A telephone call shook up what he calls “a normal Sunday,” bringing 12-year-old Jordan Dark some exciting news – he had been selected to design a pair of athletic shoes for Nike. That call led the Mt. Angel Middle School student to experiences he could never have dreamed – including the likely opportunity to meet his favorite sports hero.
In recent weeks, Jordan drew up the shoe style and got to attend an elegant charity event where the prototype pair was auctioned for $12,000. Since then, these shoes have been manufactured for public distribution and went on sale Nov. 13 at Nike.com and Niketown.
For the past several years Nike has been working in conjunction with Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, creating the special shoe collection as a benefit for the Portland hospital. The hospital nominates six children who have had life-threatening illness. Jordan had been a patient at the Portland hospital but is in remission, says his mother, Rhonda Grant.
The selected children write profiles, and from his essay Jordan was chosen to work on the Air Jordan brand. The other children made designs for other Nike labels.
The honor of making Air Jordans is especially great for Jordan, a huge fan of Nike spokesman Michael Jordan. The 12-year-old – who thinks its cool to share a name with his hero – wears Nike shoes and shirts with images of Michael Jordan “90 percent of the time,” he said.
“Maybe they picked me because I wear Air Jordans all the time,” he joked. His mother said Jordan is known to be upbeat and outgoing – just what the company was looking for. “They chose kids they felt could get up in front of a crowd and talk,” she said.
When he heard he was to create his own shoes Jordan said he “couldn’t breathe. I love shoes, they’re one of my passions.”
He sketched out his concept then met with designer-developer Jason Mayden at Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton to describe what he wanted. His concept has lots of symbolic details.
On the exterior, one shoe has “O608” and the other “0409” – representing the first and last months of Jordan’s treatment.
“A cool feature that I did inside, on the tongue, it says ‘What time is it?’ and the other side, ‘It’s game time,’” he said.
The base color is what he calls a “light navy blue” suede with red stitching. The interior is gold silk.
“My favorite animal is a lion. People say I have the heart of a lion so the inside is a gold color like a lion.”
The shoes are accented with “rippled lines like the baseline of music because I love music. Also it’s like my heartbeat pumping out the chemo and killing the cancer.”
Jordan’s shoes were unveiled in the Michael Jordan Room at the Nike campus – “it’s a secret room,” he said.
The original pair was put up for auction at an event Nike hosts as a benefit for Doernbecker Freestyle Foundation. They were purchased by a Nike employee who collects them.
Jordan got two pairs in his own size, but “I’m not going to wear them,” he said. They are too valuable.
Trailblazer guard Brandon Roy signed one pair, and in return said “the only way he would get them was with my autograph on them,” Jordan said.
Nike is producing about 3,000 pairs of the shoes, which sell for $120 to $180 a pair.
Jordan has enjoyed the process of designing shoes. In fact, he said the experience has changed his life. Now his career goal is to be a shoe designer for Nike and he said he is already looking at colleges with design programs.
“That’s what I’m going to do,” he vowed.
The whole experience has been exciting – but the best is yet to come.
Arrangements are being made for Jordan to visit Michael Jordan early next year.
“Michael Jordan is my hero. I’m gonna meet him!”