The Nike Air Jordan Brand Exactly when the Air Jordan XXX design journey began is up for debate. Arguments could be made for February 17, 1963, Michael Jordan’s birthday — or October 24, 1984, the day his Airness signed with Nike. There’s also April 1, 1985, when his first signature shoe hit market and February 6, 1988, the date he soared solo in Chicago as he debuted the Air Jordan III. There’s a litany of moments — game-winning shots, personal triumphs and titles — that form the Jordan legacy. But to dissect the journey is to miss the forest for the trees.

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The Air Jordan XXX is a unique synthesis of Jordan’s evolution as a player and a design collaborator.

Each of the shoe’s elements results from a key performance insight or design inspiration fundamental to the player and Jordan Brand’s evolutions. The start of the design process, however, tied to a significant, if lesser-known, date: a bitterly cold weekend in February 2015, when – during a pre-birthday party dinner — Jordan asked long-time design collaborator Tinker Hatfield to spearhead the design of the anniversary-marking shoe.

15_1208_Tinker_0455_51687“The next morning I drew a shoe,” Hatfield recalls, “because I knew I was in deep trouble. We had no time. Then I realized it wasn’t good enough to sketch a shoe. I asked for that particular photo of Michael in the slam dunk contest and then I drew.”

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The photo in question, which featured MJ in the open lane, rising to the hoop, ball cocked behind his right ear and legs tucked under his body, activated Hatfield’s memories of 1988. It spurred the designer to add his own illustrations to the familiar image. The resulting artwork, which recapped Jordan’s history in unconventional ways, in turn inspired the shoe.

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 06:  Basketball: NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan (23) in action, making dunk during All Star Weekend, View of scoreboard at Chicago Stadium, Chicago, IL 2/6/1988  (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)  (SetNumber: X36131 TK1)

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The approach, Hatfield notes, created a “nice sort of circle. Its all very internal, rather than the external story of being influenced by a car or architecture or music. Those have been good tools, but this one was different. It was just in my head, so to speak.”

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The Air Jordan XXX will be available globally on February 12, 2016 at select retail stores and Jordan.com.