WATCH THE THRONE. The phrase in itself inherently implies that one is to guard, protect, or remain vigilant over a possession. So, for the sake of argument—and for the purposes of this article—let’s imagine that possession to be an NBA title.
Now I already know that most of you are ready to point out that Michael Jordan won his first ring while wearing the Air Jordan 6. So based on the definition given, how could he guard his possession—the NBA championship—if he hadn’t won it yet? Well, therein lies the beauty of the headline.
See, Michael didn’t actually break out the Air Jordan 6 Carmine on an NBA court until the beginning of the 1991-92 season. By then, he and the Chicago Bulls had already won their first title, having defeated the L.A. Lakers in five games. And knowing how history played out from there, this would mean that MJ was in “Watch the Throne” mode to re-up and defend their championship heading into 1992. Hence the headline of this article.
See back then, Mike wouldn’t break out the newest Air Jordan model until that season’s All-Star break. Up until that point, he would wear the previous silhouette, usually in an alternate or PE colorway. When MJ finally did debut the Air Jordan VI for the latter half of their 1990-91 schedule, he wore the “White/Infrared” colorway during the regular season and the infamous “Black/Infrared” colorway during the playoffs and finals. So essentially, the “Carmine” Air Jordan VI acted as a bridge between two championship seasons.
But despite the history surrounding it, the best part about ANY Air Jordan is its namesake. As a kid growing up, the greatest commercial, pitch, or plug for any Jordan sneaker was simply to watch Michael Jordan play the game of basketball. You can put all the Nike branding you want on the shoe. (Ironically, the Air Jordan VI would be the last Air Jordan signature model to feature “Nike Air” visibly anywhere on the sneaker—other than the insole—until the Air Jordan XXX3). You can have Spike Lee produce all the commercials. You can have all the celebrities you want posting their pair on social media. At the end of the day, Michael Jordan sold Air Jordan sneakers better than anyone sold anything else. EVER! Hell, his ability to push product even extended beyond sneakers. You wanted to drink Gatorade because HE drank it. You wanted to eat Wheaties because HE ate it. You wanted to wear Hanes…err, Jordans… because HE wore them. He embodied swag. He was the epitome of cool. He made you want to be “Like Mike”. And the “Carmine” Air Jordan VI was one out of many sneakers in his signature line that did just that. Or at least made you feel like it…
Now it’s been 30 years since we’ve seen this OG iteration of the “Carmine” VIs. During that time span we’ve only received Jordan Brand-ed versions of this colorway. The first retro was a part of 2008’s Countdown Pack, alongside the Air Jordan XVII, and then we saw it retro again in 2014. The colorway and color blocking remains the same as previous versions, with slight variations in the shade of red or carmine. However, this 2021 pair goes back to its OG roots, equipped with “Nike Air” branding on the heel. It also includes the standard design cues of the Air Jordan VI like the abstract“2-3” hidden in the design of the upper. The clean, reinforced toe box—a first for basketball sneakers at the time. The unique, 2-holed tongue design, that served to be both fashionable and functional. The rear spoiler on the collar of the heel that was molded in a way that it didn’t tear up your Achilles, while maintaining its usefulness. And, of course, the iconic lace patch featuring the “Jumpman” logo. This was keeping in theme with the Air Jordan III, IV, and V—basically any Jordan designed by Tinker Hatfield up until that point—where the Nike branding was strategically placed on the back of the shoe and the Air Jordan branding was placed on the front. This was meant to symbolize Michael Jordan leading Nike into the future.
As far as I can tell, Jordan Brand did a good job of paying attention to the details, which includes the overall shape of the shoe. But I already know some die-hard collectors are going to find things to point out. Minute things like the height of the tongue, or the missing indentation inside the stitching around the ankle pods. I’ll admit that it would’ve been nice to see both of those design elements brought back in their OG form on this retro, but it’s still not a deal breaker for me. Another point of contention, that I know I’ll hear about, is the blue tinted outsole. Some people prefer the original clear outsole. I tend to side with the brand’s decision to produce it in this new way. The blue tint is to counteract the oxidation process which turns clear outsoles yellow. It doesn’t stop it 100%, but it does fight it off enough to give your sneakers some longevity as far as aesthetics is concerned. So for me, it’s a necessary trade off. So even IF you decide to deduct points away for any of those reasons, this “Carmine” Air Jordan VI retro still gets a strong 9, 9.5 out of 10.
And finally I’ll end with this. Often times the brand is criticized by people, like myself, for trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. But as of late, it seems like Jordan Brand is making more of a concerted effort to address those concerns and appease those of us who grew up with these shoes. To that I say both sides need to have an understanding. On our side, we need to understand that things evolve and change. Part of the beauty and downside of nostalgia is realizing that nothing ever stays the same. So appreciate the memories. We can still hold brands like Jordan accountable, and to the standard that they set for themselves, while also understanding the realities of the industry. On Jordan Brand’s side, while it may seem like we’re always complaining, and we’re never happy, it’s a good thing to have fans who are still this invested in your products to want to see you succeed. Even if it comes in the form of vocal, constructive criticism. No disrespect to anyone else, but there’s a reason no one is yearning for the “good ol’ days” of Under Armour.
The “Carmine” Air Jordan Retro VI will officially release on Saturday, February 13th, on the Nike SNKRS app and at all Jordan Brand retailers for $200. Not sure if there will be a shock drop before then, but it’s probably best to be on the lookout. Good luck. #sneakerhead