The International Flight Collection
Remembering Michael Jordan’s love of the game during summer tours, including one meet-up with sumo wrestlers.
Words: Drew Hammell
For most players, the summer is a chance to rest and recover after a grueling season. All of the injuries and travel can put a heavy burden on a player’s body after 82 games. Add a deep playoff run, and the toll is even harsher.
For Michael Jordan, however, there was no off-season. MJ went so far as to include a legendary “Love of the Game” clause in his contract to ensure he could play year-round. The summer months were an opportunity to travel the globe and show off his legendary skills to thousands of passionate basketball fans in the U.S. and abroad, who were eager just to get a glimpse of the GOAT.
The new International Flight collection highlights three of these moments.
August 8, 1988: Los Angeles, California
In the summer of ’88, MJ played a charity game in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 17,500 passionate basketball fans in L.A. He was the star of the show and scored a team-high 54 points. The event also raised $650,000 for the UNCF (United Negro College Fund) — the nation’s largest private scholarship provider to students of color — an organization that Jordan Brand has had a relationship with for over 30 years now.
The Air Jordan 3 “International Flight” has blue and red accents inspired by the jerseys players wore during the charity game. Jordan’s signature is on the tongue of the right shoe (since Jordan is right-handed). Patterns on the collar are inspired by the stars on the jerseys.
August 30, 1990: Barcelona, Spain
Two years before he’d take his famous stroll around the city (before winning a gold medal), MJ put on a show at a local Spanish League opener in Barcelona. As part of a European tour that year, Jordan arrived just before the start of the Spanish League season. He judged the slam dunk contest and played in a promotional game, finishing the evening with a team-high 37 points.
The Air Jordan 5 “International Flight” has an orange and blue mosaic pattern inspired by street art in Barcelona, as well as the colors of the jerseys MJ wore during the game. It also changes the spelling of Air to “Aire” on the tongue, referring to the Spanish translation of Air Jordan.
September 12, 1996: Tokyo, Japan
The summer after Jordan’s 72-10 championship season, MJ and other NBA stars went to Tokyo for a basketball clinic. In front of 32,000 fans, players like MJ and Michael Finley showed off by playing 1-on-1, 4-on-4 and even having a little friendly competition with some of Japan’s famous sumo wrestlers.
Finley would go on to become one of the first Jordan Brand athletes. He remembers that whether MJ was playing for a championship or against sumo wrestlers in Japan, he never lost his competitive nature. “We did a little scrimmage against some local guys and a couple of the sumo wrestlers who probably had never touched a basketball in their lives,” recalls Finley. “He had fun with them and joked around, but at the end of the day he told us, ‘Yo, we’re not losing this game.’ He said, ‘I don’t lose. Whether it’s for charity, scrimmage, or in the season, I don’t lose.’”
The Air Jordan 12 “International Flight” has a koi fish scale print on the mud guard and an embossed, kimono-inspired print on the upper. The characters on the heel of the shoe translate to “Air Jordan”
Michael Finley playing during the basketball clinic in Tokyo in 1996.
The Air Jordan 3 “International Flight” and jersey are available starting June 30.
The Air Jordan 5 “International Flight” and jersey are available starting August 28.
The Air Jordan 12 “International Flight” and jersey are available starting September 8.