Rap made its official mark in the pop music lexicon when Chaka Khan performed her R&B hit song, “I Feel for You,” at the Grammy's with Grand Master Melle Mel. This was the first time the Record of the Year win included rap verses in the song, and the first time it was performed onstage at the awards show. Def Jam records continued to grow into what would soon be a dominance of the industry, propelled by the release of LL Cool J's debut, Radio, the label's fourth album. New York street art became global when subway graffiti pioneer Keith Haring painted the Berlin Wall, had his work showcased at the Paris Biennial and toured Australia. Simultaneously, the art world was being taken by storm by street culture; Back to the Future and The Goonies were released, both motion pictures that prominently included Nike sneakers in their fun, lighthearted plot lines. Along with those films, and popular prime-time television shows like The Cosby Show, Nike sneakers became the must-have kicks for kids all over America.
The AIDS epidemic continues its sweep through the United States, and insurance companies announce they will no longer insure HIV positive patients. Rock Hudson, the first public figure known to have been infected, dies. Global issues such as nuclear disarmament and hunger draw attention and suddenly it became trendy for celebrities to sign onto support causes. Live Aid,a concert for famine relief in Ethiopia, is the biggest international music event of the year, with two simultaneous concerts taking place in the US and the UK, headlining the world's biggest acts. Desmond Tutu becomes the first black Archbishop of South Africa, and proves to be an influential crusader against racism worldwide. The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes while carrying Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher from New Hampshire who was to be the first civilian in space, and just a few months later, the Chernobyl disaster became the largest nuclear accident in history. Drug use, abuse, and misuse emerged into the limelight as perhaps never before. In no other decade has the issue of drugs occupied such a huge and troubling space in the public consciousness; crack cocaine began its reign.
Year two wasn’t what the newfound legion of “MJ” fans had hoped for. Just three games into the season, Jordan broke a bone in his left foot, keeping him sidelined for 64 games. Undeterred, fans voted him into the All-Star game even though he couldn’t play. Although he was encouraged to rest his foot and take the end of the season off, he managed to recover in time to lead the Bulls to his first playoffs. Facing the vaunted Boston Celtics in the first round, he managed to score 63 points in a double overtime loss. Larry Bird would go on to lead the Celtics to the 1987 Championship, but Jordan had set a playoff scoring record that still stands. As Bird marveled, "He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."
While Nike was amassing street cred with every tongue-wagging dunk by their young star MJ, Adidas was having theirs handed to them on a silver platter. Serving up some Adidas-mania was none other than Run-DMC, the hottest hip hop group in the world. Their 1986 anthem, “My Adidas,” told of their love for the shoe – always worn without laces as a fashion statement honoring the men and women in jail who weren’t allowed to wear laces. The mega-hit immediately elevated Adidas’ desirability in the fast-growing world of hip hop. Run-DMC’s relationship with Adidas was formalized when their manager, the savvy Russell Simmons, invited top Adidas executives to a concert. When singer Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels asked fans to “wave their Adidas in the air,” the executives witnessed three thousand screaming fans holding their shell toes over their heads. Adidas promptly sponsored Run-DMC with a $1.6 million dollar contract, and a long-term relationship was born between the group, the brand, the genre and the kicks.