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What makes a shoe a classic? Is it the design, the technology, the impact it has on culture, or what was accomplished in those shoes? Mark all of the above and then some for the?Air Jordan III.

Three years and two Air Jordans into his contract, Michael Jordan wasn?t exactly happy. There were talks of him leaving the Swoosh to join Team Adidas and even a failed attempt by Peter Moore, designer of the Air Jordan 1, to pull him away from Nike as well. It was at this time that Nike called in the difference maker, the game changer, the legendary designer, Tinker Hatfield.

Tinker Hatfield

Tinker took a different approaches to design. His first shoe was an all-purpose trainer. Literally a shoe that fit into no category except for all of the above and in fact created a new space on shoe walls around the world called cross-training.

New approaches to design came in many ways to the Air Jordan III. It started with the first ever mid-cut basketball shoe. No longer did Nike need to produce a high and low top shoe for the Air Jordan franchise – there was just one. Another distinguishing look about the Air Jordan III was Tinker?s call out to the Air cushioning in the Air Jordan with an exposed heel unit. One of the most unique design elements to the Air Jordan III came in the form of the elephant print accents that have been ?borrowed? by a number of Nike and Jordan products, not to mention other brands. Lastly, the Air Jordan III introduced to the world the Jumpman on the tongue for the entire world to see.

Nike was not a rookie in the marketing world, but when they called Weiden + Kennedy for the Jordan III, the stars aligned. You had a high flying athlete, a wonderful product, and the cultural connection with Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon. Even Spike would have a hard time scripting a better recipe for success.

The Air Jordan III was an amazing product with many unique characteristics, but the life and legacy of the shoe extends far beyond just the leather and rubber that construct it. If you look back through the years of Michael Jordan?s playing career, the 1987-88 season was arguably the greatest season for Mike where he didn?t win a ring. In that one season, MJ accomplished what some Hall of Famers need an entire career to do.

Though he was not able to lead the Bulls to a championship in the Air Jordan III, Mike was donned with plenty of hardware. As an All Star, MJ took home not only the Slam Dunk title, but also All Star Game MVP honors. Mike dominated the offensive side of the ball leading the league with 35 points per game, but backed that up defensively by leading the league in steals with 3.2 per game. As the Scoring Champ, Steals Champ, Slam Dunk Champ, All Star MVP, it was not a hard choice by the league to honor Michael Jordan as the league?s Most Valuable Player for the first time in his career that season.

Design innovation, pop culture connection, and history derive from the Air Jordan III. That is why they are one of the greatest sneakers ever made.

Three. The magic number.

image via SI Vault

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