Schooled: Michael Jordan Winning His First NBA Title in the Air Jordan 6

The Air Jordan 6 is one of the most legendary sneakers on the planet, the sneaker that took Michael Jordan from just being a scoring champ and bullied him by the Bad Boy Pistons to the official face of the NBA, taking — not given — Magic Johnson‘s torch. Jordan gripped his first NBA championship trophy like a long lost lover. The scary part is the AJ6’s off-court impact may have been even greater.

Until the end of the 1990-91 season, MJ, known as the league’s MVP but not a champion, had never even reached the NBA Finals. The two-time champion Detroit Pistons were known to rough up opponents, and when Michael stepped on the floor it became the “Jordan Rules,” a defensive strategy so physical people could have mistaken the sport for football. Every attempt to the basket left Jordan on his back. In direct response, Phil Jackson came up with the greatest offensive response, the Triangle offense. They did not only beat the Pistons, but swept the series, resulting in a former championship team being so bitter they went back to the locker room with nine seconds left, leaving Jordan even more satisfied.

The sneaker doesn’t only signify Michael’s first chip, it surfaced a new mantra: You can beat the best and do it with your tongue out. Magic even admitted later, after losing in the Finals 4-1, that he believed man could fly. Or more specifically, Jordan could.

Yes, the move that showed Jordan was here to stay was the iconic hand switch. It was Jordan’s 13th consecutive field goal. In mid-air, Jordan changed his mind from a right-hand dunk to a left-handed layup. The airtime, the dominance, the style to execute such a move would even put a smirk on Phil Jackson’s face. If there is a single moment people can point towards to dub Michael Jordan the greatest, it was the split second he changed his mind from doing his patented one-handed dunk, to making it a little harder for himself and flicking it off the window with his left.

Michael Jordan’s first chip is the epitome of sports perfection. It created a moment every athlete dreams about. Everyone has seen it: Michael gripping the championship trophy, embracing it, not letting it go for the champagne, cameras, or even family. There would be five more championship trophies, but there would never be one that means more. What was to come after would mark Jordan taking over the NBA and even the world.

The Porsche-inspired Jordan 6 instantly became synonymous with greatness. It became it’s own cultural movement, making appearances in White Men Can’t Jump and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It released legendary colorways such as the Infrared and Carmine. Like the man it was modeled after, it would make history.

On January 28, 2006, the Defining Moments Package (DMP) was released. This included the AJ6 and the AJ11. It was the first time a sneaker — in this case a pack — was priced beyond the $300 price range. The reaction resulted in Internet crashes.

Now it sounds like the usually formula, but this was one of the first times people realized how big sneaker culture had grown. People waited three days in advance, birthing the camp-outs you see today. Trolling, last-minute bidding, and server crashing revealed this culture was not only present in the cities, but that it was a global demand. Of course, you can’t talk about sneaker culture without talking about the re-selling. The days to follow, the sneaker was in such high demand, you would see a resell value of over $1500. Having such high value, many people didn’t even feel safe wearing them out in public and chose to put them on “ice” stocked away. The sneaker game would never be the same.

Just like Jordan, if you could point to a moment when he changed the NBA, you can do the same for the AJ6 changing the sneaker game. People often exaggerate the word game-changer. It is used to describe anything with even the smallest weight of influence. However, the AJ6 was the true game-changer. They are partly responsible for today’s sneaker conventions hosting hundreds of thousands of people a year, the unification of sneakerheads globally, and the birth of a whole new culture.

The Air Jordan 6 is expected to have a big return this year, releasing all the original colorways, including the “Sport Blue” that is dropping this Saturday at Champs Sports. Jordan is not leaving any sneaker in its vault — hopefully they will release the OG Maroon colorway sometime soon.

It has taken 23 years for the Jordan Brand to finally release the “Sport Blue” Air Jordan 6. It’ll be worth the wait.