Words: Drew Hammell

For decades, Michael Jordan found himself in the spotlight.

Whether it was his storied high school career in North Carolina, or his incredible rise to national stardom in college, or the global phenomenon he became on the professional stage, the lights have always shone brightest on number 23.

It seems crazy to think now, but before his first title in ’91, there were actually doubts about whether MJ could win one. He was undoubtedly the premier star of the league, and his footwear was the most popular.

MJ was under a brighter spotlight than any other player before him. Back in the early ‘90s, he was proclaimed the greatest athlete to never win a championship. That all changed, of course, in Los Angeles in 1991.

Left: MJ wearing the Air Jordan VI / Right: The Air Jordan VI “Reflections Of A Champion”

In ’91, Chicago finally got past Detroit and made it to the Finals, only to match up against the legendary Los Angeles team. It was a turning point in the league, as Los Angeles only won one game, and Chicago took the series 4-1 for MJ’s first championship. In that series, he wore the Air Jordan VI. At one point, he famously astonished an announcer with an acrobatic, up-and-under “spectacular move.”

Chicago faced tough tests from New York in the conference semifinals and Cleveland in the conference finals. Ultimately, they prevailed and battled Portland in the ‘92 NBA Finals. The famous “shrug game” basically summed up MJ’s performance in that series, and on his feet were the Air Jordan VIIs. In Game 1, he had a record-setting performance of 35 first-half points, including six three-pointers. “I was in the zone,” remarked MJ. “My threes felt like free throws. I didn’t know what I was doing, but they were going in.” Chicago would finish off that series four games to two.

Left: MJ wearing the Air Jordan VII / Right: The Air Jordan VII “Reflections Of A Champion”

In 1993, the pressure was mounting even more for Chicago to three-peat, and the spotlight shone as bright as the sun on MJ. It was only fitting that Chicago battled Phoenix in the NBA Finals, and they had their work cut out for them. “Since no one had won three straight in 25 or 26 years, (we figured) there wouldn’t be as much pressure as the second time. But this was a lot harder than anything I’ve done in my life in the game of basketball,” said MJ. Michael, of course rose, to the occasion while rocking the Air Jordan VIII and averaged a playoff-record 41 points in the Finals.

Left: MJ wearing the Air Jordan VIII / Right: The Air Jordan VIII “Reflections Of A Champion”

Already reflecting on what he had accomplished at that point, MJ clearly understood the significance of the first half of his career: “Ten years from now, when my kids are grown, I’ll look back on winning three straight and have a proud smile on my face,” he said in ‘93.

Even after MJ retired for the first time in 1993, sports writers proclaimed him the greatest athlete of all time. No one knew if he would return to the game after he retired, let alone win another three championships.

This summer, Jordan Brand reflects back on these first three championship moments with the “Reflections Of A Champion” collection — three sneakers commemorating the first three championships MJ won in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

The Air Jordan VI “Reflections Of A Champion” replaces the Black/Infrared’s black upper with reflective materials. Additionally, reflective materials replace the white uppers of the AJVII “Cardinal” colorway and AJVIII “White Hare” colorway.

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