The minimalist Air Jordan IX, designed by Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith, features an innovative one-pull lacing system, which allows for easier tightening of the shoes. On the outsole, inspirational words, such as “freedom” and “independence,” appear. Written in different languages and chosen by Hatfield, the words are meant to represent Michael Jordan’s status as an international superstar.
The IX was released in 1994, the year Michael Jordan retired from basketball to pursue his childhood dream of playing baseball. Jordan received IXs redesigned as baseball cleats, which he wore to play in the minor leagues with the Birmingham Barons. Although he never wore IXs in the NBA, other players did, including Penny Hardaway and Kendall Gill, and Lebron James even wore IXs during his senior year of high school in 2003.