The Air Jordan VIII’s place in history is undeniable: It was the sneaker worn by Michael Jordan as he completed his first Bulls three-peat, right before he traded his sneakers for cleats. It’s a significant sneaker with an unmistakable look — and it’s a bit of an enigma, even to its designer.
“The VIII was an explosion of design ideas,” Tinker Hatfield wrote in Driven From Within, “even to its detriment. It wasn’t one of my favorite shoes in the end, but it did resonate at the time because it reflected Michael. And it reflected where I was, too.”
Hatfield incorporated baroque design philosophy on the VIII, which put simply means there’s a lot going on. The defining characteristic is the crossover straps; also notable is the quilted Jumpman design on the tongue, as Hatfield continued to transition Jordan Brand into its own distinct entity. It’s absolutely a classic, but it’s not for everyone.
Arguably the pre-eminent Jordan collector, the Michigan-based Bostic’s vaunted “Basement of the J’s” houses nearly 900 pairs. As a result of his incredible collection and extensive knowledge, he has connected with kindred spirits far and wide, with his rolodex including luminaries like Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and former NBA player Fred Jones.
“To me, I get everything out of Jordan Brand,” said Bostic, whose recent dalliance with two pairs of Nike KDs were his first non-Jordans worn outside the house in more than 30 years. “They have the trainers, they have casual shoes, they have dress shoes and boots. They have performance shoes, football, basketball, baseball, everything all in one.
“I have people say I’m closed-minded, that I’m not a true sneaker person because all I have is one brand. I just say that brand simply does it for me. That’s all I can say.”
To celebrate this Saturday’s release of the Air Jordan VIII “Three Time’s a Charm” at Champs Sports, we caught up with JumpmanBostic, who told us why M.J.’s eighth sneaker is No. 1 in his book. This is Sneaker Confessionals: @JumpmanBostic on Why the Air Jordan 8 Is the Best Sneaker Ever.
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At the time the Air Jordan VIII came out, I was playing semi-pro ball down in Tijuana and Mexico City. I played at the University of San Diego, and once my college career was over, I had a free-agent tryout with the Nets. There were 500 people my height, 6-4, and I really didn’t get a look. Luckily, there was a scout there from the Mexican professional league who gave me a chance, so I played over there.
I was one of the only players in Mexico wearing Jordans. I rocked all of them from the IIIs to the VIIIs when I was playing down there. Everybody loved the shoes, and for some strange reason, everybody thought I looked like him. To be honest, I tried to mock my game after his, plus I wore the wristband on the left arm and had a bald head.
Jordan hit that spectacular move on the Lakers wearing the VI, and then he hit those three-pointers with the VIIs on against Portland. But his best Finals was against Phoenix in the VIIIs. He averaged 41 points, just going off, and that’s why I call them the “Great Eights.” When people wear them, they’ve actually started calling them that on social media.
This was the first shoe with the Jumpman on the tongue of the shoe; it was the defining moment where Jordan Brand started to break away from the Swoosh. There wasn’t any Nike on the bottom of the shoe, or anything like that. That quilted tongue is when the Jumpman started taking over.
The first Air Jordan VIII I picked up was the Bugs Bunny — the Chicago colorway, the first one. The paintbrush marks on the outsole and around the midsole were what originally attracted me to the shoe, but the straps are what really got me. I never actually strap my straps, I’ve always felt comfortable and felt that they looked better unfastened. I used to love hearing the click-clack of the straps when I ran.
I’ve never met anybody else who claims the VIIIs are their favorite. A lot of people didn’t like the shoe; they thought it was heavy and they didn’t like the straps. It contained a full-length Air sole, and it had the Huarache sockliner to keep your foot in place. So it was using technology that hadn’t been out before, it just wasn’t a shoe that people liked looking at. But to wear that shoe and play in that shoe? It was just as comfortable as could be; the VIII was actually called “the Punisher” because of the advanced support and traction.
I don’t have any player edition VIIIs, but I met Fred Jones in Indianapolis at a sneaker show. He told me he was going to send me a pair, and I’m still checking the mail! He’s become a good friend of mine, and he knows Jeremy Guthrie as well. There have been some professional athletes that I’ve connected with, and they’ve seen my collection and respect the fact that I don’t resell the shoes.
In terms of sneakers that jump out at me recently, I like the Air Jordan XX9. I played in a pair that I actually received from Champs Sports, and it was a really comfortable shoe. That’s a true basketball shoe to me; I like the design and technology. I think the XX8s and XX9s are perfectly suited to the court, compared to the retros, which are obviously mostly intended for casual wear.
I’m really looking forward to all of the VIIIs that are coming out. The “Three Time’s a Charm” VIIIs, with the color combination of the three teams that they beat for those first three championships, that brings a lot of memories back to certain games and spectacular moments within those series. I have the Chromes, I have the Aquas, but you can never have too many VIIIs. I just love that model … that’s my model.