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My Grail: Air Jordan XI “Playoffs”

The Black and Red Air Jordan 11; it is quite possibly one of the greatest sneakers of all time. When I think about a shoe to consider as my grail, I have to go through a long list of iconic sneakers; however, the Black and Red Air Jordan 11 tops my list quite easily. The 11 is thought to be the most iconic Air Jordan ever, but this color way holds a special place with me for a reason other than its popularity or its design.

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I don’t have any type of nostalgic memories with this shoe when it first came out as my parents couldn’t afford to buy me expensive shoes. In fact, I didn’t own many Air Jordans when I was younger. I saw Michael Jordan play in the shoes on television and saw all his commercials, but it wasn’t until later on in my life when I was finally able to own a pair. My memories of this shoe come from watching the 1996 playoffs and seeing Jordan dominate every team, only losing once to the New York Knicks. Then Jordan met the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals and won the 1996 NBA Championship on Father’s Day. The significance of this moment wasn’t just that this was Jordan’s fourth championship; but it was also his first after coming back from retirement and his first since his father passed away. Jordan has many images of him breaking down emotionally after winning his titles such as his first title, but here, you could tell that this one meant something a little more.

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Watching this moment with my own father made me realize how important he was to me in my life. Although I already had an appreciation for everything he had ever done for me, seeing Jordan break down like that gave me a sense of just how much of an impact your father can be in your life. My relationship with my father was good for the most part, but as I was growing older, I wanted to be more independent just like any other kid. I think what hit me was that he wasn’t always going to be around and I needed to take some time to enjoy letting him be a father to me before I move on and create a life of my own. For me, Jordan was larger than life; a basketball player that was unstoppable and on a whole other level than everyone else in the NBA. But in this moment, I saw how vulnerable a person can be; regardless if he’s the greatest basketball player ever, when dealing with the passing of someone as significant as your father.

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The Air Jordan 11 will always top lists of greatest sneakers for its iconic design, its silhouette, its use of patent leather on a basketball shoe and its popularity. The black and red color way of the Air Jordan 11 is also a fan favorite among many and it is most certainly a favorite of mine as well. But what I remember about this shoe isn’t how it looked or how popular it was; it was seeing how important a man’s relationship with his father is, what it means to lose him and how great it is to be able to honor him by doing what you do best in life.

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