Words: Drew Hammell

Back in February 1991, in MJ’s home state of North Carolina, the world laid eyes on the Air Jordan VI Infrared for the very first time during the NBA All-Star Game. There were no leaked images back then — no “first looks” on social media. “What are those?” was a legitimate question to ask, because we had literally never seen them before.

On fuzzy, low-definition TV screens, we squinted to see the shoes MJ was wearing. While the other starting All-Stars were all wearing white sneakers, it was easy to spot MJ; he was out there in an all-black sneaker with infrared trim.

Every NBA All-Star game since 1988, MJ had debuted the latest black version of his new Air Jordan. He did it with the AJIII in ’88, the AJIV in ’89, the AJV in ’90 and then the AJVI in ’91. Also starting in ’88, Nike debuted commercials featuring MJ during the game. As the years went on, we all expected these to air, in order to give us a better shot of his newest signature sneaker. (Those who were smart enough to tape the whole game could get a close-up of the newest silhouette by going back, rewinding and pausing at just the right moment.)

The original Air Jordan VI Infrared

Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Air Jordan VI was inspired by MJ’s favorite German sports car. Its flashy, aerodynamic profile and spoiler-like heel made MJ look impossibly cool when he was taking off for flight. The AJVI also had a translucent outsole and contained Nike Air cushioning in the heel and forefoot. The shoe became another classic in MJ’s growing lineage, and he made the most of them during that season.

MJ led all scorers with 26 points in the ’91 NBA All-Star Game, as the East beat the West 116-114. His dominance in the Black/Infrared AJVI that weekend foreshadowed the rest of the season. MJ rocked the same black shoes during the Finals — on the way to his first of six titles.

Michael Jordan wearing the Air Jordan VI Infrared during game five of the 1991 NBA Finals

This year, on February 17, the NBA All-Star Game finally returns to North Carolina, 28 years since Jordan debuted the Black/Infrared AJVI. The game happens to fall on the MJ’s birthday, so it’s fitting that the Air Jordan VI Black/Infrared, a replica of the OG, will return to Charlotte that weekend, too.

The Air Jordan VI Infrared is available starting February 16 from SNKRS and select retailers. Learn more about the Air Jordan VI on Jordan Collection.

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Air Jordan VI