By 1987, the relationship between Michael Jordan and Nike was anything but perfect. Jordan had wanted to sign with another brand so Nike turned to a young designer named Tinker Hatfield to work on the III. Hatfield had initially joined the company as a corporate architect, but had by then made a huge splash in footwear with the Air Max and Air Revolution projects. He had a different approach to design, one that involved the athlete more than ever before.
The III, a mid-cut shoe with elephant print accents and Visible Air in the heel (and a new logo—a silhouette of Jordan dunking that became known as the Jumpman), was the first Hatfield/Jordan collaboration. It saved Nike’s relationship with Jordan. And, perhaps in appreciation, Jordan won another dunk contest. And the Defensive Player of the Year. And the MVP.