Daunting, powerful, central.
You can search the universe, skip galaxies and conquer planets, and you won’t find anything more commanding, more ominous, more powerful than a black hole.
No disrespect to suns, ours and the many others out there in space, but actual astronomical research aside, the black hole has always been king of the cosmos for me. Admittedly, a simple Google search (that yes I didn’t do – mostly for fear that the results would contradict the very backbone of my argument and this whole piece) would possibly tell you that black holes aren’t all the movies and comic books tell us they are. Maybe they’re much more mundane, maybe they’re much more, and I use this word with caution as it refers to massive spacial bodies, pedestrian.
But not likely.
The 132 words I just vomited out serves two purposes: to illustrate where my mind immediately went a few weeks ago when Tate Kuebris, Senior Footwear Designer for Jordan Brand, said something about the Air Jordan XXXV via a Zoom call. The second purpose is to bury the lede intentionally (I haven’t written in a while so instead of walking on eggshells throughout this article trying to avoid any basic writing errors I decided to just embrace the biggest one right off the bat. Now my feet have egg all over them and I feel like a free man. Watch out, I’m dangerous.)
Back to black holes and sneakers.
The 35’s main attraction is the hipper, cooler, more athletic younger sibling of the 34’s breakthrough feature. The Eclipse Plate 2.0 is everything the first iteration was, except with a full year’s worth of tweaks and improvements loaded onto it to make it more explosive, responsive and capable in its two-fold mission to maximize propulsion and unlock Zoom.
With a much larger heel Zoom bag, Jumpan’s newest flagship performer is promising “the ultimate ride and bounce while performing on the court.” The outsole pattern stays with what works: tried, tested, never-failing herringbone (Side Note: all basketball shoes should have herringbone-patterned outsoles. It’s what works best, nobody ever complains about it, and it truly is impressive that Jordan Brand resists the urge to get cute here and really listen to the athlete and go with a traction choice that isn’t new and flashy, but 100% gets the job done 100% of the time. #TeamHerringbone all day).
The other jump-out difference between last year’s shoe and this year’s is the pronounced presence of Flightwire, intended to “pull” the 35’s premium suede and reflective materials closer to the base, providing lockdown, comfort, stability and yes, room and space for flash and flavor.
All of that however – including the subtle nods to the Air Jordan V on the tongue and ankle collar, visually and functionally, stems from the Eclipse Plate. Sitting still, the plate looks to be radiating all these elements, the Flightwire emerging out of the anchor, breaking off to the story-rich upper and playful colorways. In motion however, as how we’ve seen it on Kemba Walker in the NBA Playoffs, the effect is inverse.
All these pieces, all these tech improvements and colorway choices, all these Zion-sized calculations for containment and Luka-paced calibrations for agility and direction-changing, they all appear to be heading back to the middle, seemingly being sucked in to the shoe’s identifying design element and its hardest-working tech component: The Eclipse Plate.
It’s almost like (you guessed it), a black hole.
In basketball, being called a “black hole” is never good. Especially not in 2020’s pace and space style of play. You never want that tag, you never want to be known as the guy who, if you pass it to, won’t give it back out.
(I admit, this here is the weakest part of this entire correlation. The fact that I’m attempting to illustrate an impressive basketball product by comparing it to basketball’s worst insult is an irony not lost on me. I weighed this as a huge con when I was deciding ‘Should I still write this the way I want, with the black hole stuff?’ Then, I started listing the pros of the argument: “I’m me.” That should be more than enough reason for me and you to believe that like any good magician, it may look like I’m drowning right now in the water box, but best believe I’m getting out of this strait jacket and smiling wide when the curtains come down in the end. Why? I told you already. I’m me. Sit back. I got this. Bet.)
Hoops slang aside however, Wikipedia (yup) defines black holes as “regions of spacetime where gravity is so strong that nothing—no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from it.” No other force is as strong, as authoritative, as grand. While a perfectly-carved out piece of TPU plastic in a basketball shoe might not deserve such elevation to equal pedestal as the most forceful anything in the universe, there’s a reason Tate and his team had a photo of a black hole on their board when they were wasting away countless late nights sharpening the new hero of a legacy brand like Jordan.
You see, it’s more than just the Eclipse Plate 2.0, it’s more than just the XXXV. It’s Jordan. The brand, the man, the icon, the larger-than-life legend, the worthy-of-a-ten-hour-documentary wonder of the world. Stars, in space and those who live on earth, have an ‘aura’ about them. Superstars have that something that people gravitate towards.
Jordan, however, JORDAN?! He’s a black hole. He is gravity. Everything, everyone, enters this region of spacetime. Fight it or surrender to it, there is no point; you cannot escape it.
It’s a Jordan shoe that we all remember seeing at the store, or on some rich classmate’s feet at some point in our childhood. You enter a store, it’s a Jordan shoe that your eyes eventually, drift towards. It’s Jordan the man that emerges in every basketball discussion if you have it long enough. It’s Jordan the brand that luxury brands and fastfood-joint-collabing-rappers want to work with.
It’s Jordan the story that damn near kept us all sane when the world stopped and sports couldn’t be played or watched and we all huddled around TVs and laptops and phones and tablets to watch what we already knew: MJ’s the greatest, his kicks were ahead of his time and no one did Vegas quite like 91.
“We were inspired by many things: bridges, sports cars, even black holes.” Those were the words Tate Kuerbis spoke, the now-familiar thinness of Zoom audio carrying words that told so much more than just Zoom bags or lacing systems or pull tabs or colorways.
He knew. We all do – MJ is at the middle of all that we know now, from the game to how we dress to what we watch and how we appreciate the greatness that we see. He’s in the middle not by chance, not by circumstance, but by sheer, immeasurable, force. He is gravity.
Bubba Wallace just signed to be the first driver for Michael Jordan’s new NASCAR team. Kanye West just essentially broke his contract and is holding The Stripes hostage, tweeting he’ll wear Js til they put him on the board. Someone you know is right now, for sure, arguing about who is or isn’t greater than Mike.
The man, the brand, the shoe, the legend.
Daunting, powerful, central.
It don’t matter if you first saw Jordans on Will Smith in Bel-Air or Chris Brown in ‘No Air’, it’s caught your eye. It grabbed your attention. Whether it was the Space Jams in Moron Mountain or the Chicago 1s with the black unis at The Garden, they spoke to you, they made their mark.
For a whole new generation, it’ll be Zion with the in-game 360 or Luka with a step-back three or a dagger fader by JT. Them Jumpman boys are about to keep the cycle going in these new new J’s.
The game, those who play it, what they wear – they’ve all changed. The Jordan Brand gameplan is the same: create product that is made to win today, is inspired by legacy, and is determined to make history.
Fight it or surrender to it, there is no point; you cannot escape it.
Also, the Air Jordan XXXVs are dope, go get a pair. The first colorway is called Center of Gravity.