It has crossed my mind a harrowing number of times recently that Michael Jordan and I would make great friends. I say “harrowing” because spending any amount of time entertaining the possibility of a friendship with Michael Jordan requires a baseline belief that you exist in the same universe, and that… is just delusional.
But Michael and I actually do go way back. I come from a big basketball family: my dad prides himself on his jump shot, my oldest sister played through high school, and our family pastime growing up was playing 21 in the driveway. Michael Jordan was a big name in our house. We DVRed reruns of Bulls games. We watched Space Jam on repeat. We gave my dad the gift of new Jordans two Christmases in a row. I always knew Michael and I had a lot in common, too. We’re both dark-skinned with long arms, had respectable basketball careers—I retired from my YMCA league at 8 years old, thank you—and are perfectionists to the core.
I guess I was fascinated by MJ because my dad said he was the best to ever play the game, and I absorb my dad’s sports opinions by osmosis. His football team was the Steelers, so mine was, too. Cowboys? Well, that’s my Uncle’s favorite team, so we dislike them for the sake of good-natured rivalry. A lot of teams apparently have “sorry” coaches—I took notes and criticized accordingly. And apparently Stephen A., an ESPN commentator with a brassy voice and big opinions, is getting paid to do what my dad and his friends do every day: talk smack. All this is to say, when it came time for the 10-part ESPN docuseries The Last Dance to air in May, my dad said it was a must-see, so I cleared my nonexistent schedule and tuned in with him every Sunday night.
The Last Dance tells the story of Michael’s final, record-breaking years in the NBA, his iconic teammates Scottie Pippen (“Scotty” to the real ones) and Dennis Rodman, his family, and the inner-workings of the league. (If you haven’t seen it, I suggest setting multiple reminders for July 19th, its Netflix release date.) But don’t let the core plot points dominate your attention, because betwixt the gravity-defying dunks and 63-point games, the next-best thing about the series is his wardrobe.
Michael’s outfits are mainly composed of baggy suits, t-shirts paired with dress shirts, and lots of textured layers, and I realized while watching that they’re the perfect template for late summer, early fall. His style was charismatic, but always comfortable and, to this day, still hotly debated as being the worst. That, my friends, is my sartorial preference to a tee: easy to move in, borderline ugly.
So, naturally, after watching The Last Dance I made plans to ransack my parents’ closets and recreate the best looks. Here’s how it went.
The First Season – Getting Layered
This outfit was inspired by a scene from the first episode of The Last Dance. It was 1984, Michael’s first year with the Bulls, and he was getting a lot of attention. This look is simple, he’s just caught in the middle of signing autographs, but I loved the layering of all the textures—leather, wool, cotton—and once I found these old headphones in the basement, the deed was done.
Rookie of the Year
This is arguably my favorite look of all. In fact, I’m upset I didn’t jack this coat from my dad and take it back to New York. Michael won Rookie of the Year for the 1984-85 season, and accepted the trophy in a suede, camel shirt and gold chain. I styled mine with no shirt underneath (for breathability), my favorite Rolla’s jeans, my mom’s kitten heel pumps, and thick hoops. The suede is hot, so save this one for an early fall day.
The Practice Fit
I’d wager that even if you haven’t seen The Last Dance, you’ve seen Michael Jordan in this practice outfit. It’s become somewhat iconic, like Cher’s tennis uniform in Clueless. My version features a sweat-wicking Nike t-shirt, a red mock turtleneck, and Nike track pants. Oh, and an attempt at the famous, Michael Jordan split-leg dunk. That goes with the outfit, too.
The Championship Game
Michael’s fourth championship win! This is a homecoming tee from my dad’s Alma Mater, the KU Jayhawks. The graphic was the closest I could find to resemble the NBA championship shirt, so I wore it as a dress and tied some lime green ribbons on the sleeves for a chic, pool floatie effect. Remember, “borderline ugly” is one-half of my style flavor, so I like to add something random, right before the buzzer. The hat is Air Jordan and the shoes Air Maxes, as ALWAYS.
Rendezvous in Paris*
If you haven’t caught the theme by now, Michael was so smooth! He knew he looked good when he put this suit on. This was 1997 when the Bulls went to Paris and you can tell it’s near the end of his career because he looks mad confident. For this, I took some comfy slacks, a netted top from the 90s, and a leather belt from my mom’s closet. Paired with my dad’s tweed sport coat, my leather beret, and a little gold hoop in the left ear. Just like Mike.
*Read in thick french accent
That’s it. That’s the tweet! If you take a crack at recreating these looks yourself (please do!), do me a favor and lean into the mismatched-ness of it all. Mike, if you are reading this (may I call you Mike?) I salute you. Thanks for being my personal hero, and if you want to be friends, you know where to find me.
Photos by Olivia Clark.