The Air Jordan 5 Is Still a Bad, Bad Boy
The Air Jordan 5 is one of the most extraordinary conceptual designs to take flight from the Jumpman’s hangar. Taking cues from Michael Jordan’s militant, take-no-prisoners attitude, architect Tinker Hatfield famously modelled the silhouette on America’s WWII P-51 fighter jets. Launched during the 1989–90 season, the Air Jordan 5 helped fuel Michael Jordan’s devastating aerial attack against the Motor City ‘Bad Boys’, as the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons locked in for a long and brutal post-season slugfest.
The sneaker also soared across the pop-cultural pantheon, the Jordan 5 appearing on television screens everywhere thanks to the success of shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Nike’s Mars Blackmon campaign. While other Jordan silhouettes may have been more financially lucrative or collaboratively active over the years, the AJ5 is still an absolute weapon, and irrevocably changed the flight path of Nike basketball from the moment it first hit the hardwood.
Bad Boys, Bad Boys (What You Gonna Do?)
By the time the 1989–90 NBA season rolled around, Michael Jordan had already filled his trophy cabinet. The 26-year-old had won league MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and multiple scoring titles, not to mention routinely breaking hearts with late-game daggers. The one thing missing? A ring on his finger. And there was only one team stopping him.
Just 280 miles east of Chicago lay ‘Motor City’, the hostile home of the Detroit ‘Bad Boys’. The Bulls would face the Pistons in three consecutive Playoff series, the two Midwestern strongholds locked in a consistently unsociable affair that saw Jordan repeatedly hammered inside the paint. The ‘Jordan Rules’ – as they became known – were Detroit’s way of getting inside Jordan’s head. Whenever they got the chance, Detroit’s Bill Laimbeer, Isiah Thomas, Rick Mahorn and Dennis Rodman would all physically pound Jordan. The Bulls pushed the Pistons to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals of the 1989–90 season, but eventually lost. Jordan averaging a dogged 32 points per game.
Flying a Fighter Jet
Michael Jordan deserved a shoe that reflected the relentless and dog-like fight that he was becoming know for. A sneaker that literally bore teeth. Tinker Hatfield likened Jordan’s aerial execution to the American P-51 Mustang fighter jet, a plane that routinely made aerial raids on Germany during WWII. And when the Air Jordan 5 arrived in February 1990, it came loaded with everything but mounted cannons. Mimicking the nosecone art of the P-51, Tinker installed jagged shark teeth on the midsole, giving the Jumpman a ferocious bite below the ankle. Tinker’s expert engineering arrived just as Jordan was changing his mode of attack, MJ dropped 92 three-pointers during the 1989–90 season (he had scored a combined total of 68 across the previous three seasons) in order to further diversify his game and combat Detroit’s suffocating and battering defense.
Long Live His Airness
On the court, the Air Jordan 5 graced the heels of Jordan during one of the most brutal and challenging stretches of his lucrative career. Off the court, the silhouette was pivotal in bolstering sneaker fandom, and promoting the cultural crossover between basketball and streetwear. It may not be the most celebrated or frequently collaborated Jordan model, but the Air Jordan 5 boasts the kind of prescient aesthetic, and technical decisions, that fuelled the Jumpman flight trajectory forever. No, the Air Jordan 5 never needed an Off-White colab for relevance, it’s been routinely bombing the sneakersphere for three decades.