Red and white Air Jordan XXXI a tribute to originals, 'Banned' legend

ByDarren Rovell Via <a Href="" Title="espn" Class="espn_sc_byline">espn </a>
July 20, 2016, 9:30 PM

&#151; -- The Jordan brand unveiled the Air Jordan XXXI in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, with the lead colorway giving a nod to the buzz that initially kick-started the signature line.

The red and black colorway of the shoe is a tribute to the Air Jordan I, which debuted in 1985. It features elements of that shoe, including a leather upper, and is the first time the shoe has an Air Jordan logo and a swoosh since the original.

The Jordan XXXI will be available on Sept. 3 for $185.

On the bottom of the shoe is the word "BANNED," a reference to the legend that gave the brand a defiant beginning.

On Feb. 25, 1985, then-NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik sent a letter to Nike's marketing chief Rob Strasser stressing that the red and black shoes violated the league's uniform code.

"In accordance with our conversations, this will confirm and verify that the National Basketball Association's rules and procedures prohibited the wearing of certain red and black NIKE basketball shoes by Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan on or around October 18, 1984," the letter said. 

Rumor had circulated that Jordan would be fined $5,000 per game for wearing the red and black shoes, but there was no evidence that Nike ever paid a fine. The shoes Jordan was wearing for that preseason game in 1984 were not even Air Jordans; they were a shoe called the Air Ship.

But Nike famously told its consumers that the shoe was banned in a television commercial, which featured Jordan dressed in red and black.

"On Sept. 15, Nike created a revolutionary basketball shoe," the voiceover said. "On Oct. 18, the NBA threw them out of the game. Fortunately, the NBA can't stop you from wearing them. Air Jordans by Nike."

The Air Jordan I came out in March 1985, at the then-exorbitant price of $65. Over the next nine months, Nike sold $100 million worth.

The 31st iteration of the shoe will be worn, as has been tradition, by Jordan brand spokesman Russell Westbrook. Only the initial colorway will have the words "BANNED" on the bottom.

In June, Nike said the sale of Jordan brand products equaled $2.7 billion, up 16 percent from the previous year. Jordan himself gets an undisclosed royalty from sales of the signature line.

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