Check out team Nelly Korda-Tony Finau's reflective Michael Jordan-inspired shoes at Grant Thornton Invitational
3 Min Read
Written by Stephanie Royer
While you’re watching Tony Finau and Nelly Korda chum it up at the inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational, take a closer look at their shoes – at your own risk.
That’s because the duo is sporting the new Nike Air Jordan 1 Low G NRGs, a metallic silver low-top shoe with a delicate glossy finish.
The shoe is essentially a mirror. And, furthermore, a physical manifestation of NBA great Michael Jordan’s words to fellow basketball player Stephen Curry at the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
“I got into golf mainly because, from a competitive standpoint, it is the hardest game to play,” Jordan said. “I can always respond to an opponent, a defensive guy, an offensive guy … but in golf, it’s like playing in a mirror. And you’re battling yourself consistently to try to get perfection. Every swing, every putt.”
Korda, an eight-time winner on the LPGA Tour, knows all about that battle. In recent years, she’s launched fashion collections and drawn new eyes to the game with her sophisticated yet adventurous style that expands golf’s oft-traditional palette. In a 2022 interview with Vogue, the 25-year-old reflected, “I was always very active, competing in a number of different sports, which also played a role in how my style has evolved.”
After playing her way onto the top of the leaderboard at the Grant Thornton with partner Tony Finau, she had the shoes to thank. “I was like, ‘This is top-notch, I'm going to rock it today.’”
“She's Finau-fresh certified ... so we can call her Nelly fresh,” said Finau.
The AJ1 Low’s took over two years to conceptualize and implement. Around the time of the 2021 Ryder Cup, Nike’s design team knew they wanted to explore Jordan’s authentic connection with golf.
“With the rising trend of premium materials in the performance footwear industry, it became clear we wanted to highlight materials as the key storytelling element,” Nike Senior Design Color Manager David Gamboa told PGATOUR.COM. “It was a pretty straightforward inspiration from [Jordan’s] quote to find a material that you could literally see yourself in as if your shoes were the mirror. … We immediately knew this was the foundation for our story.”
Of the meticulous process, including committee meetings, extensive graphic design, industrial design and development, Gamboa said, “Our design team obsessed the details to bring the shoes to life, utilizing graphics to add a ‘mirroring’ effect and keeping color at a minimum to allow the material to shine.”
The shoe is packed with as much mirroring as physically possible – even the box is shiny. The AJ1 Low’s are one design out of the trifecta that makes up the Mirror Pack, which also includes high tops. Each of the three shoes features chrome aglets and an ambigram “23” graphic motif, reading both upside down and right way up. A crisp ball marker is one of the elusive Easter Eggs dotted throughout the shoe. There’s a lateral and medial swoosh, iced-blue outsole (in keeping with the Jordan heritage), and insoles with an imprinted “GOLF.”
“So much of Jordan is aspirational messaging: You have to see it to believe it,” underscored the Nike team.
One of their aspirations is bridging the golfing and sneaker/streetwear-loving communities. Legendary athletes, like Curry and Jordan, are actively embracing the game of golf, and its fusion with basketball culture further pushes collaboration in the sport.
Look no further for such collaboration than the Grant Thornton Invitational, where team Korda-Finau now sits at the top of the leaderboard after a near-perfect Round 1.
They're both wearing the same shoes. They’re both playing the same ball tomorrow, in the Foursomes portion of the event. And they both might be holding the trophy come Sunday. We're seeing it to believe it.
Stephanie Royer is on staff at the PGA TOUR. She played on her college golf team and is currently on a meaningful journey to travel to every destination in the "National Treasure" movies.