If you had to pick your favorite Jordan silhouette, the Nike Air Jordan 3 would probably be close to the top of anyone’s list. And why wouldn’t it be?

Michael Jordan won the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest wearing White Cement 3s, delivering the most iconic, gravity-defying moment in sports history. The Air Jordan 3 was also the first Jordan designed by legendary architect-turned-designer Tinker Hatfield. It’s also known as the shoe that kept MJ signed to Nike.

Thirty years later, Nike wants to make the sneaker’s 30th anniversary one to remember, giving Justin Timberlake his own version and lining up a quartet of special releases starting on February 14.

Recently, Tinker Hatfield sat down with collectors and designers from the community to clarify some of their burning questions about the sneaker. We’ve summarized the 7 best excerpts below.

On meeting Michael Jordan for the first time

“I recall Howard White and I jumped on a plane to Chicago and went to Michael’s condo. The building was shaking; it sounded like a fight going on. Howard pushed the doorbell, and we hear this voice from far away say ‘Come on in, the door’s open.’

We go in. He was playing table tennis against one of his teammates. They were playing viciously. It was this competitive to-the-max game of table tennis and they were just going after every shot and running off the end of the table and crashing into the wall.”

On removing the Swoosh

“I thought the swoosh looked good on the shoe. It was designed to have a swoosh – that’s why it works; there’s a good place for it. On the other hand, I had this Jumpman logo and knew it would be right for the shoe. I spruced it up myself. Then we started printing it out and trying it in embroidery.

At the very last moment, I chose to leave the swoosh off and go with the Jumpman. It was an argument with some people in marketing at the time so I threw them a bone and put Nike on the back.”

On working within a tight timeframe

“We were working within just a few weeks. All of this happened in [that timeframe].”

Why he chose tumbled leather and elephant skin print

“I had a whole stack of different, unique kind of leathers that I had researched and found. That’s when we found elephant skin and the tumbled leather, which we called floater at the time. I showed them to him and he thought they were cool.

We want the shoe to be soft and kind of luxurious right out of the box. When MJ first saw the shoe I knew we made the right call.”

Why it wasn’t a high top model

“MJ didn’t want the weight. He wanted just enough support, more than a low-top.

I had just worked on this mid-cut Air Trainer and thought there was something worth exploring further for the MJ3. So we landed on a 5/8 collar height.”

Why the first colorway was black, and not white, as typically seen on performance shoes back then

“We didn’t want to be traditional and I didn’t want the shoe to be like any other one. I felt that Michael Jordan was the kind of entity that could validate a newer, fresher, little bit more ‘out there’ item.”

On Michael Jordan’s style

“I realized a lot about Michael – and that he had a really good sense of style. We went down to an appointment he had at a suit shop. It was amazing to watch him with these suit makers. He was picking out material and he literally said ‘I don’t like that lapel. What can we do that’s different?’ He was very involved in the process.

It was good for me to see both of these things.”

Next, take a closer look at the Nike Air Jordan 3 Dunk Contest here.

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Footwear Staff Writer

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