 2 of the ’91 NBA Finals, Nike offered to give MJ a new shoe. He responded with “give me the pain.”

    Jordan was known for playing and coming through in the big moment, no matter what physical pain was ailing him. After hurting his foot during an epic Game 2 performance in the 1991 Finals, execs at Nike asked Jordan if he would like to wear a more protective sneaker. Whether it was superstition, brand loyalty, or just not caring, Jordan stuck with the 6 and reportedly told Nike, “Give me the pain.” He didn’t want to stop playing in his signature shoe.

    image via Complex

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  • Air Jordan 6
    Michael Jordan was hands-on in the design

    Tinker Hatfield’s first Jordan design was the Jordan 3 so by the Jordan 4, Hatfield and MJ had a nice working relationship. For the 6, Jordan specifically stated that he wanted the sneaker to have a clean toe so Tinker designed the 6 with toe reinforcement — the first sneaker in the Jordan line to have the feature. With numerous complaints coming in about the Jordan 5 collecting dust and causing consumers to slip while on the court, Hatfield added a more solid rubber on the sole of the sneaker to fix the problem. MJ also didn’t want the heel tab to hit his Achilles’ tendon while he was playing and the 6 was the first sneaker to have a molded structure on the back.

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  • Comfort

    The two holes in the tongue and loop on the back were designed by Tinker so MJ could get the shoe on easier.

    One of the only qualms MJ reportedly had with Jordan’s 1-5 was the difficulty in putting on each respective shoe. For the 6, Tinker Hatfield added two large holes to the tongue and a loop on the back — which he called a “spoiler” — to make the sneaker easier to put on. Not only did the new features aid in being able to slip the kicks on, they added a unique flair that makes the 6 standout amongst the other models in the line.

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  • Switch hands

    One of MJ’s most famous shots happened while he was wearing the AJ6.

    The amount of big shots and dunks Jordan had during his career is endless. At the top of the list, though, are only three that can be considered the true top three of all time: The jumper over Craig Ehlo in the 1989 Playoffs; the stepback jumper against the Jazz in the 1998 Finals; and the “I’m gonna go up for a dunk, oh shoot, there’s Sam Perkins, let me switch hands in mid-air” layup against the Lakers in the ‘91 Finals. The acrobatic layup goes down as one of Jordan’s most impressive baskets ever and he did it while wearing the 6, further adding to the legacy of the underrated sneaker.

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  • Michael Jordan
  • Little Richard
  • Michael Jordan
  • Air Jordan 6 "Butchered"
  • Air Jordan 6 "Infrared"
  • Michael Jordan
  • Air Jordan 6
  • Michael Jordan

The 1990-1991 season marked a turning point in Michael Jordan’s career. While he had been racking up individual accolades, MJ had not yet won his first NBA title and the clock was ticking. To put an end to all talk of him not being able to get over the hump, Jordan put together one of the best seasons of his career and led the Bulls to the franchise’s first NBA championship over Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers. The FInals victory began Jordan’s first three-peat with the Bulls and launched his career to new heights.

BUY NOW: Champs Sports

Twenty-three years later, the Jordan Brand is releasing the “Sport Blue” OG retro version of the Jordan 6 at Champs Sports — the shoes MJ wore on his feet when he won his first ring. Though not as mainstream as some of the other sneakers in the Jordan line, the 6 is as important as any other sneaker MJ ever wore due to the milestones he reached in 1991. To celebrate the release of the Sport Blue 6, here are a few facts, quirks, and eccentricities about the Air Jordan 6 that you probably didn’t know.

Follow Peter on Twitter at @Peter_M_Walsh