That Time Will Smith Begged Michael Jordan To Let Him Wear His Shoes On Fresh Prince

Will Smith sporting Air Jordan 4s in Fresh Prince promotional image
(Image credit: NBC)

It's safe to say that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air left a lasting impression on viewers, as many still quote lines and discuss certain scenes today. Of course, many also still talk about the fashion. Each week, viewers got to see what Will Smith and the Banks family were wearing, and they had some very fresh fits. Smith’s fashion choices were particularly notable among the Fresh Prince cast members. One thing fans seemingly appreciated most was his character's epic shoe game, especially his preference for Air Jordans. Looking back at his time on the NBC sitcom, Smith discussed the time he begged Michael Jordan himself to let him wear the coveted basketball shoes on the show.

Let's be honest, Will Smith’s shoe game was always on point, and that’s what the actor wanted for his character. Surely there are those who remember the high schooler wearing the Jordan 4s during the show’s opening. While discussing his well-received performance in Emancipation on Showtime’s All the Smoke, Smith opened up about how he was able to get exclusivity when it came to Jordans. Smith recalled pleading with Michael Jordan to wear them on the show, and he got a blunt answer from the Chicago Bulls icon at the time:

I was literally calling Jordan and I was like ‘Mike, please, please don’t give it to nobody else. Like I let be the first person. I gotta be the first person wear to them. He was like ‘Man, I don’t run that.’

It's hard to imagine see the Smith character with his fresh kicks. Of course, Will's shoe game was only a part of his distinct sense of style, as his colorful hats and inside-out Bel-Air prep jacket were also notable. Still, the shoes were crucial, and he ultimately succeeded when it came to getting what he wanted. Smith sported the now-classic Jordan 4’s not only during the show’s iconic opening theme song sequence but in a promotional shoot for the first season. 

Eventually, the shoes became so synonymous with Smith and the series that they were referred to as The Fresh Princes -- a moniker they carry to this day. I'm sure that added publicity didn't hurt Michael Jordan's shoe success at the time, either. Before the 1990s sitcom was reimagined in 2022, the basketball shoes were even re-released in 2018 as Air Jordan 5’s in order to celebrate the Hollywood star’s 50th birthday.

The Independence Day star didn’t realize the impact his shoe game was having on Black (and general pop) culture at the time. When thinking back, he summed up that time in his life with a simple response:

I had no idea. I was just living the culture.

When Fresh Prince premiered in 1990, Will Smith was a fish out of water in the acting world, as his music career was in limbo at the time. He recalled in his best-selling memoir, Will, that he was broke before landing the classic '90s sitcom. He gained his initial fame and success as part of the rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. The duo had hit albums and singles, which were accompanied by colorful and outlandish music videos. So fans of rap music were already familiar with his style by the time mainstream audiences got to see it weekly. 

Now, three decades later, Will Smith remains a fashion icon of the '90s, and he still enjoys Jordans to this day. You can look back at his classic shoe choices by streaming The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air using an HBO Max subscription. Once you’re done with the original sitcom, you can check out its dramatic reimagining, Bel-Air, with the use of a Peacock subscription -- in case compare the Wills’ shoe games.  

Adreon Patterson
News Writer

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).