Truth be told, the NBA offseason was as gripping in the late ’80s as it is in modern-day. Although not necessarily from a free agency standpoint because that wasn’t really a thing back then, yet in terms of where players were playing during their downtime, to a large degree, the lore was even greater than it is today.
Given technology of the time, or lack thereof, you didn’t necessary know where players were engaging in pick-ups games to get their reps in. Today, it’s abundantly clear where guys are playing during summer vacation. In fact, it’s at times attainable to watch said games in person given your location.
Thanks to hoops institutions like the Drew League and other top-flight and Pro-AM leagues, some of the world’s best are engaged in high quality runs in front of large crowds on a regular basis. Younger players are seen, too, in Las Vegas, during the NBA’s Summer League.
In the late ’80s when Michael Jordan was a youthful player looking for runs in the summer, he’d almost always find them. The only thing was you probably wouldn’t hear of his exploits until after they’d already taken place. As history notes, Jordan stands among the fiercest players to ever pick up a ball. A theme that didn’t end because the regular season or playoffs did.
His tenacity during summer runs is that of legend. Jordan tallied a careers worth of summer games that often rival his league-defining performances. And while it may seem like those games, largely sight unseen, don’t hold the significance of vastly viewed NBA games that will never leave our collective memories, the mythology of those games can be cherished through a different lens; there’s no need to compare the two. They can exist, and be celebrated, as separate entities.
One of MJ’s most beloved summer runs inspires the upcoming Air Jordan 3 “International Flight,” which debuts at retailers this weekend, on June 30. During the summer of 1988, around the same time Tinker Hatfield designed and Nike subsequently released the Air Jordan 3, Jordan played in front of a large crowd at a charity All-Star game in Los Angeles. He’d masterfully dazzle those in attendance with a wildy expressive aerial assault, culminating in a 54-point performance — just one shy of his famed double-nickel outing just five games into his comeback campaign in 1995 at Madison Square Garden.
The story goes on to state that the two teams scored more than 200 points between them that summer day, effectively breaking the scoreboard in the process. The new Air Jordan 3 is fashioned in the same striking hues MJ’s team wore that day in ’88.
Footage of the game is either nonexistent or hasn’t yet been unearthed — both of which are fine. The truth is that game happened, Jordan scored those points, and those lucky enough to see him that day in Los Angeles will share — in exclusivity — those stories forever. Thus extending Jordan’s mythology beyond the bounds of NBA games or those of which we’d seen.
Back when summer runs were more word of mouth than widely viewed Instagram posts, the games, the players, the moments, simply meant so much more. If you heard those stories firsthand you were apart of something others weren’t. You had hoops knowledge others didn’t that you’d happily share, entrusting they would enrich others with the story — all truths intact.
The Air Jordan 3 “International Flight” harkens back to those times even if only for a moment. Yet the stories never truly grow old. Like the Air Jordan 3, they simply grow more valuable with time.
Air Jordan 3 “International Flight”
Colorway: Sail/Sport Royal-Fire Red
Style #: 136064-140
Release Date: June 30, 2018
Images: Sneaker Politics