Of course, as anyone who binged The Last Dance can imagine, it’s not always easy to elicit that smile from the most ruthless competitor to ever hit the hardwood. “You don’t want to see MJ angry or pissed off,” Kuerbis laughs. “I’m thankful that he’s still in a place where he’ll push you and challenge you to go back to the drawing board.” When Kuerbis—the mind behind the 18 (the last-ever Js that Mike wore in a game), 19, and then every model from the 31 on—was working on the Air Jordan 33, it took upwards of 10 in-person visits with His Airness before the shoe’s laceless design fit his feet properly. “I was sweating every single time. The last time, he literally said, ‘If you don’t get this right, the next time we’re just going to have to blow it up and change it.’”
Thankfully, things went a little more smoothly this time around. Doubling down on the previous model’s Eclipse Plate technology, the 35 features an even more prominent version of the see-through tech. Here, in the midfoot, it significantly reduces the shoe’s weight and allows for a more explosive bounce off the Zoom Air cushioning in the forefoot and heel. If reading that sentence gave you a headache, here’s all you need to know: these shoes are lightweight, powerful, and perform like a dream on the court. And, perhaps more importantly, they look cool as hell, too.
“We all know that Js have to look good off the court,” Kuerbis admits. “You don’t want to have a shoe that just performs, but nobody actually wants to wear it. Blending the art and the science is part of the magic of an Air Jordan.” By that metric, perhaps more than most Jordans of recent vintage, the 35 is a runaway success. There’s a definite sci-fi feel to the silhouette—Kuerbis referred to a NASA image of a black hole while sketching the oversized Eclipse Plate—but it’s also anchored in the classics, with a few subtle winks to the Air Jordan 5 on the tongue and at the heel. It’s all tied together by swaths of rich suede and leather, bringing an upscale aura back to the line following the 34’s mesh-heavy construction. Maybe the best compliment we can pay it is that the 35, which drops worldwide on October 17, simply looks and feels like an Air Jordan—even by the man himself’s soaringly high standards.