Walter Iooss details how he convinced Michael Jordan to pose for ‘Rare Air’

Famed photographer Walter Iooss Jr. is working with Christies with an online auction that ends Aug. 11 and spoke to FanSided about Michael Jordan.

Walter Iooss Jr. formed a relationship with Michael Jordan that started just before Jordan became Michael Jordan — the greatest player to ever play the sport and most iconic athlete in American sports history.

“We met in 1987 in Lisle, Illinois,” Iooss said. “Sports Illustrated sent me out to photograph him at a children’s camp he had there. That was the first time I met him. It was a different world for him then. He was so charismatic, which he still is. We did a portrait for a cover, photographed his camp and then I shot the blue dunk.”

“The blue dunk” made it look like Jordan was flying over the ocean or Lake Michigan. At least to a novice like myself.

“There were these big parking lots,” Iooss explained. “We painted one part of the parking lot blue and another section red ’cause I didn’t know which uniform he was going to show up in. Then I brought in a basket, it was trucked in from St. Louis — there were no NBA baskets in Chicago. He showed up in his red uniform, so we went to the blue court.”

Years later, Iooss had some time on his hands and wanted to get back with Jordan on another more in-depth project.

“I went to Chicago unannounced in 1992 because it was sort of a slow year in photography and I approached Michael after a game,” Iooss said. “I pitched the idea of him doing a family album and he said, ‘It’s a good idea, let me think about it.’ A week later I saw him in Los Angeles and he said ‘Let’s do it.’ We shook hands and we started, no publisher, no advance, nothing.”

This was the beginning of what turned into a New York Times best seller.

“I was spending a lot of time at the Ritz Carlton so my bill was adding up and then one day he said, ‘I want you to meet somebody,’ and we went into the Blackhawks locker room and he introduced me to Mark Vancil, who became the writer and the creator of the name Rare Air,” Iooss said.

I still have three copies of Rare Air buried in different boxes and on a coffee table. That was almost not the case.

“We still couldn’t sell the book when it was done,” Iooss recalled. “We finally sold it to Collins in San Francisco. It wasn’t for sale anywhere, then his father was murdered and he retired and it went to No. 1.”

Check out the Walter Iooss Jr. exhibit at Christies here. Do it quick. It ends Aug. 11.

To listen to the entire Walter Iooss Jr. interview on Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Muhammad Ali click on Da Windy City Podcast.