Jan 22 2013 3:31PM

In Defense of The Sequel

The only pair of Air Jordan IIs the author owns.

Sequels usually suck. The odds of another man-eating shark stalking a quaint seaside town are slim to none and the world didn’t need to see Sandra Bullock (props to Keanu for skipping it) go from stopping a speeding bus to taming a reckless cruise ship. Jay-Z and R. Kelly should’ve kept their worlds apart and left business unfinished. No one needed to follow 82 games of a 1998-99 Bulls team stripped of MJ, Scottie and Rodman to know that another title wouldn’t come in June. Another four years of George W. Bush in ’04…let’s not even get started on that.

But for every Jaws 2 or Speed 2, there’s a classic like Godfather II and Terminator 2 that one-ups the original. The Low End Theory proved that sometimes the second go-around is better than the first (anyone remember Tribe's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm?). The Bulls’ drop-off in ’99 only opened the door for the Knicks to make a Finals run—albeit right into a Spurs wall. And we did just welcome in four more years of Obama yesterday. There’s hope for the sequel after all.

The Air Jordan II came on the heels of the original (full disclosure: the AJ1 is one of my personal favorites) and was the first game-changer in the line. While the Air Jordan1 benefited from being born first, it was—and no disrespect to Peter Moore and anyone that worked on the shoe—just a chromosome off from the Dunk. It garnered much press for being “banned” from the League and set the table for the modern athlete signature shoe endorsement, but strictly as a shoe, it was nothing groundbreaking (full disclosure II: of all my Jordans, the I is the one I have the most of) outside of the introduction of the Air Jordan wings logo.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

The sequel would be Moore (along with Air Force 1 architect Bruce Kilgore) making good on a true signature product, an original that stood out from the pack. The Air Jordan II was the first jolt to the status quo. No Swoosh (“checks” for the OG heads out there), a minimal design and an emphasis towards luxury while maintaining performance. Think about it: Nike was still a fledging company back then and had just released the Terminator a year back with its big “NIKE” on the rear. The thought of a releasing a high-profile shoe sans the recognizable trademark would make even today’s branding experts gasp with horror. The decision to go with a toned-down aesthetic for the Air Jordan II was just crazy, especially given the fact that the player it was designed for had such a bold game. But it worked; less was truly more. Even to this day, the most striking element of the shoe, the colored piping that runs across the side, reminds me of Mike streaking across the court en route to a free-throw line dunk. The Air Jordan II didn’t just step up the luxe feel with faux lizard skin, they took it another step, moving manufacturing to one of the meccas of luxury goods: Italy. I wasn’t able to pull from the memory banks of my sixth-grade self to properly describe the Air Jordan II as it felt in my hand and feet as I never had a pair (growing up, my parents only bought me box-less sneakers that sold from big bins that had the pairs zip-tied together, making for even trying a pair a tricky proposition), but I do remember eyeing the mysterious Air Jordan II with much curiosity during my weekly ogling visits to Herman’s or Spiegel Sports. To this day, I cannot recall the butterness of the supple leather on the Air Jordan II, but time and nostalgia has only built it up to Corinthian leather proportions.

On a performance note, the Air Jordan II delivered, at least for Jordan himself (the only person that matters, it’s his shoe after all). In 1986-87, Jordan put up his highest single season scoring average (37.1), became the only dude not named Wilt to top 3,000 points in a season, secured a spot on the All-NBA First Team and won his first Slam Dunk Contest crown with the Air Jordan II laced on his feet.

Did I like them when they first dropped? No. But the same can be said of most Air Jordan releases for me. They’re usually so ahead of their time in design that it takes me some time to properly digest and appreciate. Many folks—collectors and casual wearers—still treat the II as the ugly stepchild of the family. It hasn’t been given the same retro love as other AJ models and certainly not the III, IV, V and XI that sit atop most people’s Air Jordan Pantheon. PE versions of the Air Jordan II did well, but as a whole, the II is largely ignored.

Many folks cite the Air Jordan III as the shoe that was the genesis of the Air Jordan lineage, but only because the III was an admittedly better-looking shoe, a commercial success from the jump, saw the debut of the now iconic Jumpman logo and the godfather of shoe design, Tinker Hatfield, brought it to life. All of that should be commended, certainly, but don’t forget the predecessor that paved its way.

With Jordan Brand soon to drop the “Nike Air” Air Jordan III, I hope that a faithful retro of the Air Jordan II is in the works, down to the “Made in Italy” designation, the “winged” box and $105 retail price (OK, at least keep it under a flight to Italy). I’m too old, married and a father to be camping for shoes, but I’ll definitely try my hand at a Twitter reservation if they ever give the Air Jordan sequel the proper respect it deserves.

Want more reminiscences of Air Jordan, follow @jumpman23 as their #XX8DaysOfFlight campaign leads up to the launch of the Air Jordan XX8.