Journal / Air Jordan Love Of The Game

Sneakers Birthed By Michael Jordan's "Love Of The Game"

Great sports contracts are constructed in the best financial interest of the athlete, with some added safety provisions to protect said athlete and the organization they've signed with. Whether the inner workings of a contract sways more in the favor of the player or organization greatly depends on factors like star power, as proven by Michael Jordan's first professional basketball contract, which included the famed "For The Love of the Game" clause.

Given his competitive nature, MJ arranged the aforementioned clause, which permitted him to play basketball anywhere and at any time, regardless of any potential liabilities.

Now, from a logical standpoint, giving a 21-year-old rookie a contract that allows full autonomy is quite possibly the worst decision ever. (Contracts weren't plush million dollar payouts at the time, so boneheaded cases of balling too hard were rare; Jordan's was $6.3M over seven years.) But given that MJ would win the Chicago Bulls six NBA championships over the course of his career, including a temporary retirement and minimal injuries (save for a broken foot that benched him for 64 games his sophomore season), the accommodation worked out for the best.

Jordan's legacy is greatly shaped by the larger-than-life stories that happened as he achieved GOAT status – some of which wouldn't have happened without the existence of his "Love of the Game" clause.

Stadium Goods revisits a list of sneakers that were inspired by or played a part in some of MJ's more risky moments.


"Shattered Backboard" (1985)

The legend of Michael Jordan is quite possibly the most important of sports history lore. This narrative dates back to the beginning of his career in 1985 – particularly an exhibition game in Trieste, Italy, where he landed an earth-rattling dunk that broke the glass backboard.

Thirty years later, that moment inspired one of the best non-original Air Jordan 1 High colorways with the "Shattered Backboard." Constructed with premium tumbled and buttery smooth leather, the sneaker features a orange, black, and white color combo taken from the team uniform MJ wore during the game. The color placement is modeled after the OG "Black Toe" AJ1 color block.

Highly limited upon its initial release, the AJ1 "Shattered Backboard" disappeared quickly. The success inspired Jordan Brand to drop an inverted version featuring the OG Chicago color blocking.

Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG "Shattered Backboard"

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Link: Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG "Shattered Backboard"

Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG "Reversed Shattered Backboard"

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Link: Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG "Reversed Shattered Backboard"

UNC Alumni Game (1987)

Perhaps the greatest instance of MJ's "Love of the Game" clause working in his favor happened in Chapel Hill, where he, former teammates, and past stars from the University of North Carolina reunited for an epic alumni game. But not just any alumni game, this contest saw UNC face off against UCLA.

The level of competition required all participants to play hard, increasing any potential for injury. And still, MJ laced up his sneakers – an UNC inspired Air Jordan 2 – to take flight at the charity event at Pauley Pavilion. Not to mention that his alma mater took home a win greatly because of his contributions.

The Jordan Converse Pack honors the aforementioned UNC vs UCLA Alumni game and the rare Jordan 2 PE that Michael Jordan wore featuring a combination of Chicago Bulls and Tar Heels colors. The companion pair is the Converse Fastbreak Low that MJ rocked during Team USA’s 1984 Olympic appearance. However, this version sports matching Carolina Blue accents with contrasting classic ‘Wings’ branding on the lining.

Jordan x Converse Pack

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Link: Jordan x Converse Pack

"Jam" (1992)

Cross-branding is such an integral component of marketing in all aspects that it's difficult to imagine a time where it wasn't. But here we return to 1992, as the reach of music videos neared critical mass, Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan shook up the world when the latter appeared in the pop star's "Jam" treatment.

Both Jordan and Jackson were these larger-than-life iconic figures – the literal top dogs in their respective crafts. Funny enough, the connection almost didn't happen.

As told by ESPN, Jordan recalled: "First I said, 'I don't know if I want to do this, because this guy's going to try to get me out there to dance, and that's going to be really embarrassing.' But then I said: 'Well, shoot, it's Michael Jackson. When would you ever get an opportunity to get to know him socially for a little bit, and yet at the same time, get to do his video?' So I changed my mind and went on and did it."

Director David Kellogg and producer Phil Rose orchestrated the meeting between the worlds, which included Jordan displaying a morsel of what he could do on the court and much more than we knew he was capable of on the dance floor.

This is definitely the mildest case of MJ using the "Love of the Game" clause, but how ridiculous would it have been if he injured himself on a Michael Jackson video shoot? Not to mention that he rocked a pair of the "Bordeaux" Air Jordan 7.

Air Jordan 7 Retro "Bordeaux"

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Link: Air Jordan 7 Retro "Bordeaux"

"Space Jam" (1995)

Michael Jordan's child-friendly big screen debut Space Jam reached the masses on November 15, 1996, making a cultural splash in the process.

Filming occurred a year prior, and that's where the magic truly happened. According to reports, MJ facilitated some epic pick-up games, and not just with co-stars like Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Alonzo Mourning, Muggsy Bogues and Larry Johnson. ESPN noted that the league's marquee talents in Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Grant Hill, and Reggie Miller (who traded buckets with His Airness in a trash-talk-filled game) all showed face. Other noteworthy names included  Rod Strickland, Glen Rice, Dennis Rodman, Juwan Howard, Steve Smith and Cedric Ceballos.

Aside from the inherent risk of injury as he shot scenes, Jordan had free reign to curate pick-up basketball games with his peers sans a referee in an era when hand checking was a thing. And yes, the guys were playing hard.

While speaking to ESPN, veteran center Olden Polynice recalled making a ridiculous assumption that the games would be lighthearted. "It's the summertime, they're going to be bullsh*tting," he thought. "Come to find out, they weren't bullsh*tting.

Sneakers played a role through all of these moments. The eponymous Air Jordan 11 named after Jordan's foray with the Looney Tunes was actually debuted during the NBA Playoff Semifinals in 1995. But the shoe impacted culture thanks to their role in the film.

Buckets were given in large amounts (and in style, as MJ reportedly also sported the "Concord" Air Jordan 11 colorway), despite what was on the line the following NBA season. And that's what you call doing it for the love of the game.

Air Jordan 11 Retro "Space Jam" (2016)

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Link: Air Jordan 11 Retro "Space Jam"

Air Jordan 9 Retro "Space Jam" (2016)

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Link: Air Jordan 9 Retro "Space Jam"

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