Students of the Game: Michael Jordan and Tinker Hatfield Share Their Ongoing Partnership on and off Court

It’s been 30 years since the iconic Air Jordan 1 sneaker first launched, and Nike has been pulling out all the stops in celebration of this huge milestone in the iconic Jordan franchise. Its been hosting events all over the world, the most recent of which took place in Shanghai and also coincided with the NBA Global Games. The festivities included a Jordan House of Flight space, which showcased special installations from artist Michael Lau and an interactive fan experience called "Last Shot" which invited participants to recreate one of MJ’s countless game-winning shots.
Celebrity appearances from the likes of Roger Federer, Hiroshi Fujiwara, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin surely delighted fans, but the main event was a conversation with Michael Jordan himself and famed designer Tinker Hatfield. Hosted by noted sports broadcaster and longtime friend of His Airness Ahmad Rashād, the conversation touched on various subjects including Hatfield and Jordan’s special working relationship; what the Jordan brand means to each of them; MJ’s unwavering love for the game; and his advice for youth about what it takes to succeed, in basketball and beyond.
Are you surprised by the fact that these products remain relevant or is this something you could see coming based on MJ’s performances?
TH: I don’t think anybody saw it coming. I think this is unprecedented and I’m pretty amazed by it every day.
As many of you know the Jordan brand has always been the leader in performance innovation and style. Most recently with the Air Jordan 29 one of the first key innovations was visible air which appeared on the Air Jordan 3, setting the tone for the brand’s legacy. Tinker, the 3 was your first project with Michael. Tell us what your first impressions were working with him.
TH: When I first got the project it was really important to try and get to know the man, Michael. We all had seen him play basketball so that was a little bit easier to decipher, but really I wanted to get to know him. I found out he was a very fashionable guy, very stylish, had a good sense of design. So that really helped the whole thing take off?
So that would lead you to the fashionable element of the brand?
TH: We actually talked about performance first, and try and design the shoes so they work really well for the best players in the world — Michael being one of those best players. I think we have the most fun trying to pick out materials and trying to find fashionable ideas that have never been on basketball shoes before.
So I would imagine that the big challenge was, one of the most iconic transitions in the history of sports, Michael Jordan — the game’s biggest star — retired to pursue another first love, baseball. What do you remember about that time and how did it shape the Jordan franchise?
TH: When Michael retired the first time and he went to play baseball, I always had this notion that he was just taking a break. I felt that way; I don’t know if anyone else here did. So I just kept working on designing Air Jordans even though he was playing baseball.
What made you keep on going and staying with it?
TH: I think that even if he had never played basketball again he had already cemented his place in history as one of the greatest players ever, and the designs at that point had already become popular outside of sport.
The one thing that most sports fans remember is when (Michael) said the words, “I’m back.” Were you as excited as every sports fan because you were back in your element?
TH: I guess I felt like I was vindicated because I kept designing the shoes while he was gone. The shoe we’re looking at here was designed while he was retired. When he said “I’m back,” essentially we knew he was of course going to be wearing a crazy new shoe. That was a lot of fun to think that it was all going to take off again.
Were you as surprised when he said, “I’m back” as everyone else?
TH: No. I just had a feeling that he was, I really did. That’s why I kept designing the shoes. I think I tried even harder to be crazier with this one because I wanted to make a mark for him and help him come back with a splash.
How does it feel to be back in China?
MJ: It’s good. It’s been 11 years since I was here last. It’s always good to come back. The passion you get from the fans; it’s always welcoming.
Coming back this time and celebrating your 30th anniversary…
MJ: Time files! 30 years we’ve been doing this. Things have been good — the collaborations, the designs and the teams. Everyone has been working hard to keep this thing moving along. We’re very fortunate.
What do you hope is your defining contributions to this game?
MJ: I feel like the way I play the game with so much passion and love, hopefully that’s going to be one of the things that’s passed on through generations to people that don’t even play the game of basketball. The way that I loved the game and worked hard at the game — if you love something you’ll go to every extreme to be good at it or to get better at it. And that doesn’t have to be basketball; it can be anything that you like. If people can look at how my love for the game of basketball helped me excel at it, hopefully that’s going to help them with whatever they are doing in their own lives.
Incredible athleticism was certainly hallmark of your game. What demands did your game place on the footwear that you used, and Tinker how did you design for this man at the peak of his power?
TH: We had to reinforce the shoes. He kept telling me his shoes would blow out and stretch out by halftime; he would even get a new pair sometimes. So it really changed the way everybody designed shoes because he was putting so much power and movement, and we learned about what a special athlete he was and how to deal with other athletes.
MJ: One of the things that makes us a great tandem is that I can give him insights to how the shoe actually operates when playing. I was forceful on my shoes — the cutting, all the movements ± and when I did wear and test the shoes I could always go back to Tinker and say, “You know what, I think you need to do something here.” That made us work well together. It started from day one; I never wore a Nike shoe until I signed with them and one of the things that I did with them was make sure they understood what my desires were. None of those have changed: I wanted to be closer to the floor; I wanted to look sleek; I wanted to be lightweight; I wanted to look and appear quick; and be able to change direction. And you look at shoes 30 years later and they are very similar to that; they have those same traits.
You are responsible for some of the greatest individual performances of all time, from your 63 points against Larry Bird’s Celtics to your 38 points against the Jazz in the NBA Finals. With a less physical style of play, what are some of the holes that you see that you can exploit?
MJ: That’s tough. As a basketball player, you’re never not a student of the game. I spent a lot of time trying to dissect who I was playing against — some of their strengths, some of their weaknesses — and I would make sure my game did not have weaknesses. I would work on trying to improve every aspect of my game to where I could apply that in game situations. I think that was one of my strong points in my basketball talents. I would try to improve each and every day. I never felt like I was complete. To me, that’s important. If you can’t do something, make sure you can.
A lot of the kids here in China who are obsessed with basketball never had a chance to see you win six championships live. What can you tell them about how you won those titles and what they need to focus on to reach that level?
MJ: It starts with hard work; setting goals and striving to reach those goals and surpassing some of them. Everything that I’ve done starts with one thing and that’s the true love for what I did and how much I care about the game of basketball. There was days I felt like I didn’t want to play or practice; I pushed myself to make sure I stayed ahead of my competitors. There were things that I tried to improve on. When I first got into the league they said I couldn’t shoot; defense started to slack off on me so I started to shoot. And if they came up to stop me from shooting I’d drive past them. My game elevated depending on who I was playing and how the defenses changed.
As you see basketball and how it’s growing here in China, what do you think of the state of the game here?
MJ: I think its getting bigger and bigger. Yao Ming had a lot to do with it. Jeremy Lin is doing a lot because of his passion and the way he plays the game. You’re going to see more basketball being played here in china and more people from here going to play in the NBA. And that’s progression of the game; it’s how the games become global. I think it’s good for the game and its good for China.
What does it mean to you to have your team here in China and also some of your most iconic endorsers here in China?
MJ: My team is an expression of who I am. I want to make sure it improves to where we are winning championships. I felt like it was important for the team to come and establish themselves on a global standpoint. In terms of the brand, it’s become global. We need to continue to connect with consumers here in China and understand what it takes to improve as a brand. Having both of them here is a good start for us to expand and continue to grow.
Tinker what inspiration do you take from a city like Shanghai and these great fans?
TH: I love the people here; everyone is really friendly but also you can see there’s a lot of drive here to be better just like Michael talked about with his game. I think people here in Shanghai are really driven to be better — in business and in architecture. The architecture is ridiculously cool; I’ve had a great time the last couple days looking around.
What does the Air Jordan franchise mean to each of you?
MJ: It’s an expression of an athlete that tried to impact the game in a lot of different ways, and utilize a product that enhanced his basketball talents. For 30 years it has drastically improved from day one. What we constantly tried to do was move that innovation forward. Where will our shoe be 30 years from now from an innovation standpoint? I don’t know but it will be better than what we established today. That’s the progression we try to instill in building our product: Today’s shoe is better than yesterday’s shoe, but not nearly as good as tomorrow’s shoe.
TH: One of Michael’s quotes is: “Talent wins games; but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” When I think about these 30 years — he’s built a basketball team and made every body better and they won six championships, but what he’s really done is built a much larger team that is winning championships in the world of business and design. It just carried over from his playing days and we are all part of that team. It’s bigger and more complicated but its working the same way. We are all trying together.

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‘Gran Turismo’ is Coming to the PlayStation 4

Gran Turismo is finally making its way to the PlayStation 4 and while it may not be Gran Turismo 7, Polyphony Digital and Sony are offering up the next best thing: Gran Turismo Sport. The first installment in the award-winning racing simulator series since 2013’s Gran Turismo 6, Sport remains largely under wraps, but promises to be the best looking, sounding and playing GT yet. Sport also sees Polyphony and Sony linking up with Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile to offer real-world prizes thanks to online championships that will allow players to represent their country or favorite car manufacturer. Perhaps best of all, the game will be compatible with the upcoming PlayStation VR.
A release date for Gran Turismo Sport has yet to be revealed, but the racer will debut with a public beta early next year.

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Levi’s & Pendleton Team Up Again For Fall 2015

For Fall/Winter 2015, the two iconic American brands, Levi’s and Pendleton, have teamed up for the second time. The new capsule collection combines premium Levi’s denim with Pendleton wool, which has been given an exclusive print as part of the collaboration. They kept the offering tight and on point, with the capsule consisting of a […]

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Damien Hirst to Release New “Kaleidoscope” Prints

Initially released back in 2001 with the introduction of It’s A Wonderful World, Damien Hirst’s "Kaleidoscope" series is set for a return this week as the celebrated artist adds two new prints to the collection. Echoing the kaleidoscopic motif of the originals — which references the spiritual symbolism of the butterfly, used by the Greeks and Christians to depict the psyche and resurrection, respectively — Beneficence and Miracle each measure 14" x 20" and come signed and numbered in editions of 50.
Both prints will be available from Hirst’s own Other Criteria this Wednesday, October 28 between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. ET.

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Nike Basketball 2015 “Opening Night” Pack

The NBA Season is finally back and that also leads to another year of signature models from some of your favorite players and brands. This time around, Nike is tailoring to its three-headed monster in Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James to bring in the 2015-2016 Season with the brand new "Opening Night" Pack.
The trio consist of the Nike KD 8, Kobe X Elite and LeBron 13 models. Hosting a Flyweave upper along with dynamic Flyknit, the KD 8 pays homage to his roots with a graphic along the upper showcasing a map and skyline mix of Oklahoma City along with the DMV (Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia) area. The Kobe X Elite hosts a saturated yellow upper that mixes with black detailing through its Flyknit material while the newest silhouette in the LeBron 13 plays along with the signature line’s ongoing ‘cork’ theme hosting a grey based upper with wine detailing throughout. You can expect Nike Basketball’s "Opening Night" Pack to release on November 11 at select Nike retailers and website in limited quantities.

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Misty Copeland, Amy Schumer, Venus & Serena Williams to Be Shot by Annie Leibovitz

Celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz has been commissioned by global financial services firm UBS for an encore to her original "Women" photo series created in collaboration with Susan Sontag in 1999. Titled "WOMEN: New Portrait," the new photo series will capture the likes of Misty Copeland, Gloria Steinem, Alice Waters, Serena and Venus Williams, Jane Goodall and Amy Schumer, with the first photo in the series being a self-portrait of Leibovitz with her three daughters, Sarah, Susan, and Samuelle. UBS intends for the series to reflect "the changes in the roles of women today," with Leibovitz adding that "it is extraordinary to do this work for UBS on a subject that I really care about. It is such a big undertaking and a broad subject, it is like going out and photographing the ocean.” Opening in London in January 2016, "WOMEN: New Portrait" will travel to Tokyo, San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Istanbul, Frankfurt, New York and Zurich over the course of 12 months.

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NikeLab Gyakusou 2015 Holiday Collection

The holiday season is set to welcome a new collaboration from NikeLab with the upcoming Gyakusou 2015 Collection. Designed by Jun Takahashi of UNDERCOVER, you can expect footwear and apparel to be a part of the project with the Nike Flyknit 3.0 being the lead shoe. The ultra-flexible silhouette will be available in two colorways that both hosts black uppers with either gold and teal detailing or red and green hints throughout. Meanwhile, the Gyakusou Collection’s apparel includes pieces such as an aeroloft vest, Gyakusou knit sleeve pullover hoodie and shield runner jacket along with pants. You can expect for this collaboration to release on October 29 at select NikeLab retail locations and website.

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NikeLab Ushers in New Gyakusou Offerings for Holiday 2015

UNDERCOVER’s Jun Takahashi and Nike are back to deliver a new Gyakusou collection for Holiday 2015. As always, the premise of the Gyakusou range is to blend Nike innovation with Takahashi’s signature design sense, for a lineup of functional and layerable running goods. Emphasizing articulated fits that allow for natural motion, the selection includes highlights like the Knit Sleeve Pullover Hoody featuring a scuba […]

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adidas Originals Tubular X “Camo”

The adidas Tubular X style has definitely made a name for itself this year — whether for its associations to the Yeezy Boosts or its comfort in general. Regardless, this colorway is going to be a hit. Clad in "Camo," the shoe now boasts black leather overlays and a brown camouflage print underneath. Set atop a black sole and finished off with an embossed Trefoil, this style should be hitting adidas Originals retailers soon.

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Spiewak 2015 Fall/Winter Lookbook Styled by David Hellqvist

American outerwear brand Spiewak unveils its Fall/Winter 2015 collection with an editorial lookbook highlighting a winter wardrobe made to withstand the coldest and harshest of conditions. Drawing inspiration from its military roots, the Fall/Winter 2015 offering redefines iconic models with special attention to details, colors and fabrication.
Highlighted in the collection is the Waterproof Tech Aviation Snorkel Parka — featuring a fully waterproof, laminated cotton/nylon shell, also coated with ultra-stain resistant Teflon, and finally finished with critically taped seams. You can shop the Spiewak Fall/Winter 2015 collection here and can now get 10% OFF on your first online purchase by subscribing to the newsletter.

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Nike Free Flyknit NSW “Rough Green”

Making great use of wintry tones over this running centric model, Nike offers up a new rendition of the Free Flyknit NSW. Appropriately dubbed “Rough Green,” this Flyknit model employs a lush green knitted base married to black and Jade Glaze accents. A 5.0 Free sole cap the looks with comfort and precision. The Nike Free Flyknit […]

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On-Foot Look // Nike Air Max 90 “Milan”

Candy colorway, gradient fade, today’s second On-Foot Look profiles the Nike Air Max 90 “Milan” from the recently released “City” Pack. Designed for the ladies, this radiant rendition of the timeless retro runner features Hyperfuse construction that takes well to hues of orange and red. A statement on their own, see the shoes do the […]

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Nike Running 2015 Fall/Winter “Flash” Pack

As Nike’s puts it, "running isn’t about waiting for perfect conditions, the right mood or the ideal route. It is about putting your best foot forward, whatever the weather. As dedicated athletes brace themselves for winter’s coldest, darkest months, Nike’s Flash Pack collection arrives with a multicolor reflective print to help keep runners visible in low-light conditions." Perfect for the months ahead, this year’s "Flash" drop employs hues of black, blue, green, and purple — a nod to the Northern Lights — as subtle reflectivity highlights the Free 5.0, LunarGlide 7, Pegasus 32 and Zoom Structure 19.
All four pairs — and corresponding apparel — are available now via nike.com.

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Brixton 2015 Holiday Lookbook

California streetwear label Brixton unveils its 2015 Holiday collection, featuring a range of laid-back wardrobe mainstays inspired by the brand’s music-grounded roots. Comprised of jackets, wovens and pants, the offering also introduces new headwear that includes brimmed hats, cut and sew caps, and beanies. For the first time, Brixton has also expanded its line of women’s headwear this season. You can now show the 2015 Holiday collection at the brand’s online store.

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Check out All Four Colorways of Spike Lee’s Signature “Spike Forty” Air Jordan

After a first look at Spike Lee’s new signature “Spike Forty” Air Jordan, Nike have now unwrapped three additional colorways. Unmistakable cues are taken from the Jordan Brand catalog (specifically the Air Jordan V and other designs from Tinker Hatfield’s sketch vault) to create the Spike Forty. Features include a clear outsole, reflective panels and a […]

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‘The Ridiculous 6’ Official Trailer Starring Adam Sandler and Steve Buscemi

Adam Sandler writes and acts in the upcoming Old West comedy, The Ridiculous 6. In typical Sandler fashion, the film is immensely satirical and in particular parodies the 1960 classic, The Magnificent Seven. The film follows Tommy "White Knife" Stockburn on an adventure across the Old West when his long-lost outlaw father returns. Joined by a star-studded cast that includes Will Forte, Taylor Lautner, Steve Buscemi, Danny Trejo, Luke Wilson, Rob Schneider and Jorge Garcia, the journey promises to be one filled with debauchery and hilarious misfortunes. The Ridiculous 6 is set to release worldwide on Netflix on December 11.

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