Black Friday Sale! "Cover Story" x Follow Through Studio
Plus: Michael Jordan's hologram Sports Illustrated cover + C.J. Toledano's favorite collector's items and magazine covers
Hi everyone. Welcome to my newsletter companion to “Cover Story,” a basketball book I wrote now available in stores which you can order here. If you want to tell your followers about my book, feel free to share this tweet or this Instagram post. If you’re not a newsletter subscriber, click here to make sure you get every post in your inbox.
What is the world record for sporadically updating a newsletter intended to promote your new book after its release because you somehow still have a few more merchandise drops left? Anyways, hello. Today, I want to talk briefly about Sports Illustrated’s 1991 Sportsman of the Year cover featuring Michael Jordan (pictured above). It was a wonderful year for the best basketball player in the world. He had finally silenced the critics and transformed from a brilliant individual scorer to NBA champion after vanquishing his long-time nemesis Detroit Pistons and then Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals. One of his many rewards was Sports Illustrated’s year-end award and with it: another magazine cover.
The magazine had already made Michael Jordan a regular on their front page so they came up with a slightly different (and innovative) twist. They would put Jordan on the cover as a holographic image. There was a somewhat clever (or corny, depending on what you make of this) explanation for presenting a cover subject in 3D. Sports Illustrated was printing three separate cover stories in the issue about Michael Jordan, and intended to showcase three dimensions of his life in words and on the front cover.
The final product, which required Jordan working with a holographic artist, is a somewhat lackluster magazine cover which is however remembered for being so different from every other Michael Jordan Sports Illustrated cover of him which featured the Chicago Bulls superstar in action photos capturing his on-court dominance. Magazine covers, it turns out, can be memorable for many different reasons.
C.J. Toledano certainly remembers the holographic Michael Jordan Sports Illustrated cover. “As a kid, just turning it, rotating it, and seeing his head move,” he said, “that was just such an innovative cover back in the day.” Toledano was a huge Chicago Bulls fan growing up in his adult life he has started to amass a growing collection of Michael Jordan memorabilia, including an Upper Deck phone (pictured above) which he once received as a Christmas gift from his mom.
Once C.J. hooked the phone up in his room, he realized the Chicago Bulls theme song by The Alan Parsons Project would play every time it rang. “As much as I loved the Bulls,” C.J. explained, “it was fucking annoying.” So they returned the phone to the store. It is one of many items C.J. has brought back into his life decades later. “Now I have it at home as a thirty four year old man with a wife,” he says proudly. “But it’s not plugged in because I don't know where to plug in a landline phone at home. So it just sits there and you have to pry it open to see what's inside.”
C.J. is also a proud owner of this Michael Jordan Space Jam mug, which looks like what would happen if Hannibal Lecter took an arts & crafts class. “They did not nail the likeness,” C.J. said. “My favorite thing is when the likeness is terrible.” He is definitely correct because based on three images I studied off Google, that is definitely Samuel L. Jackson and not Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were so popular in the 90s it spawned an entire universe of bootleg merchandise. From apparel to movie tie-in mugs to t-shirts, everything hit the market regardless of their authenticity.
I was also a victim (or beneficiary?) of this proliferation of counterfeit goods. For several prominent years during my childhood I wore my Air Jordan 12 “Flu Game” sneakers to school every single day. It wasn’t until much later when I was cleaning up my closet as an adult that I realized my dad had gotten me a bootleg pair. The giveaway was the back tab of the shoe incorrectly spelling out AIR JORDON.
To pay homage to the 90s Michael Jordan bootleg market, I’ve partnered with C.J. and his company Follow Through Studio on a “Sportsman of the Year” tote bag and “Cover Story” book bundle which is available for pre-order here. The tote bag design was created by Isaac Benavidez with creative direction from Katherine Leon. Go support the crew!
Before I go, just another update from my very personally-curated book promo tour. I had a wonderful chat with Joseph Casciaro and Joe Wolfond of theScore’s Pound The Rock podcast (aka my favorite NBA podcast) which you can listen to here.
I also got to spend a few hours with Ian Karmel and the rest of the “All Fantasy Podcast” crew on a recent episode where we drafted magazine covers. You can check that out here.
If anyone cares my next book “Prehistoric” which will be a deep dive into how the Raptors arrived in Toronto and their first season is set for a 2023 release and I just crossed the 100-interview mark on it (which honestly, is kinda wild?) so I am working away at the manuscript diligently and absolutely can’t wait to re-start this book promo cycle in a few years.
Thanks for reading the newsletter. Feel free to subscribe if it’s your first time reading. You can order “Cover Story” here and find me on Twitter and Instagram. Email me if you want to chat.