In 1988 there was a dunk contest that would forever alter dunk contests. With his last attempt, and in need of a 49 Michael Jordan aired it out and threw it down like no one had ever seen. A career-defining dunk to cap off a career-defining season (All-Star Game MVP, regular season MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Scoring Champion, Steals Leader, 1st Team All-NBA and 1st Team All-Defense). In this very moment not only did Micheal define his career but he also created a legend in the form of his Air Jordan Retro IIIs. Following the release of yet another retroed III I think it is only appropriate to go back to the beginning. And the story behind this epic photo taken by Walter Iooss Jr. is really interesting…
The problem with shooting the NBA slam-dunk contest was that you never knew how the players were going to dunk, especially Jordan. In 1987, he had twirled and dunked with his back to me. But by this time I knew him a little better. As he sat in the stands three hours before the contest, I said, “Michael, can you tell me which way you’re going to go, so I can move and get your face in the picture?” He looked at me as if I were crazy, but then said, “Sure. Before I go out to dunk I’ll put my index finger on my knee and point which way I’m going.” I said, “You’re going to remember that?” And he said, “Sure.”
So later, when they announced his name [for his turn to dunk], I looked over to him on the bench and there was his finger pointing left. I got up and moved to the right side of the basket so I could see his face. He went left every time he dunked. On his last two dunks, he ran the length of the court, took off from the foul line and slammed the ball through. On the next-to-last one he landed in my lap. On the last one I set up in the same spot. He looked at me as if to say, “Go left a little, give me some room this time.” And that was it, the picture was made: 1000th of a second frozen in time.
-Walter Iooss Jr.
(via Nick Depaula @ solecollector.com courtesy of Walter Iooss Jr. & Michael Jordan)