It’s unfortunate for director Yemi Bamiro that his documentary One Man and His Shoes comes out in the same year as ESPN’s superb doc series The Last Dance. Both deal with Michael Jordan’s basketball mega-stardom and the commodification of Blackness, but The Last Dance does it so much better, even as a subplot in Jordan’s legacy.

Bamiro does a decent job of establishing the world Jordan burst into in the mid-‘80s, and why he made such an impact, though the doc ties itself in knots a little here. Did MJ become a superstar through his generational talent, Nike’s aggression in pushing his brand, or Spike Lee’s brilliance in directing the legendary Air Jordan III ads? The answer is certainly a little of each, but the to-ing and fro-ing just feels like sitting on the fence.

Bamiro takes a much more passionate stance in the final third, scrambling to expose the “dark side” of sneakers in an embarrassing lurch into moral puritanism. He speaks to the family of Joshua Woods, a young man murdered for his Jordans, and implies that this is an epidemic for which Nike and Jordan are to blame. Several contributors, including Joshua’s mother, essentially suggest that Nike are irresponsible for marketing their product so well that people are willing to kill for it.

There are countless legitimate criticisms to make of Nike—for example, the way they exploit college athletes and use sweatshops for cheap labour—which makes it even more galling that Bamiro tries to pin individual acts of violence on them and Jordan. Would you blame Rolex or Ferrari for the crimes carried out to steal their products? It’s akin to the ‘90s pearl-clutching that tried to blame violent video games and gangsta rap for society’s ills and a desperate attempt to inject drama into an otherwise pedestrian doc.



CAST: David Falk, Jemele Hill, Scoop Jackson, David Stern, Sonny Vaccaro

DIRECTOR: Yemi Bamiro

SYNOPSIS: One Man and His Shoes tells the story of the phenomenon of Air Jordan sneakers showing their social, cultural and racial significance and how ground-breaking marketing strategies created a multi-billion-dollar business.