23 | XIs | Me: Like Mike, Just Not on the Court

23 | XIs | Me: Like Mike, Just Not on the Court

Michael Jordan in the Air Jordan XI Concords | image c/o Nike


Back in 1997 I was 12 and a lanky, baby-faced eighth grader, standing 5’10.” Each day, I’d race home after school, scramble to get my homework done then hop on my bike to cycle to a basketball court.

On the court I’d show off moves I’d gained confidence in through hours spent practicing in my driveway, most of them bootleg renditions of what I’d seen Michael Jordan do time and time again on television. Jab steps. Pump fakes. Reverse lay-ups.


If my neighborhood friend Leo was playing on the opposing team and not guarding me, he’d yell what he thought I’d do out to the dude who was: “Watch out for his fadeaway!”

I’d post up about 8-10 feet from the basket, damn-near sitting on my defender with my arm extended for my boy Shyaka to feed me.

I watched endless VHS footage of MJ, so I’d fake right before spinning left, shoot, and that ball would make the chained nets jingle when it went through. Easy. Like…


I drooled over MJ’s moves and his shoes, fiending over every pair of the Air Jordans that’d hit the streets annually.

And when Brand Jordan dropped the XI commercial with MJ leaping maybe five stories high to dunk on an obnoxiously tall rim, I wished for the sleek sneaks that rocketed him up there, too.

But I had no business wearing $125 sneakers in the mid-‘90s. Nor could my parents have afforded them if I acquired the nerve to ask.

When you’re a kid, you’re still gullible enough to believe that sneakers will make you jump as high as the athlete endorsing them. Like when Spike Lee wished for Genie Little Richie to make him become Michael Jordan in a pair of Air Jordan VIs.

*Record scratch.* Unfortunately, reality bites.

If it wasn’t obvious from me telling you about fond memories from—of all windows in my life—middle school, my journey as a true hooper was short. I had a middling high school career that ended after senior year when no D-1 colleges recruited me. My childhood dream was over.

The good thing about my high school experience, however, was that I did discover a new interest that would last me a lifetime: Storytelling.

In high school homeroom, I’d eat a junk breakfast and read Mr. Haversack’s Washington Post. Mostly the sports pages. I fell in love with Michael Wilbon’s witty columns and takes on basketball. He inspired me to choose print journalism as my major when I enrolled at Howard University. When I graduated, I chose entertainment journalism–specifically music–to be my focus.

When I got my first job at Vibe Magazine I’d spend mad time in the lab sitting beside the Music Editor, getting better. I’ll never forget him transforming the intro paragraph about a truck speeding towards the subject of my first big feature, rapper Wale, into something awesome by taking my simple verb and swapping it for “careening.”

Entertainment Weekly editors helped punch up my album reviews, teaching me to make my writing tighter. Editor-at-Large Rob Kenner’s tips carried my Lana Del Rey cover story at Complex to a special place.

Throughout those years, I gained so much wisdom from countless writers and editors. Some were veterans who literally sat down beside me to help, others were word wizards who assisted me by producing amazing profiles that I consumed in the same studied manner I peeped Michael Jordan’s Come Fly With Me and Air Time movies in my parents’ basement.

By the time I became Features Editor at Billboard, I had racked up some great stories. Unlike in sports, there aren’t many championship moments. But my tenure at Billboard was when I felt like I had finally arrived. At Billboard I covered Kanye, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Rick Ross, Pharrell, James Blake, Lady Gaga, Beyonce…

It seemed like whatever I spoke up about at our weekly meetings turned into something unique, fun, and worthwhile on our site or in the magazine’s pages. I was on fire.

One Friday after a meeting in summer 2014, our Billboard Editor-in-Chief Tony Gervino stopped by my desk and asked me to come to his office. I meandered in, my chest tightening, my heart beating a mile a minute.

“You wear a 13, right?” he asked. Correct. He reached under his desk and handed a box over to me. “Thanks for always speaking up in the meetings.” I cracked the box open…

These bad boys


The white from the Concord XIs inside had an angel aura glowing around it. Those shitty fluorescent tube lights we had hummed on the patent leather and made the toe box glisten as well.

There I was in my Editor-in-Chief’s office, six years after beginning of my career, 12 years after my hoops dreams died, and 19 after I first peeped MJ debut the XIs.

As I looked down on those sneakers, designed and endorsed by a man whose name is synonymous with excellence, it dawned on me: it wasn’t an NBA championship trophy that I had been chasing after all. It was that Jordan-like mental state where my skills, talent, and hard work all clicked inside me like some marvelous triangle of dopeness.

Donning an NBA jersey might not be in the cards for most of us, but the awesome thing is that you can dunk and swish in all walks of life. Once you find your calling, it’s game time. Get after it and the trophies will come.


I made a pretty elaborate chain of Instagram Stories that partners with this pieces. Gifs, vids, art, music… The whole kit and caboodle is now in my Highlights section. I strongly suggest you head over to my IG page to give it a look-see.

A Dinner For Nike

Flaunt Magazine Dinner with Nike and Revolve

Photos by Bianca Vazquez and Araya Diaz/Wire Image


 

One of the things that has been most exciting about my role at Flaunt Magazine is the ability to tell full stories here. For 10 years I’ve been interviewing creatives. Over the last four years, I’ve learned how to produce and edit video shorts. And since starting at Flaunt last July, I’ve not only been able to do exhibit the aforementioned skills, but I’ve been producing events that compliment the articles as well.

So far I’ve assisted on a celebration with Prada, led an art installation preview and 10-part video series for with The Broad Museum and recently, spearheaded a project with Nike. Back in November, Nike reached out to me to talk about how excited they were about their 1s Reimagined collection, a ladies-only line of remixed Air Jordan 1s and Air Force 1s. I sent a writer to their Portland HQ to get a sneak peak of the footwear and we shot all 10 pairs in-house here in LA. It was all pretty conventional journalism.

Flaunt Celebrates Nike’s 1 Reimagined with Revolve

Flaunt Magazine Dinner with Nike and Revolve

But the part that excited me most–outside of showcasing dope fashion–was the my pitch of putting together a dinner that celebrated a diverse collection of women in several facets of fashion, the arts, and entertainment. Collaborating to accomplish a goal is a winding road. Our ideas took many turns. Revolve entered the mix around January as the space (the roof) where we’d have it.

Long story short, it turned out swell. I had a hand in just about everything–from how we’d title the dishes on the menu to connect to theme of the shoes to flower arrangements on the tables to selecting guests to each person having a hand-drawn sketch to identify where they sit and take home.

To go from one phone call in November to looking at 40 attendees (art curators, designers, models, actresses, influencers…) enjoying themselves on a rooftop dinner in February because of great ideas and teamwork is pretty damn awesome. Looking forward to doing more things like this.

Make Air Jordans Sexy Again

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On any given day, you might catch me in a pair of Air Jordans. I just bought my second pair of Flu Game XIIs. I wore black VIIs to work on Tuesday. I was wearing black VIs when my girl beat me twice at HORSE on Saturday. My shooting is currently ultra un-Mike-like, unfortunately. By the way, here she is draining a jumper in Nike FlyKnits:

All that is to say I’m a big fan of Air Jordans. But here’s the crusher: I haven’t truly loved any new pair that’s come out since the XVIs.

Yesterday Jordan Brand unveiled the XXXIs. They’re cool. But like each pair that’s dropped since 2001’s XVIs, I’m not planning on getting a pair. That’s 15 years of “Meh.” A decade and a half of, “Not really feeling their latest, but I’ll be looking out for the retros.”

Air Jordan 31

The Air Jordan XXXI

 

They’ve got “Banned” written on the soles, because  the original Jordan 1s (which the XXXIs are inspired by) were banned by the NBA due to their black and red color-way not properly matching Michael Jordan’s Bulls uniform. There’s more about that in this story here.

From the look and description of the XXXIs, they appear to be amazing performance sneakers. They probably are a delight to run and jump in. To make hard stops and defensive slides with. But they’re not sleek. And they damn sure aren’t sexy. Look at the XIs, the 1s. I can’t imagine Michael Jordan–whose one of several nicknames was “The Black Cat”–wearing these. They’re too chubby for a cat. Gone are the days, I suppose, of Jordans that you want to wear as much off the court as you do on. (Why is the Jumpman on the back heel so big?) I don’t want to wear the latest Js with my jeans. Nah.

AirJordan5

Air Jordan 5 Retro OG | Metallic Silver | Out July 23, 2016

 
And that’s a bummer. But hey, the retros are still booming. The 1s will have their umpteenth re-release this September. The OG Vs drop in a matter of days. I want both. So while I hope Jordan hires one of these lux designers that are jumping ship from couture houses to make Air Jordans street-style sexy again, I’ll settle for blasts from the past.

Now pardon me. I’m have to iCal sneaker release dates.