February 17, 2018 - This weekend marks the return of one of the most iconic sneakers ever, the Air Jordan III Black Cement, releasing today, Michael Jordan’s 54th birthday. Like most sneaker fans, I have been waiting impatiently for this day to arrive since news of the shoe’s return started to surface last year. Viewed by some as the most anticipated shoe release of 2018, a sneaker like this captures people’s attention for a variety of reasons. For some, this is an opportunity to own a hyped up sneaker that will impress their friends and strangers. For others, they see this release as an opportunity to profit of the shoe’s hype, looking to flip them on the resale market. And for others, this is their opportunity to finally own a shoe that they have been obsessed with since they were younger. I kind of fall into the latter category; however, for me, there is a lot more to it than that.
I grew up in Tamarack Trailer Park in Lincoln, New Brunswick, where I spent 12 years of my life trying to make sense of the world as an awkward, insecure, unhappy kid. The root of my unhappiness was my stepfather, who I lived in fear of. As a child, I would get up as early as possible, often spending the entire day riding my bicycle or playing road hockey as a way to avoid being at home. When I was at home, however, my stepfather was emotionally and physically abusive whenever he felt I was out of line. He ruled with fear as his weapon, and it worked.
When all you feel is dread and sadness for the majority of your childhood, you don’t really have much hope for the future. You grow up thinking you are worthless, and that you will probably not amount to much. However, when I was 11 years old, a ray of light entered my life, changing it forever. Fridays were half days at Lower Lincoln Elementary School, so they were not too academically rigorous. On one particular Friday, Chris Ward brought in a VHS copy of “Michael Jordan’s Playground,” a video that mixes highlights of Michael Jordan with a fictional storyline of a high school kid who has been cut from his basketball team. From the moment we pressed play on the VCR, I was hooked. Although I knew about basketball, I had never seen anyone like MJ before, with his amazing basketball talents and aerial maneuvers. This experience was one of the rare moments in my childhood that allowed me to feel excitement and escape the fear I was feeling at home.
After watching “Playground,” I became obsessed with Air Jordan, wanting to know everything about him and his life. Around this time, a big chunk of Saturdays was often spent at the Oromocto Public Library with my mom, maxing out our library cards with as many books as possible. My selection of books quickly shifted from “The Three Investigators,” to any book about basketball that featured Michael Jordan. I believe it was in Phil Berger and John Rolfe’s Michael Jordan Sports Illustrated for Kids book that I first noticed Michel Jordan’s Nike sneakers, a pair of Air Jordan 1 Chicago colourway basketball shoes that blew away any cheap grocery store sneakers I had ever owned. I remember spending hours looking at that one picture, wishing I could own a pair Air Jordans; however, I knew in my situation that would never happen. From that point on, anytime we went to the mall, I would go into the sneaker stores to look at the Jordans, there I would pray that some sort of miracle would occur that would somehow lead to me possessing the same shoes that Michael Jordan wore to perform his amazing basketball aerial assaults. I knew I could never play like Mike, so dressing like him seemed like the second best thing.
Over the years I followed Michael’s career, often tuning into the NBA on NBC every Sunday to catch him and the Chicago Bulls dominate the rest of the NBA. From leading his team to a 72-10 regular season record, to his retirement from basketball to play baseball, Michael was always there for me. My stepfather never stopped being a terrible person, and in 1997, my mother left him for being just that. This was also the same year that the season in which Michael Jordan won his final championship began, and the last time we would see MJ in a Chicago Bulls uniform.
Soon after MJ’s retirement, I began to notice that many of his classic sneaker models were starting to be rereleased. Fresh out of art college in 2001, I could not afford a lot of these sneakers, plus many of the models had replaced the original Nike Air labeling on the back with Michael’s own Jumpman insignia. If I was going to spend top dollar to own a piece of my childhood, it would have to be as close to the original as possible. It wasn’t until a few years ago that Nike and Jordan brand decided to include the original Nike branding to some of the reissued models I would see in photos when I was younger. In 2015, I finally obtained my first pair of Air Jordan sneakers, the Air Jordan V Metallic, hands down my favourite Air Jordan ever. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to collect a few other original retro models, but never had the chance to own my second favourite silhouette, the Air Jordan III Black Cement.
That brings us back to today. Similar to when I obtained my 5s, today was emotional for me. To own something from my childhood that was actually a source of joy and happiness at a time when all I knew was fear and despair, forced all sorts of emotions to return. As I opened the sneaker box and removed the black and grey leather sneakers inside, I was transported back to 27 Hill Street, where I would escape to my room and read Sports Illustrated, draw pictures of MJ, or dream about being like Mike. To me, these Air Jordan III Black Cements are not just a pair of sneakers, they represent the little bit of hope and happiness I had in my childhood that somebody wasn't able to take away from me.
Writing for UCalagry's Alumni Magazine
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