Image: Upper Deck
Image: Upper Deck
Image: Upper Deck

Today marks the official start of the real NCAA tournament. Play-in games are fun and all and freak out your less-knowledgeable co-workers who scramble to get their picks done in one day without any research, but this Thursday through Sunday is the best four days of the year in all of sports. Whether you are at your desk or on your phone checking scores or at home being a bum with your friends with multiple screens on at once to catch all of the games, there is nothing quite like genuine March Madness excitement. While some of it does diminish over the next few weeks as more and more people are eliminated from the pool, it can be quite the rush when you know you still have a shot going into the Final Four weekend.

For sneakerheads, college basketball has also become a haven of sorts for kicks that you don’t even see on NBA courts. From exclusives from the top programs in the country to amazing collections being trotted by the players from their own stash, the action is not only reserved for the actual game themselves but the sneaker game within them as well.

The NCAA Tournament has also become synonymous with some of the most beloved kicks of all-time, whether it was a pair that a player wore during a particularly good performance or kicks that debuted for the first time during March. Some of the more famous examples are the green and white Reebok Questions Mateen Cleaves wore in 2001, the Nike Air Flight Huarache of the Michigan Fab Five during the early 90s and the Nike Air Foamposite One rocked by Mike Bibby in 1997. Even Michael Jordan is a part of the lore because he rocked a pretty clean pair of Converse Pro Leathers when he made a game-winning jump shot against Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA Championship game. But nobody ever talks about them.

Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

Every time people clamor for more retros and more chances to give Nike money (if you didn’t know, Nike owns Jordan Brand AND Converse), you would think that the kicks when Jordan first became internationally known would be a bigger deal than it is, but nope; any recent attempt at recreating the magic has just come and gone without even so much as touching the zeitgeist.

In 2012, Converse teamed up Jordan Brand to create a special 30-year anniversary commemorative pack celebrating “The Shot” with an autographed pair of the Pro Leather by Michael Jordan along with a signed jersey. Limited to only 30 pieces made, this was obviously out of the reach of most sneakerhead’s budgets and was nothing more than a passing curiosity. Last year, Converse then released a special Hi/Lo pack of the Pro Leather to once again honor Jordan’s accomplishments with special gold branding on the shoes that are not unlike what you would see in a “Golden Moments” Air Jordan pack. You can still find Hi/Lo pack at stores or on eBay for retail (or less) if you try hard enough.

Nah...
Nah… Image: Dunk.com

While they don’t have the trendy designs of the retros people love, Converse should be able to sell to the sneakerheads that the Pro Leathers are as much a Jordan shoe as the first Air Jordan was. Granted, if anybody is going to be associated with Converse, it’s going to be Julius Erving (who also wore the Pro Leather) and most sneakerhead’s memories of Jordan came when he first soared in the air wearing Nikes so he is more closely associated with red, white and black, but at least his college days should be on par with his brief stints with Team USA during the Olympics. People seem to love the Air Jordan 7 “Olympics” and those aren’t red, white and black. Just saying, a picture of somebody wearing those Pro Leathers with the KoF wristband on Instagram would be a welcome change…

Maybe if they had more color like this.
Maybe if they had more color like this rare variant Jordan wore in college.