“I grew up a Bulls fan. That didn’t go off too well.”
Even during Michael Jordan’s heyday, Detroit was the last place you’d ever expect to find one of the world’s largest personal Air Jordan collections. An old rivalry. Central Division enemies. The Bad Boys and the Jordan Rules. Yet that’s where Mark Bostic, also known on the Internet as @JumpmanBostic, grew up. It’s also where he still lives, with a basement full of racks from Lowe’s, a basement he calls the “Basement of the J’s.” It’s fitting…because he currently has 845 pairs of Jordans on those racks.
Back when he “only” had about 360 pairs of Jordans, Bostic’s wife got annoyed waiting for him to pick which shoe to wear out with his outfit and so she gave a suggestion. Why don’t you put pictures of the sneakers on the boxes? She suggested. That way you can find what you need faster. It was necessary considering Bostic’s background. He’s two days older than MJ and when Jordan was tearing up the college scene in the early ‘80s at North Carolina, Bostic was playing at the University of San Diego, rushing home from practices to catch the Tar Heels on ESPN.
He loved Mike’s style of play and by the time Jordan got to the NBA, with a new Olympic gold medal around his neck, the hype was real. Bostic grew up wearing Converse in high school. Julius Erving had been his favorite player. However, when he saw the new “Chicago” Air Jordan I, “that was it,” he says now, remembering. “I saw those shoes and that’s when I started collecting.”
At the time, the only sneaker that wasn’t basically all white had been Clyde Frazier’s PUMA. The Air Jordan I was different, however, releasing two colorways (Banned and Chicago) on the same day, flipping the sports world on its head. The ads stressed this too, showing how amazing the sneaker looked on Jordan’s feet.
“Back then it had never been seen before,” Bostic says. “When the commercials came on everyone was going crazy.”
Because he was still a broke college student, Bostic had a friend buy him a pair, for all of $65. Outside of a pair of “Summit Lake” Nike LeBron 11s from Champs Sports, he hasn’t worn anything but Jordans since.
Out of all the Jordans in the past 30 years, Bostic’s favorite isn’t the Air Jordan I. It’s not the Air Jordan XI or the III, either. His favorite single colorway is the Ray Allen XIII, but that’s not it, either. It’s the Jordan VIII, which is surprising to most people. In fact, he’s such a big fan that some are already calling on the Jordan Brand to issue a custom, special edition VIII just for Bostic. The collector loves the sneaker’s history, the colorways, the colored tongue, the embroidered number 23, and of course, the patented straps.
“You can rock the shoes without the straps in and when you walk you hear the click-clack of the straps,” he says.
Bostic knows the history behind every pair of shoes he owns, something he hopes many from the younger generation will inherit, whether they saw Jordan play or not. There’s always YouTube, right? That’s why he tries to educate whenever he can at sneaker events and conventions.
Bostic’s deep Jordan knowledge extends further than just the shoes, too. He’s been collecting everything over the years. He still has original Wheaties boxes, unopened, still sealed, and even has original glass Gatorade bottles. He has Space Jam apparel and Jordan figurines, too. It’s all combined to turn him into a sneaker celebrity, and his Detroit home has become a stopping point of sorts for other celebrity sneakerheads like the Kansas City Royals’ Jeremy Guthrie.
For now, Bostic is looking forward to the “Legend Blue” Jordan XI as well as the “Slam Dunk” VI that are scheduled to drop around the holidays, although he does expect them to be downright crazy release days. Back in the day, he often drove to neighboring states like Ohio to pick up sneakers he wanted. Now? He knows he has to be on top of his game since the sneakers sell out online in seconds. The sneaker culture is a phenomenon and Michael Jordan is at the top of it. He probably always will be, too.
“Mike was 6-6,” Bostic says. “Never went to a seventh game in the NBA Finals. No one else who has won titles has done that. They’ve all lost one year or another, and MJ went to six straight. It’s always out there: What could have been had he not retired, had he just continued playing? Would it be eight, nine? Maybe 10 titles? We’ll never know. To me it’s just his will, his desire. He just was a beast. In that moment, he just refused to lose. Sure, there were mentions of him getting into it with his teammates and fights but that’s with all superstars. It was just their will to win. And he didn’t lose when he got on the big stage like that.”
Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney