Unbanned: The Legend of the AJ1
Ask anyone in the know about the holy grail of sneakers and they’ll answer: AJ1.
NIKE Air Jordan version 1. The very first pair of basketball sneakers NIKE made for Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player in history.
So why is there a documentary about AJ1s? They’re “just a pair of shoes”, right? Wrong! The National Basketball Association banned them in 1984 before Michael set foot on a court. NIKE was sent a letter banning the AJ1s because they broke the NBA’s uniform code of “plain white footwear”.
But NIKE and Michael weren’t going to bow to rules – and NIKE gladly paid the $5 000 fine for each game that Michael wore them – $13 000 (R100 000) in today’s money. The red-and-black sneakers instantly earned cult status because it showed that Michael wouldn’t be held back by “the man”.
And that started a cultural revolution. No jokes. Everyone from rappers to celebrities, actors to fellow sportsmen wanted to be seen in AJ1s – and still do. Contributors to the doccie include director Spike Lee, actor Anthony Anderson, basketball player Carmelo Anthony and music icon Quincy Jones, and you know what they have in common? Not only do they love sneakers, they know what it’s like to be involved in cultural movements.
The Curvy Film Critic sums it up perfectly: “Unbanned illustrates a shoe that had a destiny of its own through a tale of hope that allows one to find courage and inspiration all around you. That is the true legacy and impact of the AJ1 on music, fashion and entertainment.”