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How Jordan Brand plans to own All-Star Weekend

For Michael Jordan, the NBA’s last visit to Charlotte for All-Star Weekend represented part joyful homecoming, part endless stress leading up to the league’s annual showcase in 1991.

The North Carolina native was on the hook for 110 tickets for friends and family, as relatives traveled from all corners of the state to watch him score a game-high 26 points. “It’s something that I hope I don’t have to do again,” Jordan said at the time — half laugh, half sigh.

As the All-Star Game returns to Charlotte for just the second time, the ticket requests this time around are the least of his concerns. He now owns the host city’s team, and his fingerprints — not to mention his famed “Jumpman” logo — will be all over the league’s activities throughout the weekend.

Through a series of community workshops, events and sneaker launches, Jordan Brand is tipping off an experience unlike anything the league has seen. The brand’s slogan for the weekend? “Own The Game.”

“Over the years, we’ve shown exactly what basketball means to us as a city and as a state,” Jordan said at the 2015 news conference announcing Charlotte’s future host status.

The state is home to the foundation of Jordan’s earliest basketball moments. Through a handful of limited-edition launches, his brand will closely follow his journey through the game.

The most anticipated release honors the sneakers Michael laced up in 1991 in Charlotte during the city’s first All-Star Game. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Joe Dumars and Bernard King all took the floor for the Eastern Conference in their usual white sneakers, giving Jordan yet another platform to go against the grain.

Long before the league loosened its color rules, the black and vibrant infrared Air Jordan 6 still made a mark. During the early ’90s, Jordan would often debut the black colorway of his signature series during the All-Star Game, then wear them well into the postseason. The “Infrared” 6 holds extra significance, as Jordan went on to win his first title in them later that spring.

As a nod to the local nostalgia and importance of the Jordan 6, the brand has also tapped regional sneaker boutique Social Status for a limited collaboration edition of their own. Drafting off of Michael’s nickname among close friends, a “Black Cat”-themed pair highlighted by cat-hair-textured panels will be released.

The store will also be hosting a series of design workshops throughout the week for kids, helping to lend some guidance on the insights and storytelling that have carried the brand for all these years.

In addition to the two editions of the sixth Air Jordan that celebrate his Bulls-era achievements, the brand is also releasing a batch of pairs that touch on Jordan’s Carolina-based chapters in high school, college and now in the NBA.

One of the first Retro editions to release in an entirely new colorway during the early 2000s, the “Laney” Air Jordan 5 was initially met with a mixed reaction, with touches of blue and yellow accenting the white sneakers. This time around, the brand’s newest take on a Laney High School tribute to Jordan’s alma mater features more color, more depth and more detailing.

The mostly blue sneaker incorporates yellow hits throughout, along with a splatter gray midsole, honoring his Wilmington-based school along the coastal edge of the state, a three-hour drive east from Charlotte. The chenille Jumpman logos along the tongue add a letterman jacket touch, tying back to when Jordan first earned his jacket after being famously cut from the varsity squad as a sophomore.

A duo of Air Jordan 1 high-tops are also set to be released, one a patent leather Carolina blue ode to his days at UNC, the other a teal and purple celebration of his current Hornets ownership.

Last but not least, there is an Air Jordan 9 highlighted by its baby blue Jumpman added into the assortment. When the model was originally released in late 1993, just after Jordan retired for the first time, the shoe spoke to his status as a global icon and featured six languages across the outsole for the Russian, German, French and Swahili words like “dedicated,” “force,” “intense” and “world.”

According to the league, the All-Star game is now broadcast in more than 215 countries and territories and in more than 50 different languages, a sign of just how far and wide the sport has grown. All of the sneakers are launching early at the brand’s event space in the heart of Charlotte, dubbed the “Owners HQ,” located inside of the Mint Museum.

Beyond the sneakers, for the second year in a row, Jordan Brand will be taking ownership of the All-Star uniforms, designing them atop white and black base colors, with oversized team logos featured across the chest.

“With the game being in Charlotte, we were presented with a great opportunity to look at the rich history of the city and its many connections to our brand,” said David Creech, Jordan Brand vice president of design.

While bearing a strong resemblance to the uniforms used for last year’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles, this year’s versions do include some callbacks to the ones worn in the 1991 game in Charlotte, particularly the same red white and blue piping. The rotated square infographic returns along the right side of the shorts, while the crown star icon from the shoulders of the 1991 jersey is now seen along the shorts’ waistband. The series of stars along the sides of the jerseys incorporate a honeycomb pattern within, tying back to the Hornets’ early ’90s court patterns.

“It was important for us to add details that honor the Charlotte community and the great fans there,” Creech said.

There’s no mistaking the magnitude of Jordan’s dunking silhouette being affixed to the game jerseys that’ll be worn by members of Team LeBron and Team Giannis. While he often jokes about wishing he could compete against today’s generation, in many ways, he’s still maniacally competing against James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and the like.

“Man, I wish I was playing right now,” he told ESPN just before turning 50. “I would give up everything now to go back and play the game of basketball.”

Sure, Jordan has had a two-decade head start in the sneaker game compared to today’s stars, and his current lead doesn’t appear to be dwindling any time soon. His sneaker brand has hovered around the $3 billion mark in recent years, far outpacing the $400 million that the Nike LeBron business fetches annually, which is then well ahead of everyone else.

From the jerseys, to the mix of retro sneakers on the return, to his outlook ahead as he enters a second decade as team owner, he can also take pride in the many branches of his Jordan roster of athletes that are also extending throughout the All-Star game.

Current face of the brand Russell Westbrook will be lacing up his WhyNot Zer0.2 sneakers, while current face of his franchise Kemba Walker will be donning an oversized Hornets logo front and center on his Jumpman-stamped jersey. Fellow All-Stars Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are also each part of the Jordan family. While the stage is set for Jordan to own this weekend in Charlotte, behind the scenes, his brand is already working toward next year’s roll out — another homecoming — as Jordan awaits his next full circle moment in Chicago.

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