Michael Jordan's enduring love for his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, echoes through the corridors of time.
 In his own words, he reflects on a once-unthinkable journey, stating
 “I never thought I’d be able to play at a Division 1 school… It really shocked me when North Carolina started recruiting me.”

This sentiment has become a recurring theme, emphasizing his profound gratitude to the institution. Some argue that, at this juncture, Jordan's contributions to UNC's legacy rival, if not surpass, the impact the school had on him. Beyond mere words, his actions speak volumes—from frequent returns to the university grounds to providing counsel and actively participating in the management of UNC’s NCAA basketball team.

It's evident that Jordan's connection to the iconic blue UNC jersey runs deep, a sentiment that finds expression in the diverse offerings of the Jordan Brand. This appreciation isn't a mere footnote in his illustrious career but a recurring motif, 

showcasing the profound influence that his collegiate experience continues to have on his life.


While the "UNC Blue" colourway might not bask in the same limelight as its more iconic "Chicago" and "Bred" counterparts, its historical significance is no less profound. The enduring white and blue colour palette has been a constant companion throughout Jordan's storied career, persisting even years after his retirement. The releases of two new "UNC" Jordans in the Spring/Summer 2023 season only underscores the timeless allure of this colourway.





Embarking on a journey through time, it becomes apparent that "UNC" has woven itself into the fabric of sneaker history as a classic colourway. This isn't just a tale of footwear; it's a narrative of how personal stories and experiences, like Jordan's bond with UNC, can transcend the realm of sportswear. As we eagerly anticipate the latest iterations of "UNC" Jordans, we're not just celebrating a colourway; we're commemorating a legacy—a legacy that began with a young athlete's disbelief and blossomed into an enduring connection that continues to shape the landscape of both basketball and fashion.





In 1985, a mere year after Nike inked its historic deal with Michael Jordan, an impressive array of 15 Air Jordan 1 color schemes burst onto the scene. This lineup included the iconic "Chicago" and "Bred" editions, alongside other beloved variations like the "Black Toe," "Royal," "Shadow," and notably, the "UNC." While Jordan never sported the original AJ1 "UNC" on the basketball court—reserving that honour for the AJ1 "Chicago"—the blue-and-white colour combination swiftly garnered immense popularity. Thus commenced the cyclical ebb and flow of AJ1 releases, culminating in the "UNC," alongside several other OG colourways, finding a revered place on numerous sneaker enthusiasts' grail lists.





In the more recent past, the Jordan Brand delighted enthusiasts by releasing a 2015 retro version of the Air Jordan 1 "UNC" in celebration of the iconic Air Jordan's 30-year legacy. The reissued version, depicted on the right, generated significant excitement upon its release, remaining faithful to the original design showcased on the left. The retro stayed true to its roots, making only minor adjustments to the Air Jordan 1 silhouette. This modern iteration proved to be a hit not only among Air Jordan purists but also resonated with newer audiences. After all, who wouldn't appreciate an authentic recreation of a timeless classic?





Fast forward a couple of years merely a year after the esteemed fashion visionary Virgil Abloh unveiled the iconic Off-White x Air Jordan 1 Retro High "Chicago" as part of his groundbreaking "The Ten" collection, he applied the same innovative treatment to the Air Jordan 1 "UNC". The outcome, released in 2018, was equally striking, presenting a sneaker that seemed like a hand-deconstructed and meticulously recreated version of the original design. Off-White's distinctive features, including block texts proclaiming "AIR" and "SHOELACES," the iconic floating Swoosh, and the separated Air Jordan Wings at the ankle, were all prominent, contributing to the collaboration's uniquely captivating aesthetic. 

In essence, since its debut in the original release of the Air Jordan 1, the "UNC" colorway was predestined to become a symbol of sneaker greatness. This colour palette has been a constant companion to Michael Jordan throughout his illustrious career, mirroring the ups and downs of his professional journey. Viewing the complete "UNC" lineup transcends a mere collection of sneakers; it narrates the compelling story of the greatest basketball player to ever grace the court.

Levi Niekerk