Player: Michael Jordan
Original Release: 1989
Retro: 1999, 2008 (as part of the Countdown Pack), 2012, 2019
Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Release Type: General release
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Why do we care about May 7, 1989?
Guess it depends on who you are. For most people, it was simply a Tuesday. For basketball fans, May 7, 1989 was the day Michael Jordan drained a buzzer beater to eliminate the Cleveland Cavaliers from the playoffs. For sneakerheads, that day meant something more: it was the day the black/fire-red/cement-grey Air Jordan IV became part of sneakerhead lore.
What is now known as “The Shot” (1989 edition) did more than just win a playoff series. It became a sign of things to come. Prior to “The Shot”, no one knew what fate had in store for the Chicago Bulls. As a sixth seed with a 47-35 regular season record, Chicago didn’t even have home court advantage, Cleveland did. The Cavs were viewed as the team of destiny. Magic Johnson even boldly predicted that the Cavs would become the team of the 90s. They cruised through the ‘88-’89 season with a 57-25 record, good enough to secure the number three seed in the East, where they would meet the Bulls in the first round of the 1989 playoffs. That’s when things turned.
With the series tied 2-2, Cleveland hosted the deciding game 5. The fate of both teams, as well as the legacy of the black/cement Jordan IV, would be determined in the final seconds of that game. By now, most of us have seen “The Shot”, with MJ sinking a jumper over Craig Ehlo to clinch the series as time expired. And, while many remember Ehlo as the guy on the receiving end of “The Shot”, many don’t remember that Ehlo was the Cavs’ leading scorer for the game.
Ehlo scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, including a clutch layup to put the Cavs up 100-99 with three seconds left, all while on a sprained ankle. Had the game ended there, Ehlo would’ve been the hero, and our MJ highlight reels would have looked very different than they do today. But it didn’t. The Bulls still had one inbound play left and the ball was going to Jordan.
The Cavs chose Ehlo to defend MJ for the final possession of the game. In hindsight, future Bull Ron Harper, who was quicker and had spent a large portion of the series guarding Jordan, may have been the more logical choice. Nonetheless, Cavs coach Lenny Wilkins decided to go with Ehlo. For Chicago, the 7-foot Brad Sellers was responsible for inbounding the ball and getting it to MJ. We all know what happened next.
With 3 seconds left, Sellers inbounded the ball to His Airness who immediately drove past Ehlo, pulled up at the foul line and nailed a jump shot over Ehlo’s outstretched arms as time expired. MJ’s triumphant leap immediately after while Ehlo crumpled to the floor in defeat will forever live in the annals of playoff basketball. And those black/cement Air Jordan IV’s MJ was wearing? They’ll be there too.
Final score: 101-100. Game over. Bulls win.
Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Jordan IV featured a Durabuck upper, plastic triangular “wings” for ankle support, lightweight rubber netting, the “Flight” logo on the tongue and a visible Air sole unit in the heel. The Jordan IV released in 1989 in four original colorways: 1) black/fire-red/cement-grey (pictured); 2)white/cement-grey/black; 3) white/black/fire-red and 4) off-white/military-blue.
In 1989, the black/fire-red/cement-grey Jordan IV retailed at $110 (about $229 in 2020 dollars). They first retroed in 1999 and retailed for $100 (about $155 in 2020). They retroed a second time in July 2008 as part of the Countdown Pack, which included the Jordan XIX. The Countdown Pack retailed at $310 (about $372 in 2020).
They released again in 2012, retailing at $160 (about $180 in 2020). On May 4, 2019, almost 30 years to the day of “The Shot”, the Jordan IV retroed yet again, this time retailing at $200 (about $202 in 2020).