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Jason Mayden Describes Meeting Michael Jordan and "Coming Home" in the Launch of The Design Fellow

“Palms sweating, heart pounding, shaking uncontrollably from the excitement that had built over the past 27 years, it was finally my moment, it was finally MY opportunity to begin the process of designing the signature product of one the greatest athletes of our time and that athlete was none other than Michael Jeffery Jordan, aka Air Jordan.”

I’m sure that if you’re reading this you are wondering, “What happened next?” Well, let’s go back to the beginning. It was a clear summer Chicago day. The sun was shining and the air was full of optimism as we left O’Hare airport headed towards MJ’s private residence in Highland Park, Illinois.

As we approached the massive estate, I was immediately overwhelmed by a wave of emotions. I experienced everything from joy to absolute terror as we patiently sat and waited as a rumbling voice leaped from the intercom unit and enveloped the front cabin of our rental vehicle. “Is that a giant 2-3 on his gate?!”, “What if he is in a bad mood and doesn’t want us here?!”, “Do I have all of my design materials to present?!”, “Am I really ready for this moment?!”, were the questions that danced relentlessly in my mind as we watched the gargantuan gates slowly open towards us upon being granted permission to enter.

There were no words spoken amongst my peers. They had been here before. To them this was business as usual. But for me, it was a childhood dream coming true right in front of my eyes. I went from a child growing up on the South Side of Chicago who never could afford to attend a Bulls game to a grown man who was about visit the private residence of Michael himself. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me.

As we parked the vehicle and began our approach to his front door, I decided that I would take mental pictures of every single detail of his home, of his staff, and of the entire experience. I knew in my heart that this was a special event that very few people had the privilege of experiencing. As the door opened, we were met by a warm and gracious member of MJ’s personal staff that ushered us into the foyer of his home, which also doubled as his trophy room. I almost passed out from the sheer vastness of it all. As I stood still, consumed by the magnificence of it all, I began to understand the true greatness of who Michael was as an athlete, as a man, and as a meticulous curator of his own accomplishments. He had everything on display from his Rookie of the Year trophy to his six championship rings. It was all there to serve as an example of how far one man can go with faith and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

At this moment, all I could think about were my parents and all of their sacrifices, which lead to me having the opportunity to live my dream. Immediately, I turned to my right and politely asked MJ, “May I use your restroom?” to which he answered, “Sure, it’s right over here next to where we are going to meet.” As I made my way to the meeting room, I rehearsed my plan in my mind over and over, “Enter bathroom, turn on the water, huddle in the corner, call my parents and try to keep my voice low.” Five, four, three, two, one – I counted to myself as I entered the bathroom, turned on the water faucet, called my parents, and tried to keep my voice low.

“MOM! You will never guess where I am right now?! I’m in MJ’s house, in the bathroom!!! Can you believe it! I finally made it.” Looking back I can now see how ridiculous I must have sounded to my parents and unfortunately to MJ. In the moment I didn’t realize that the acoustics in his home carried my voice into the conference room and embarrassingly into the ears of MJ himself.

After about five minutes in the bathroom I hear a knock at the door followed by, “Make sure you wash your hands and please tell your mom I said hello.” I was completely embarrassed but also relieved. MJ had been listening the whole time and he understood my joy. He allowed me to be a kid again, he allowed me to share that experience with my family but most importantly, he allowed me to feel like I was at home.

Jason Mayden

lecturer and fellow at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design

The Design Fellow is a monthly series by former Jordan Brand Sr. Global Design Director Jason Mayden and current lecturer and fellow at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. TDF will cover the worlds of design, higher education, sports, street culture, and the various interdependencies of them all through the eyes of Jason.

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