I shouldn't love the Air Jordan IV as much as I do. I really shouldn't. As a Cleveland sports fan, I should react to the Jordan IV with the same kind of rage that the phrase "taking my talents to South Beach" triggers. When Michael Jordan, wearing a pair of what have become known as the "Bred" IVs, hit "The Shot" over Craig Ehlo's sad, hyper-extended arm to eliminate the Cavaliers from the 1989 NBA Playoffs—simultaneously sucking the life out of both the Richfield Coliseum and the City of Cleveland—I was just a toddler. Clad in what I can only assume was an oversized diaper and a faded blue Cavs t-shirt, I sat in my father's lap for the duration of Game 5 of that first-round series, which was deadlocked at 2-2. Our Cavaliers were 3 seconds away from finally knocking off the vaunted Chicago Bulls, a team that stomped on our city's NBA Playoff hopes year after year after year.
When "The Shot" happened, my father swore at the top of his lungs and I started bawling in terror (a recurring theme when it comes to watching Cleveland sports). I should hate the Air Jordan IVs like I hate Art Modell and the Boston Celtics. I just can't.
The IVs have always appealed to me for reasons more complex than just their looks. Although the Jumpman on the tongue, plastic "wings" on the upper and lightweight netting for breathability make the IV one of the dopest Jordans ever to come out, the shoe's cultural relevance in my life raises it to near-iconic status.
When I was just a young, ignorant-to-the-brilliance-that-is-Spike-Lee college student, a buddy tossed me a DVD copy of Do the Right Thing. As I watched Giancarlo Esposito's righteous character Buggin' Out straight bug out on a white dude in a Celtics jersey for scuffing his white Jordan IVs (which still might be one of the greatest scenes in movie history, strictly because of Martin Lawrence's lisp), the IV reentered my life. I'd always been a guy who gravitated toward t-shirts with designs my friends didn't understand or crewnecks with an ice cream cone on them. I just never felt as strongly about shoes. But once again, on my television screen, there were those IVs. Not sneering at me like they did after His Airness put tears in my eyes, but grinning back at me from the feet of Buggin' Out, telling me "Nah, you da man!" I had to have them, and right there, I dove headfirst into the swimming pool that is the world of kicks. My swim trunks could have fallen off and floated to the surface, and I wouldn't have cared.
When Jordan Brand brought back the IVs last year and trotted out a pair in the old Cavs colorway, things had come full circle. Sure, the shoe referenced one of the most painful moments in Cleveland sports history, but I looked at it differently. It was a peace offering of sorts. "We're sorry, Clevelanders," the shoe said. "We want you to like us too." I accepted the IV's apology just as I accepted the NBA handing Kyrie Irving to Cleveland in a gift basket.
So while you won't see me rocking the original black and red colorway (my guilt wouldn't allow me to function), I've embraced the rest of IVs with open arms. Like the rose that grows out of concrete, sometimes love grows out of a dark place. Just don't tell my dad.
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