Michigan basketball pulled away late from the Florida Gators to win 64-49 in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 in Des Moines on Saturday. Jordan Poole led the Wolverines with 19 points, including 4 triples, to lead Michigan to its 3rd consecutive Sweet 16.
He’s a man of style, as coach John Beilein once said that he had an “overdose of swag.” That extended to his footwear, as he and several Wolverines wore pink Nike Jordan sneakers during the winning effort.
What is that all about? For Poole, it’s about his own personal flair, he explained to Rivals.com.
“There is very little creativity we’re able to express on this team,” Poole quipped. “With the pink shoes, we were given them as a team, and I actually like the shoes. They are also extremely comfortable. That’s why I wear them.”
According to James Hawkins of the Detroit News, this year’s team started wearing them back in February for the Maryland game in Ann Arbor. He wrote that it was to “to bring awareness for breast cancer and honor survivors.”
The tradition started last year during Michigan’s run to the national championship game against Villanova, which included a 14-game streak before the final. Walk-on guard C.J. Baird explained the shoe choice to ESPN.
“We needed to come out and make a statement, show that we’re not on the downfall, and we need to start trending upward,” Baird said. “Iowa was a big part of that. We played great defensively, and I think that really set the tone for the rest of the year: ‘OK, we can really do this,’ and I think a lot of people — myself included — look at that night even with the pink shoes as kind of symbolic of the turning point of the season.”
For Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, the tradition started even earlier than 2018. When the team plane crashed before the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, all the team gear was held on the plane due to the ensuing FAA investigation. Therefore, Rahkman needed footwear, so he grabbed the shoes he wore on breast cancer awareness night.
The team roared to the conference tournament title, and eventually bowed out in the Sweet 16 to Oregon. He stopped wearing pink for a bit, but continued the following summer.
But a trip home this past December reawakened his “Think Pink” mentality, and he decided to wear them again. Once those Jordan 31s wore out, he turned to the Jordan 32s the team debuted against Iowa.
Turns out there’s more to a story to the pink shoes than just a fashion statement.