It was 2001. Ray Allen was more than a decade away from joining the Miami Heat. He wasn’t even a Seattle Supersonic yet, much less a Boston Celtic. Ray was in full throttle of his Milwaukee Bucks career at that point.
In February 2001, the new flagship Jordan Brand model was introduced. Air Jordan XVI was boot and dress shoe inspired, had a squared-off toebox, and mixed in heritage elements like patent leather trim and translucent rubber. Team Jordan athletes like Ray-Ray got their own pairs to wear on court, custom built in special makeup colors and identity embroidery (“RAY34” in Allen’s case).
Every Team Jordan and NBA athlete wore them improperly too.
Air Jordan XVI comes with a three-buttoned magnetic upper cover that wrapped around the entire base of the shoe, interchangeably referred to as the gaiter or shroud. It was built onto the shoe as a pure fashion element. A trendy cover for off-court purposes that could change the look of the shoe for street wear. Put it on and you’re stomping the pavement in jeans. Take it off and you’re ready for performance court wear in mesh shorts. All the Jordan Brand marketing materials, instructions, and even here if you weren’t around for that era said the same. None of the NBA players followed suit, though.
Given that the shroud could easily come undone during more aggressive athletic use, I was anticipating at least one Air Jordan XVI fashion cover during that 2001 NBA season to fly off during actual game play. I was right. I remember it being Ray himself, or another player during a Bucks game (does anyone who recalls have video?), but sure enough that XVI shroud came undone and flew off the feet of its wearer. It could have been a bigger issue if someone had slipped on the cover and caused a more serious injury. It hasn’t gotten to that point yet.
Ray Allen again wore the Air Jordan XVI, shroud/gaiter/cover and all, in his debut with the Miami Heat tonight.
[Also in non-footwear related news]…