Jordan Brand is halting the Melo shoe series after 13 models, according to industry sources, making last season’s Melo M13 sneaker the final model of the line. Though he has continued wearing the M13 during Thunder preseason games, it’s expected that Anthony will wear a combination of shoes from the brand this upcoming year, such as the Air Jordan XXXII, custom editions of retro models, and possibly even a remixed version of his very first signature model.
Anthony denied the line was ending when speaking to reporters after the Thunder’s preseason game Tuesday, saying, “I don’t read into false news.”
Despite the end of his signature line, sources say Anthony — who agreed to a new long-term endorsement deal with Jordan Brand in January — will remain a key featured athlete for the company. He’ll be playing this season alongside the company’s current headliner in Russell Westbrook, as Jordan Brand looks to refresh its approach to signature shoes in a new era.
Anthony’s relationship with the brand stretches back to his days in high school. He emerged as one of the nation’s top prep stars while playing for Jordan-sponsored Oak Hill Academy. Soon afterward, he wore the Air Jordan XVIII during Syracuse’s 2003 national championship season, his lone college year.
Later that summer, the No. 3 overall pick became the first rookie signed to Jordan Brand with his own signature shoe in the works. Anthony wore a mix of both retro and modern Air Jordans during his rookie season in custom Denver Nuggets colors, such as the XII, XIII, XVIII.5, XIX and XX.
Behind the scenes, D’Wayne Edwards, Jordan Brand’s then-newly appointed design director, was working hand in hand with Melo on his debut signature model for the next season.
“I met Melo when he was a rookie in his new top-floor apartment overlooking the entire city of Denver,” said Edwards. “Here was this 19-year-old young man with an entire city to save, and I was responsible for designing his signature shoe. He was going to be the first Jordan basketball guy to have his own signature shoe, on top of being the face of the brand. That’s a lot for a 19-year-old.”
Just after the start of Anthony’s second season, on Black Friday in 2004, the brand launched the Melo 1.5. Playing off his Nuggets No. 15 jersey number at the time, it was an approach that would bridge some of the most iconic models of the Air Jordan franchise, in this case the I and II, with then-modern technology and construction.
“I actually originally designed the 5.5 first, and then we decided to start from the beginning with the 1.5,” said Edwards, who designed the first five models of the Melo line before handing it off his protégé, Justin Taylor.
The end of the Jordan Melo series is bittersweet news for Edwards, as he and Melo came up in the sneaker game together, but it’s an era he’ll always look back on fondly. If he had known the line was close to being phased out, he would’ve liked to work with Anthony one last time.
“I’ve never mentioned this to anyone before, but I wanted to design his last signature since I did the first one,” admits Edwards, who left the company in 2011 to found a footwear design school. “I would’ve done it for free because I loved working with Melo.”
Nick DePaula is the creative director for Nice Kicks and former editor-in-chief of Sole Collector Magazine.