I’ve realized that not many people know who Johnny Kilroy is. This realization took me on a wild journey through the past, reminding me why I became a fan of the Jordan Brand of shoes since the early 90s. After researching, reading and tearing up the internet, I’m here to educate you on the man, the myth, the legend.
Back in 1993 Michael Jordan retired after his 3rd championship with the Bulls and went to play baseball. But during that time Nike was releasing the Air Jordan IX leaving many people to wonder would the shoe even sell. Many speculated that the shoe wouldn’t do well because the greatest player in the game wouldn’t be sporting his own signature shoe.
Then came one of Nike’s best marketing campaigns to date. Ironically, the campaign never died and the story lives on today.
The story of Johnny Kilroy started with a TV commercial starring Steve Martin as an investigative news reporter. Martin was trying to uncover the story behind the mysterious Kilroy, who was Michael Jordan’s alter-ego. Nike even got Phil Jackson, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning and Chris Mullin to join in on the fun. You can even argue that Kilroy set the stage for Jordan’s super hero role a few years later in “Space Jam.”
The campaign took to new heights when Upper Deck printed a Johnny Kilroy trading card. I remember having this card back when collecting cards was cool.
In the original Kilroy commercial, Steve Martin mentions that players who resembled MJ were appearing for semi-professional teams across the country. Names like Motorboat Jones, Calvin Bailey and teams like the Crawfish, Mystics, Billings Bandits and Gulls were mentioned. You’ll also notice Bailey is seen wearing a jersey with Gary on the front.
And now Kilroy is back with an unbelievable campaign that I’m disappointed not more “sneakerheads” are excited about. The 6 shoes in the Kilroy Pack represent each of MJ’s alter-egos featured in that original commercial.
Jumpman has been releasing images of the Kilroy Pack shoes through the Johnny Kilroy Twitter account. Here are some of the images that have surfaced.
Air Jordan IX Johnny Kilroy (Remember the infamous “Popcorn Tape?”)
Air Jordan IX Fontay Montana – Gulls (“Yeah, I faked my retirement. So what?” sounds awfully familiar and MJ alter-ego is spotted in commercial with Gulls jersey)
Air Jordan IX Bentley Ellis – Crawfish (Watch that original commercial carefully and you’ll recognize these little toy figures)
Air Jordan IX Calvin Bailey – Gary, IN (MJ alter-ego is seen wearing blue and yellow “Gary” jersey in original commercial)
Air Jordan IX Motorboat Jones – Billings Bandits (This character and team is also mentioned in the original Nike commercial)
Air Jordan IX Slim Jenkins – Mystics (MJ look-alike spotted in Tar Heels colored jersey with “Mystics” on the front)
Jordan Brand has also been releasing new footage of Kilroy in hiding through YouTube but they’re not accessible on the main page. Pretty clever Kilroy, but we’re hot on the trail…
Is this evidence of a possible third clip of Kilroy in hiding?
Now it’s your turn to #FindKilroy