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Tinker Hatfield, the Michael Jordan behind Jordans


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When you stand in line for those Jordans, what do you think about? Do you think of the initials MJ, Air Jordan, or maybe the iconic number 23?

With a total of five MVP awards, ten All-NBA First-Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Game, and three All-Star MVP awards, it’s no wonder he has been able to fuel the success of Nike’s top selling shoe in history.

“I’m not trying to stunt man”, but with 27 years and counting, I would have to disagree with Kanye about his Yeezy’s “jumping over the Jumpman”.

The statement he made at this years BET awards are even more disrespectful to Tinker Hatfield.

To sneaker heads, Hatfield is the most high, he is the mastermind and the designer behind almost every Air Jordan and the designer of each shoe Jordan has worn since 1988.

Along with sports icon Jordan, Hatfield was largely instrumental in starting not just a shoe revolution within pop culture, but helping Nike launch an empire.

The funny thing is that he wasn’t always a designer, in fact is an architect.

Do you really know the man behind the man on your sneaker?

Hatfield, 58, grew up in Halsey, Oregon, where he was an athlete earning a track scholarship to the University of Oregon in 1970.

He set the school’s pole vault record and finished sixth in the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials. Hatfield’s track coach at Oregon was the legendary Bill Bowerman, who was a co-founder of Nike.

In 1981, Hatfield went to work as the corporate architect of Nike, designing office spaces, showrooms, and stores, unaware that 7 years later he would become the designer of the most iconic sneaker of all-time.

Hatfield recalls the best part of working for Nike is the “incredible economy scale and the power to change the world.”

He commends those that practice environmentalism, but Nike’s platform allows for such an idea to resonate and hit home affecting a huge demographic, impacting a very wide spectrum of people.

Beyond the false stories of the Malaysian workers making sneakers for 5 cents, “there is a lot of power in the scale of a company like Nike, a lot of good power.”

When designing for Jordan, Hatfield always gives him a call or visit to talk with him about what’s going on in his life.

It’s all about being inspired by him.

Designing used to be about how he played the game, now as Hatfield and Jordan continue to design shoes, they have become more about other athletes under the Jordan brand.

Still, there is a reoccurring theme behind Jordans, to “design a really high quality, high performing, sophisticated basketball product that is befitting of Michael himself.”

This is true of the infamous Jordan XI, which was designed during Jordan’s first retirement when nobody at Nike but Hatfield believed he would return to the game.

So, the next time you stand in line, wear a brand, don’t study for class, or doubt your essential purpose at A&T, remember that education is key and seems to manifest itself even within our fashion choices.

In addition, educate yourself on what you support.

Ask yourself, “Do I know what the tree on my Timbs represents,” what does the Nautica boat emblem mean,” or “do I really know the man behind the man on my sneaker?”

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  • Deryck VANDERBILT-NICHOLSON, Contributor
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Tinker Hatfield, the Michael Jordan behind Jordans