I wanted to get this out there, especially before the anticipated re-release later this year. My favorite sneaker of all time is the Air Jordan XI that Michael Jordan wore in the 1996 All-Star Game, better known widely by it’s nickname the ‘Columbias.’ As a Michael Jordan fan, 1996 was a very key year. The year prior, MJ had come out of retirement towards the end of the 1995 season with the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls fell to the Orlando Magic in the playoffs, but MJ vowed to come back strong the following year and work off the rust. Long story short… The Chicago Bulls ended up winning their 4th NBA Championship and setting a record 72-10 season.
So why this sneaker? I think a lot of it has to do with the All-Star Game hype and everything leading up to it. The Bulls were already having a franchise best season and everyone was expecting them to take the crown. Michael Jordan was back in the best shape he’s ever been. My friends and I were really into basketball at the time, especially sneakers. At school we would gather around the latest Eastbay catalogs or go to the mall after school and check out the latest styles. When we weren’t talking about the game (basketball), we were playing it on Super Nintendo… Anyone remember EA’s Bulls VS Blazers & The NBA Playoffs? We were just INTO it. This was a rare time in my life. It was before I got into competitive fighting games, it was before i started collecting video games… and it was before I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. After Michael Jordan retired, I just couldn’t enjoy the game of basketball as much as I used to. San Diego didn’t have a ‘home team’ and that’s when I started focusing more on school and life. Even when MJ returned for his brief stint with the Washington Wizards, it just wasn’t the same. I was a fan of #23, but not of the Wizards…
That didn’t stop me from reminiscing and appreciating the old days. Thankfully Nike and Jordan Brand started to retro (re-release) the Air Jordan XI again and in 2001 they brought back the ‘Columbias’ … I absolutely had to track down a pair. While I missed out on the release of them, I had to go to NIKETALK to acquire a pair from their forum marketplace. This was new to me. The internet proved to be a very useful place filled with knowledge and holding no bounds to race, color, creed or location. LOCATION. That was key. I ended up using my PayPal account and ‘copping’ a 10.5 pair of the 2001 Columbias from a NT member in New York. It was a smooth transaction and a week later I finally had my ‘holy grail’… But why stop there?! What could be next?
I kept seeing people talk about “one to rock, one to stock” … Shit. Me too! So I scoured the forum marketplace until I finally found another size 10.5 or 11 pair. This time the seller was from Sweden. Now that might not seem like a big deal nowadays, but back in 2001 when I was new to doing person to person transactions over the internet? It was crazy. Same story, different tune. A few weeks later I had my second pair and all was well in the world. I then took it upon myself to be more of a collector and actually pay attention more to the science and community behind sneaker collecting. This was back in the day when NIKETALK actually had a WEALTH of knowledge on the message boards… so much that you’d have to have a back-up account for when you’ve reached your daily viewing limit (LOL). Shoutouts to retrokid, snugglesmcduggles, flipjays, dependablejay, Method Man, kingcrux and all the other OG NT heads that used to share the knowledge. If it wasn’t for NT and eventually ISS/SC, I probably wouldn’t have been as appreciative as I am now.
You know what the crazy thing is? It was through that knowledge that I ended up finding out the minute and subtle differences between the retros, the OGs and all that. So when I saw and confirmed that the 2001 pairs of Columbias did not have the glorious icey blue tint to the sole, it kind of ticked me off a bit deep down inside. That blue tint that the original pairs had, I just had to have it… I eventually ended up getting a deadstock size 10.5 of the original 1996 pair. Thanks to my sister for copping those for me way back when I didn’t have a job. LOL. I don’t know if I clearly conveyed why this sneaker is my number one of all time, but I know that it is and you’ll just have to take my word for it.
It’s been over 13 years since the last release of this shoe. Some pictures have finally started surfacing and the hype is slowly but surely building for the holiday release. Am I ready? Yeah. I’m planning to get 4 pairs. Why 4? I plan on wearing these for the rest of my life. It’s nice to have one aspect of life thought out… I’m still figuring out the rest. I guess I should thank the sneaker game for that, heh.