Michael Jordan’s 8 Greatest Moments in the Air Jordan 8

  • Air Jordan 8 Bugs Bunny
    Smith and fessin’

    Perhaps even more than his otherworldly talents, what set Michael Jordan apart was the constant chip on his shoulder. Dating back to not making varsity as a high school sophomore, Jordan never failed to find inspiration via perceived slights, even if he had to fabricate one. That was the case with LaBradford Smith, a rookie with the then-Bullets who deigned to have a career game against Jordan, scoring 37 points.

    After the game, Jordan put the word out that Smith had taunted him, and M.J. promised to get all 37 points back in the first half the next time they played, which as luck would have it was the following night. In a rare instance, Jordan didn’t deliver; he had merely 36 in the first half.

    Years later, he would admit to USA Today that he completely made up Smith’s taunting for his own motivational purposes. One might consider that pathological, but it’s a perfect example of how he fueled the competitive drive that made him nearly unbeatable in his prime.

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  • @ballislife

    When I'm 64

    Jordan’s final year before his first retirement coincided with the rookie season of Shaquille O’Neal, the rare player who could actually compete with him both on and off the court. The congenial, backboard-shattering giant was a credible alternative — the Reebok to his Nike, the Pepsi to his Gatorade.

    It goes to follow that M.J. would bring his absolute best against the Orlando sensation. In January 2003, Jordan scored 64 points, second only to his 69 against the Cavs in 1990. But O’Neal more than held his own with 29 points and 24 rebounds, leading the Magic to an upset victory in overtime. “Sixty-four points doesn’t mean a thing,” Jordan mused, “when you lose.”

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  • Michael Jordan Air Jordan 8 Bugs Bunny Marvin the Martian
    Buggin' Out

    The first colorway of the Air Jordan 8 wasn’t called the Bugs Bunnies just because the overlapping straps resembled rabbit ears. Longtime friends M.J. and Bugs matched wits with Marvin the Martian in this memorable commercial, which if we’re being honest, was a little too busy for our tastes. But the underlying theme resonated: The strength of Jordan’s carefully-cultivated persona was such that he could blend seamlessly into a cartoon, infiltrating living rooms and school recesses all over America.

    This ad, of course, was a precursor to the cult classic Space Jam, which made Jordan a full-fledged movie star.

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  • Charles Smith Knicks
    Block Party

    Fewer scenes resembled the Knicks futility at the hands of the 90’s-era Bulls than forward Charles Smith attempting to score at the end of Game 5 of the 1993 East Finals. Down a point, Patrick Ewing got the ball to Smith for a potential go-ahead layup with about 14 seconds left. In a recurring nightmare for Knicks fans, Smith went up again and again only to be blocked by both Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen, while Jordan did his part by reaching in to poke the ball away. Perhaps the Knicks should have gotten it to John Starks, given his heroics earlier in the series.

    Ultimately, the ball ended up in the hands of — who else? — Jordan, who capped his triple-double performance by laying it in as the buzzer sounded. Chicago proceeded to finish off a beaten Knicks team in Game 6, ending one of the best opportunities any team had to defeat Team Jordan at full strength.

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  • Michael Jordan
    Cover Boy

    During the 1993 East Finals, M.J. appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated driving on Knicks forward Anthony Mason while wearing a pair of Air Jordan 8’s — but then, this wasn’t uncharted territory for him. Jordan has been on a record 50 SI covers, 13 more than second-ranked Muhammad Ali, though not all have been entirely positive. (The “Bag It” cover earned the magazine a personal boycott.) If there’s anyone who can approach M.J.’s SI supremacy, it would be LeBron James, though he’s got a ways to go: As of this writing, LBJ has “merely” 20 covers under his belt.

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  • Air Jordan 8 Jumpmanbostic


    The "Other" Double-Nickel

    Everyone remembers the 55-point game in MSG, immortalized by a great commercial and a special pair of Air Jordan Xs last winter. But his Game 4 masterpiece against the Suns was the centerpiece of a magnificent NBA Finals in which he averaged 41 points. According to esteemed collector and friend of Champs Sports @JumpmanBostic, it was the absolute height of his powers:

    “To me, the first championship, Jordan hit that spectacular move on the Lakers wearing the (Air Jordan) VI. Then he hit those three-pointers with the VIIs on against Portland.”

    “Then, against Phoenix in the VIIIs, it was just his best Finals to me in the first three-peat. He was just going off, and that’s why I call them the ‘Great VIIIs.’”

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  • Air Jordan 8
    Trey Magnifique

    With 14 seconds left in Game 6 of the Finals, Jordan had scored all nine of Chicago’s fourth-quarter points. That’s why it was all the more striking when John Paxson — not Jordan — drilled the series-winning three-pointer off a kickout.

    That said, for a player known for individual achievement, Jordan has deferred to teammates at some of the most high-profile times. His pass to Bill Wennington clinched the double-nickel game at MSG, and he famously dished it to Steve Kerr to ice the 1997 NBA Finals. Sometimes, being a leader entails having the capability to trust your teammates. “Once Paxson got the ball,” Jordan said, “I knew it was over.”

    The moments following that first three-peat are incredibly poignant, as Jordan celebrated with his father for what would be the last time — at least in a physical sense. There’s no question he had his dad with him for his next championship three seasons later, won on Father’s Day.

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  • Air Jordan 8 PE Kobe Bryant


    Torch Swing

    We’re cheating a little bit here, considering Mike wasn’t the one actually wearing them, but this still warrants mentioning. About three weeks before Jordan wrapped up his magnificent career in 2003, he took the court against one of the would-be heirs to his throne, Lakers phenom Kobe Bryant. Wouldn’t you know it: Bryant wore a pair of Lakers-colored Air Jordan VIIIs. Jordan played well, scoring 23 points. But Kobe, fittingly, scored 55 — the proverbial double nickel. Jordan admitted postgame that Bryant “definitely has a share of the torch.”

    The events of that game demonstrated something that we already knew: Time waits for no man, and there’s always someone else waiting in the wings. A dozen years later, perhaps it’s Kobe’s turn to take that wisdom to heart.

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  • Air Jordan 8 Bugs Bunny
  • Michael Jordan Air Jordan 8 Bugs Bunny Marvin the Martian
  • Charles Smith Knicks
  • Michael Jordan
  • Air Jordan 8 Jumpmanbostic
  • Air Jordan 8
  • Air Jordan 8 PE Kobe Bryant

For longtime collectors, Air Jordan retros continue to be wildly successful due in large part to the historical significance that helped make them iconic. Look no further than the sneakers’ nicknames themselves: Playoff XIs, Last Shot XIVs and so on. The moments are what make the sneakers special and, in some cases, vault them past the hype to become certified classics.

But the memories aren’t limited to on-court genius. For those of us who like to dig a little deeper, our sneakers become unique for the niche moments that give them a little extra character. The commercials. The collectibles. The movies. It’s that dichotomy that has made Jordan not just the best player of all time, but an enduring pop culture phenomenon.

Perhaps you wanted the lowtop XIs because Michael Jordan wore them for the 1996 championship parade — or, later on, to dominate in other games. Maybe you recall MJ donning Bordeaux VIIs in the 1992 All-Star Game — or maybe it was Michael Jackson’s music video for “Jam.” Jordan wore the Infrared VI to win his first championship; Jay Z wore them on the rooftop at 560 State Street.

Like all Air Jordan VIII colorways, the Aquas — available at Champs Sports on Black Friday — have plenty of history behind them and are so rare that we’ve seen only one retro before now since their original debut in 1993. While you prepare to make your own memories in the Aquas, Champs Sports presents Michael Jordan’s 8 Greatest Moments in the Air Jordan 8 — some on court, some off.

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image via Jordan Brand