It’s been pretty difficult going about life without sports during this pandemic – although soccer’s started back up in certain parts of the world – but Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance captivated the basketball world for five straight weeks and is likely to continue to do so for many more as it’s quite possibly the most talked-about content in basketball media at the moment.
It was truly saddening to see it end and it would be safe to assume even more so for Bulls fans, considering they had to relive their golden era coming to a close. On the back of that comes a new documentary, however, with VICE TV’s release of One Man and His Shoes following the culmination of the world-popular MJ docuseries. This newer documentary could even be called an extension to episode 5 of The Last Dance in which the mega endorsement came to the fore.
The film is directed by British filmmaker Yemi Bamiro, who insists the timing was purely coincidental, and focuses on the ever-present obsession that’s been a thing since Nike released the Air Jordan 1 in 1985.
One Man and His Shoes features interviews from former NBA Commissioner David Stern and Jordan’s former agent David Falk, among others, and debuted on Monday night. While focusing primarily on the Air Jordan’s unreal popularity, it also delves into the ugly side, noting the history of violence associated with the Jordan brand. It’s also given a voice to Dazie Williams, a mother whose son was brutally murdered over Jordan sneakers in 2012.
Nike and Jordan were unresponsive when Bamiro reached out regarding the documentary and their reasons are unknown. However, Peter Moore, one of the original Air Jordan 1 designers and Jim Riswold, a former Nike marketing exec who created the Jordan ads with Spike Lee, speak extensively.
Bamiro spoke to Talkbasket.net last week and admitted he would have liked for both Nike and Jordan to have had involvement.
“My entry point into this film was to tell the story of the sneakers and obviously I would have wanted people who work at the company to be involved,” he said. “We got a lot of people in the film and we reached out a few times and we just didn’t hear back. I’m sure they’re aware of the film and, in terms of the ending and what they might think of it, I’m not sure.”
“I wanted to tell the phenomenon of the Air Jordan sneaker,” he continued, “I didn’t want to divide or skip history. The violence which has surrounded the sneaker is an unfortunate part of its history so I felt it was important that we speak about it. As journalists and filmmakers, we’re just doing our jobs and just telling the story and I kind of feel that I always wanted to make the film really balanced and wanted to show everything in all its glory and its full context. I feel that we’ve kinda done that and in terms of what they might think of it and why they didn’t want to be in it, I have no idea.
“I think, if One Man and his Shoes does one thing, it kind of like shows how celebrated and how revered the sneaker is. Unfortunately, people sort of take it to the next level and we had instances like we had in the film. I think if we get into why that happened, who’s responsible, or corporate culpability, I think it’s a different film; I think it becomes a larger conversation. You’re talking American policy and economic stuff and that’s not what we set out to do. We just wanted to tell the story of the sneaker and, unfortunately, you know, the violence is a small part of its history.”
Despite the lack of input from Nike or Jordan, Bamiro says he’s completely satisfied with the finished product.
“Yeah, I’m definitely at peace with the film,” he declared. “I think we grappled for a long time with the ending and how we explore this massive canvas of sneaker violence, race, capitalism and consumer habit in the U.S. But, ultimately, I think the film feels balanced. It feels like a blow-by-blow account of the sneaker and there’s nothing I would change.
“I didn’t want it to be a fanboy film or for quote-on-quote sneakerheads. I wanted it to be accessible for people who are interested in pop culture, people who are interested in sports, people who are interested in the fabric of American culture in the 80s and 90s because those are all the things that I was interested in. I wouldn’t change anything and I’m completely happy with what we have and I hope people like it.”
Of course, we had to find out if Bamiro is a fan of the Air Jordans himself and it turns out he’s pretty big on Js, albeit claiming to have tamed his obsession over the years.
“I think I used to be a bigger fan than I am now,” he said. “I used to have a proper problem, nothing comparable to the collectors in the film, but I used to feel the need to have everything. But then I think it comes down to being practical like I don’t know where I’m gonna keep this stuff, I can’t wear all of this stuff, so I’ve definitely slowed down. But I think of the entry point as always being the phenomenon of the sneaker and why it’s so revered, why people are so passionate about it and I definitely think that some of that rubbed off on me over the years.”
You could watch One Man and His Shoes on VICETV.com and the VICE TV app.