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A Look Back: Jordan Brand January ’98

1998 was a pivotal year for Michael Jordan, the world’s greatest basketball player of all time. The ’97-’98 season would be his final one as a Chicago Bull. He won his sixth and final championship that year over the Utah Jazz and was the League, All-Star, and Finals MVP. While all that was going on, Nike was busy establishing the foundation for Jordan’s next steps after his inevitable second retirement. This involved creating a distinct differentiation between Jordan Brand and Nike.

As a sub-brand of Nike, Jordan Brand’s aim was to be as pure, unique and authentic as Michael himself. The brand would use the Jumpman logo exclusively and made its official retail debut late in 1997. “I have been involved in the design of everything I have worn from Nike since we began our relationship in 1984. The launch of the Jordan Brand is simply an extension of that process,” said Jordan in a 1997 press release. “It is an exciting and challenging opportunity to express myself and connect with the next generation of players. I look forward to being involved in every step of this new venture.”

Jordan Brand 20 Years 3

The white/black/red Air Jordan 13s made their debut in this January 1998 Eastbay catalog.

Product-wise, there would continue to be an Air Jordan basketball shoe, but also additional basketball and training models with complementary apparel. In the January ’98 Eastbay catalog, the basketball sneaker section was highlighted by the debut of the white/black/red Air Jordan 13 colorway. Jordan would wear this version of the XIII during the regular season. At the time, the 13 was touted as the lightest Air Jordan ever made. Inspired by one of Jordan’s nicknames, “Black Cat,” the outsole resembled a cat’s paw. The 3-D hologram on the upper was inspired by a cat’s eye. The Young Athlete page also featured the Air Jordan XIII, with infant, little kid’s, and big kid’s sizes available.

Incredibly, there were still pairs of the Air Jordan 12 black/red available from the previous season. Jordan famously wore this colorway in the ’97 Playoffs, and fought off “flu-like symptoms” in Game 5 of the Finals verses the Jazz (hence the “Flu Game” nickname for this model).

Jordan Brand 20 Years 1

This Eastbay page had it all — from two signature AJs to Jumpman Pros to Trainers.

 

Aside from the Air Jordan 13, there was also the Air Jumpman Pro, which was inspired by the Air Jordan 12 in both design and color scheme. This model featured Zoom Air cushioning in the heel and forefoot. There was also the Air Jordan Trainer, a minimalistic, wrestling-type model designed for basketball-specific, foot-oriented, and resistance exercises. The shoe was inspired by Jordan’s intense training routines, which included game-day workouts. Both models would be trailblazers as Jordan Brand began to separate from Nike and create a unique identity.

Jordan Brand 20 Years 2

Plenty of Jordan Brand apparel was also featured.

 

As for Jordan Brand apparel, there was a full page dedicated to warm-ups, shooting shirts, game vests, game shorts, practice shorts, beanie caps, and Dri-FIT sleeveless tees (one of the many trends Jordan made popular). The apparel and accessories were merchandised separately from the Nike branded products and came complete with separate packaging and labeling. There was also specific advertising to go along with the Jordan Brand merchandise.

Jordan Brand 20 Years 5

The University of Cincinnati and St. John’s University had some amazing Jordan team gear.

 

In addition, a page for Jordan team gear. The University of Cincinnati and St. John’s University were two of the first college teams to rock Jumpman jerseys. Cincinnati had a strong team that year, led by Kenyon Martin who would wear the Air Jordan XIII’s. There were replica shorts, jerseys, tees, beanies, and warm-up vests with hoods (long before stars like Carmelo Anthony made them popular).

Jordan Brand 20 Years 4

Michael Jordan cologne!? This spray was as ‘light as air.’

 

Looking back, the January ’98 catalog was a glimpse into the simpler times of Jordan Brand – back when there were just a few sneakers and a few pages of merchandise. When the Jordan Brand officially launched, it was a huge deal in the sneaker world, and created a whole new avenue for Nike to continue to evolve and create game-changing sneakers and apparel.


Follow Drew on Instagram at @nikestories.

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