In early June, the Jordan Brand paid homage to its longtime vice president Howard “H” White, with a special-edition pair of sneakers released to support one of his most beloved charitable causes.
On July 23, the brand’s tribute to White continued even more uniquely during the NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.
Tyler Reddick, who drives for the Michael Jordan-owned 23XI (pronounced “twenty-three eleven”) Racing team, rode his No. 45 Toyota Camry at Pocono with a specially designed paint scheme featuring the letter H in quotation marks intertwined with a Jumpman logo on the car’s hood.
The green, white and black color blocking of Reddick’s car drew direct inspiration from the “H” Wings Air Jordan 2 design. The shoe dropped on June 10 as a nod to the African American footwear executive who, coincidentally, has worked at Nike for 45 years and is widely credited as the architect of the company’s Jordan Brand division.
Proceeds from each sale of the Air Jordan 2 released in June benefited the brand’s Wings Scholars Program, which White played a vital role in launching in 2015 as a way to award college scholarships to underprivileged high school students.
Reddick placed second at Pocono Raceway to the winner Denny Hamlin, who in 2011 became the first NASCAR driver to sign an endorsement deal with the Jordan Brand.
As the brand’s vice president for 25 years, White — the longest-tenured Black executive in Nike history — has worked to spread the message the Wings program ultimately came to embody: If given wings, anyone can fly.
And, on July 23 at Pocono, that message was spread to NASCAR.
“Receiving the Wings Air Jordan 2 was really overwhelming for me because of the initiative it represents,” White said in a statement. “If you can give just one person hope that their life has a chance to become more than their dreams, that power of belief can touch many more lives. So, as that No. 45 circled the track at 200 miles an hour, people saw that whatever dream you have can come true.”
White, a native of Hampton, Virginia, who grew up in the 1950s during integration, started his footwear career in 1978 at Nike, then an emerging company based in Beaverton, Oregon.
White notably attended Nike’s fabled 1984 pitch meeting to a 21-year-old Michael Jordan and his parents, during which the company pitched the ambitious idea of building a signature sneaker for the young basketball star.
By the mid-1990s, following the immediate and lasting success of the Air Jordan line, White became one of the biggest advocates at Nike for the creation of Jordan’s own subsidiary in the company. And in 1997, Nike officially launched the Jordan Brand.
Now, both the Jumpman logo — and even White’s legacy — have reached NASCAR.
“There is a standard of excellence and it’s in everyone, if you simply spread your wings, believe and fly toward your dreams,” White continued in the statement. “From a little boy on dirt basketball courts in Hampton to the Jordan Brand and now an oval at Pocono, I’m proof all is possible.”
Reddick’s recent paint scheme marked the fourth Air Jordan-themed design on a NASCAR Cup Series track. In 2022, Kurt Busch drove the first Cup Series car with a Jumpman scheme when his Toyota Camry was given a custom wrap made to resemble Jordan’s iconic 1988 “Black Cement” Air Jordan 3. Busch seized the moment by piloting the car’s elephant-printed paint job to a first-place finish at Kansas Speedway. Later in the 2022 Cup Series season, the Jordan Brand designed Busch another custom car wrap, inspired by the equally revered 1995 “Concord” Air Jordan 11.
On May 29, Reddick (who replaced Busch, who was injured in a crash, on the 23XI Racing team) drove a Carolina blue-painted car at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Though the car wasn’t inspired by a specific Air Jordan, the Jordan Brand was its primary sponsor, with a white Jumpman logo on the hood.
Yet, it wasn’t until Pocono that the Jordan Brand delivered Reddick his first sneaker-inspired paint job, which resembled the Air Jordan 2 designed for White and the Wings program.
“What sets this car apart is that the message not only transcends the design itself, but it also represents someone who is so symbolic of the brand,” Dave Berguglia, Jordan Brand Global Concept designer, said in a statement. “So, the car has become a medium for conveying a message of hope and the values of Jordan Brand’s Wings program.”
The same hand-sketched graphic of wings featured on the upper quarter panel of the “H” Air Jordan 2 was also incorporated on the side panel design of the custom wrap for Reddick’s No. 45 car.
Another notable detail is the car’s license plate, which reads “M AIR J” — the same tag featured on a Corvette and Ferrari that Jordan drove during his NBA career.
Yet, above the five letters on Reddick’s Camry, the Jordan Brand added two words that describe White as the man behind the brand since the beginning: “Power & Belief.”