Michael Jordan was unhappy with Nike’s previous shoes and with his contract up for renewal he was close to leaving the Swoosh. Jordan wanted a light-weight, sophisticated, yet simple shoe and Tinker Hat-field was tasked with impressing him. Tinker jumped on a plane to meet with MJ to get a sense of who he was as a human, outside of bas-ketball.
During this time, Jordan had been buying suits and high-end Italian leather shoes to go with them. Hatfield could see that MJ had an eye for style and design, that wasn’t entirely obvious to the public or re-flected in the previous Air Jordans. When Jordan talked about the styles and performance elements that he wanted in a shoe, Hatfield did something no one else had: He listened.
Tinker set to work at designing the Air Jordan 3. Six months behind schedule he creates a mid-cut height basketball shoe, something that had never been done before, constructed in soft leather for extra com-fort and featuring an all-new elephant print design.
The Jordan 3 was the first Air Jordan to feature a visible air bubble unit on the midsole, new ‘Jumpman’ logo, tumbled leather, and a new ‘Nike Air’ logo on the heel.
During this time, creator of the Air Jordan 1 High, Peter Moore and Nike Marketing Director Rob Strasser, left the company to create Sports Inc. A big meeting was arranged between Michael Jordan, Phil Knight, Tinker Hatfield and Jordan’s parents.
Jordan shows up four hours late, and in a bad mood having been play-ing golf with Sports Inc, who had tried to recruit MJ. Once Michel fi-nally arrived, Tinker unveiled the Air Jordan 3, made to all of Jordan’s specifications along with a whole line of matching apparel. Jordan had been won over.
Michael Jordan wears the Air Jordan 3 during NBA’s famous 1988 Slam Dunk Contest.
February 1988, the Air Jordan 3 “Black Cement” releases retailing at $100.
“Tinker is a mad scientist; he came from pole vaulting, when I came from the game that was about jumping, so it was easy to try and find that synergy and a great compliment between the two of us.” Jordan said. “What we did as a team was we were able to build a product that sustained time. It catered to the athlete at the highest level; to the point that they can still play in that same shoe, thirty years later.”
Michael Jordan on Tinker Hatfield.