"Hare" Jordan: A History of the Jordan VII
"Hare" Jordan: A History of the Jordan VII
- Words Stephen Albertini
- Date September 3, 2020
By June of 1992, Michael Jordan was solidified. He was coming off his first NBA Championship and eager to defend his title, and he had just been crowned NBA MVP for the third time in his illustrious career. Even still, the Portland Trailblazers were waiting for him in the 1992 NBA Finals and most of the chatter in the media leading into the series was the on-court matchup between Blazers guard Clyde Drexler and Jordan–another opponent gunning for the throne that Jordan had scratched and clawed his way to secure.
“I’m a competitor,” Jordan reiterated in a sit down with NBC’s Bob Costas during the 1992 Finals. “I need something to drive me, in a sense. Every game this season, I felt that someone was trying to take something away from me personally.”
It didn’t take long for Jordan to make a definitive statement and lay claim to the series. In the first half of Game 1, Jordan attacked the Trailblazers with a barrage of three-pointers, draining six in the game’s first 24 minutes. During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan only attempted an average of 1.3 threes per game, knocking them down at a paltry 27 percent clip. It wasn’t the best part of his game, but on that night, Jordan was unwavering. He kept shooting and they kept going in. After knocking down his sixth, with the crowd in Chicago Stadium whipped into a frenzy, he turned to his good buddy Magic Johnson who was working the game for NBC on the sideline and shrugged. The Bulls won the game 122-89 and would finish off the series in six games. The Bulls would join an elite group of teams to win back-to-back Championships, behind Jordan’s Herculean efforts. Propelling him through this legendary run was the Air Jordan VII, an underrated but important shoe in the Air Jordan lineage.
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Aside from being a championship shoe for Jordan, and becoming a part of sneaker lore with “The Shrug,” the Jordan VII proved to be a landmark endeavor for Jordan Brand. Designed by Tinker Hatfield, who was in the midst of a Jordan-esque run of designing hall-of-fame sneakers since he took over the line in 1988 with the debut of the Jordan III, decided the time was right to start taking some chances with the VII.
Outside of the Jordan line, Hatfield had designed some of Nike’s most popular sneakers of the era, including the Air Max 1, Air Trainer 1 and the revolutionary Huarache. The Huarache’s technology would play a role in the design of the Jordan VII, as Hatfield would install a similar neoprene bootie, which would hug Jordan’s foot and help create an overall lighter feel. Jordan must have liked it, because Hatfield would later install versions of the neoprene bootie on the Jordan VIII and IX, as well.
From an important design and branding standpoint, this was the first sneaker in the Air Jordan line that didn’t feature any Nike branding on the outside of the shoe. No Swoosh, no Nike Air. Hatfield felt it was important to let the Jordan line stand on its own. Hatfield would also do away with the visible Air units that became a significant part of Jordans III through VI, which would also contribute to the shoe’s lightweight design. This was a part of that effort to rid the shoe of any noticeable Nike aesthetics. Visible Air units wouldn’t return to the Jordan line until the XVI, many years later.
Jordan had ascended to the top of the sports world after his 1991 NBA Championship win and his brand was ready to take center stage. An evolution that began with the Jordan III—when Hatfield debuted the iconic Jumpman logo on the shoe’s tongue—came full circle with the Jordan VII, with Jordan branding completely dominating the shoe. While Jordan Brand wouldn’t officially become an independent subsidiary of Nike until 1997, the Jordan VII was an important step towards proving to Nike that the Jordan brand could stand and succeed on its own two high-flying feet.
The Jordan VII featured some of the line’s more exciting colorways to date. Departing from the traditional Bulls red and black colorways, the Jordan VII injected pops of purple, gold, burgundy and teal to some of its original colorways. Hatfield drew inspiration from African tribal patterns and artwork. The sneaker featured geometric shapes in bold colors, especially on the tongue and by the heels, which featured a “23” on an arrow design. While the shoe’s overall design was presented in a more minimalistic aesthetic in an effort to increase performance, the colors and patterns more than made up for it.
When the sneaker officially released in 1992 for a retail price of $125, the VII dropped in five original colorways: “Hare,” “Bordeaux,” “Charcoal/Red,” “Cardinal,” and “Olympic.” Jordan would spend most of the season playing in the “Hare” and “Cardinal” colorways before sticking with the darker “Charcoal” (now commonly referred to as “Raptors,” but there were no Raptors in the NBA in 1992) colorway for the playoffs. It was the playoff-tested “Charcoal” pair that was on his feet during the now infamous “Shrug” moment.
The “Bordeaux” VIIs garnered almost a cult-like following for decades. The sneaker was only worn by Jordan in the 1992 All-Star Game and in the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Jam”, where Jordan made a cameo, but remained popular amongst die-hard fans and sneakerheads. The unique colorway didn’t retro until 2011, almost 20 years after its original release.
While Jordan never officially wore the “Olympic” VIIs in an NBA game, they do have the unique distinction of being the shoes he wore during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona as a member of the “Dream Team”, the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled on one roster. The Dream Team ran roughshod through the world’s best during the 1992 Olympics and easily secured a Gold Medal. It was the perfect way to cap off one of the greatest years of his entire career.
When Jordan and the rest of his Dream Team teammates took to the podium in Barcelona to receive their Gold Medals, a goateed Jordan stood front and center, with the American flag draped over his shoulder (purposely hiding a Reebok logo). On his feet was the “Olympic” Jordan VII. Despite never wearing the “Olympics” in a Bulls uniform, they hold a special place in the Jordan catalog. They would go on to receive proper retro releases in 2004 and 2012.
One thing you can always count on with a new Jordan release is incredible marketing. For the VII, Nike (and its ad agency Weiden + Kennedy) veered away from the legendary Mars Blackmon sidekick character for Jordan, and instead got a little Looney. Bugs Bunny, the beloved cartoon rabbit, and some of his famous Looney Tunes friends would soon join Jordan for the VII’s marketing campaign.
Commercials were shot with Jordan and Bugs Bunny playing hoops, planting the seeds of a fruitful partnership between Hare Jordan and Air Jordan. Bugs would find his way onto apparel and ads, and would serve as the inspiration for the original “Hare” colorway of the Jordan VII. This partnership would carry over into the Jordan VIII, where its original white colorway commonly goes by the “Bugs Bunny” moniker. Of course, this would all ultimately culminate in the 1996 film Space Jam, which saw Jordan team up with the Looney Tunes to take on aliens from another planet in a high-stakes game of intergalactic basketball. “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Bugs Bunny commented to Jordan as the two of them walked off the court in their first commercial together. What an understatement.
The Jordan VII has remained an integral part of Jordan Brand’s retro business, re-releasing assorted colorways in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 through 2012 and 2015 through 2017.
Jordan Brand would begin releasing retro models of the VII in 2002, starting with a retro version of the original “Charcoal” colorway and a new “French Blue” VII. Jordan actually wore the popular “French Blue” VIIs as a member of the Washington Wizards and they would retro again in 2015.
Other notable retro releases would include 2006’s “Flint” and “Citrus” colorways, 2007’s UNC-inspired “Pantone” version, 2012’s “Golden Moments” Pack (which included a pair of white/gold Jordan VIs), and 2009’s “Orlando,” which appeared in a Jordan VII Defining Moments Pack commemorating a 64-point night against Orlando in 1993. There were also “Orion,” “Chambray,” “Cigar” and “Champagne” colorways.
Perhaps more so than any other Jordan model, many of the VII’s ensuing releases were callbacks to the era in which the Jordan VII debuted, including 2015’s “Barcelona Nights” (and the corresponding “Barcelona Days”), 2019’s “Reflections of a Champion,” 2015’s “Sweater” or “Nothing But Net” (which was actually inspired by an outfit Jordan wore in Barcelona and during his early-’90s VHS Classic Michael Jordan: Air Time) and 2020’s “Hare 2.0.” Bugs Bunny wasn’t the only Looney Tune to get his own VII, Marvin the Martian did as well.
The Jordan VII also got the elite upgrade a few times, receiving both prestigious “Premio Bin23” and “Doernbecher” versions. It also has the rare distinction of collaborating with Dutch brand Patta in 2019 on an “Icicle” colorway. In 2012, two colorways of the “J2K” Jordan VII were released, featuring tan and obsidian patchwork uppers, with jagged detailing throughout. Both colorways of the limited release were formed from extra materials from other shoes, making for a one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly product.
One of the most coveted Jordan VIIs in the entire catalog is 2008’s “Miro Olympic” colorway. The multi-colored sneaker is inspired by Joan Miro’s famous Dona i Ocell (Woman and Bird) sculpture, which can be found in Miro’s birthplace of Barcelona. Barcelona just so happens to be where the 1992 Olympics were held, in yet another callback to Jordan’s impressive year in 1992. Like the original “Olympic” colorway, Jordan’s Team USA number nine can be found on the heel of the shoe.
Like many Jordan models, the VII was reinvented in a low-top iteration and three colorways released in the fall of 2018, including the “Bright Concord,” “Taxi” and a low-top version of the OG “Bordeaux” colorway. None of them would gain any real traction when compared to the high-top counterparts.
The Jordan VII accompanied Jordan through arguably the most decorated year of his NBA career, which is why its retro legacy is forever tied to that snapshot in time. In addition to his second NBA Championship and Olympic Gold Medal, Jordan won a second Finals MVP, a third league MVP, was named first-team All-NBA, was voted to his 7th All-Star Game and won his 6th league scoring title. It also proved to be one of the most physically and mentally draining times of his life. Jordan accomplished all of those accolades while dealing with the fallout of Sam Smith’s 1992 book, The Jordan Rules, which often painted him as a bad teammate and abrasive personality. However, it ultimately proved to be just another bump in the road for the greatest player in the world.
It’s been 28 years since the three-pointers stopped falling at a preposterous rate and the Dream Team walked off the floor in Barcelona for the final time, but the Jordan VII remains an indelible part of Jordan’s legacy, both on and off the court.