In 1984, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, the Detroit Tigers rolled to the pennant and Nike—firmly established as the authority in sports coolness—launched the Air Jordan sneaker, which was splashed in the familiar red, black and white of the Chicago Bulls. The hightops became an immediate sensation and sent Jordan even further into the stratosphere. In subsequent years, Nike would release more than 30 iterations of MJ’s shoes, while also spinning Jordan into his own brand.
Jordan may have burnished his legend on the court, but his love of the links—obsession is more like it—is well chronicled. He pals around with Tour pros, including Keegan Bradley and Justin Thomas. He pops up at the Ryder Cup. He’s even designing his own course in Hobe Sound, Fla., which is slated to open next year.
It’s no surprise then that His Airness has also stamped his personal touch on golf shoes, and Nike’s latest offering, its sixth Jordan spike, is the Air Jordan III Golf. It’s a callback to the third line of his hardcourt sneaks, which were unveiled 30 years ago—the first to feature MJ’s signature “elephant print” as well as the soon-to-be iconic Jumpman logo on the heel.
The shoe’s upper is the exact design of the 1988 basketball hightops, and hoops fans may find it impossible to gaze at these kicks without thinking back to Jordan’s exploits in the late ’80s. All that’s missing are the baggy shorts and hoop earring to complete the look. The III’s outsole, which includes the area with spikes, and midsole have been retooled for comfort, stability and support on the course.
And Nike can’t keep ’em in stock. It launched the classic white-and-gray version (pictured) in February, and shortly thereafter unveiled a second color scheme—brown leather with metallic accents and cappuccino-colored elephant print—in a “Premium” model. Both styles (approximately $220 retail) immediately sold out on Nike’s website, sending fans to scour the Internet in a black-market frenzy.
In August, the company debuted its boldest look yet: black-and-neon-green. Know where you might see them? The PGA Tour.
“Last year, I got a text from Michael,” says Harold Varner III, a lifelong disciple of all things MJ. “He said, ‘I’d like to get you in the line.’ A dream. [It’s] just like the basketball shoe: clean. Now I’ve got maybe 20 pairs—black and white, high-tops and low-tops. I wouldn’t wear anything else.”
Given the shoe’s resounding popularity among its cult following, you wonder if Nike will come out with additional brash color schemes, and just what they might be. A Nike spokesperson refused to bite, saying only, “More is on the way.”
Like Jordan in his prime, it seems these shoes can’t be stopped.