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Jordan Orchestrated His Iconic 1988 Slam Dunk Contest Photo, and No One Should Be Surprised

Do you remember the iconic dunk contest where Jordan leaped from the free-throw line, double-clutched with one hand and jammed it in during the 1988 All-Star Game in Chicago? Me neither. But I have seen a million pictures, and highlights of arguable the most legendary dunk of all time. 

The photo is BEAUTIFUL. It's iconic and cinematic. But did you know that Jordan, basically art directed it on the fly with legendary photographer Walter Iooss?  

According to Walter, he painstakingly planned his shoot prior to the 1987 All-Star Game in Seattle with gels over the lights, filters on the lenses of the cameras stationed around the arena, and the shoot was a failure given the unpredictable nature of each dunk. If you couldn't see the player's face, the photo was a wash. Completely unusable. It didn't matter what their body was doing-- no mug, no shot. 

So when Iooss was assigned to shoot the '88 All-Star game, he knew he had to make some changes. Luckily, MJ happened to be sitting in the stands 3 hours before the All-Star game got started. 

Iooss approached Jordan with his dilemma and Jordan quickly offered to help. He would telegraph with his finger where he was going to dunk from each time he took off. Right before his last dunk, Jordan signaled to Iooss to move over some to ensure his face was fully in the frame. AND that is how this iconic dunk came to be. 

WOW. Can we just step back for a second and appreciate MJ's desire to do everything well? That fire to dominate even in photograph form? 

Think about this... as far as I know Jordan was the only player in that dunk contest to do that. Thus, Jordan's collaboration with Iooss gave him a competitive advantage when it came down to putting his dunk into a historical context. Yes, the dunk was monumental, but it also was choreographed and shot in a cinematic way that possibly influences the way we think of that moment. 

Chess not checkers. 

This just shows that Jordan and the hype surrounding didn't happen by accident. He knew how to take advantage of a big moment, whether it was something as enormous as the Olympics, where he famously only wore Nike gear, and hid the Reebok label at all costs or whether it was collaborating with the #1 photographer on the planet (Walter shot 300 SI covers including many of the iconic Swimsuit issues) for a slam dunk contest.

Nothing about Jordan happened by accident, and we have Iooss Jr. to thank for reminding us of that.

If you're not familiar with the name Walter Iooss, you may be familiar with some of his work taking pictures for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Take a peek at some of non-Jordan related work.