Back in 1985, Nike introduced the Air Jordan, a brand new sneaker line that would permanently revolutionize the performance level on basketball courts and spark a worldwide craze among people yearning to soar down the sidewalk as Michael Jordan did on the court.
Air Jordan is one of the most illustrious, most amazing and spectacular shoe partnerships of all time. Even if you’ve never been to an NBA game, even if you don’t watch TV, and even if you’re not on any social media platform, you know who is Michael Jordan. If you search for the term “legend” in the lexicon, you’ll probably find a photo of Michael Jordan.
Well, perhaps not. However, you get what we say! MJ is the greatest basketball player in the NBA’s history. Nonetheless, the sneaker’s long-lasting 37-year background is not solely about excellence. It is about the tales that contribute to the myth’s genesis.
With Michael Jordan’s brilliant accomplishments on the basketball court and the accompanying massive fan base, any sneakerhead would be excited to own a Jordan shoe. Owning a pair of the brand’s special edition sneakers is akin to inheriting a piece of history. But what’s the story behind this famous partnership? Let’s take a closer look!
History of Air Jordan
The famous sneakers were born as a result of a 1984 agreement. At that time, Converse was the NBA’s official footwear brand, but Jordan declined to engage with the company because it couldn’t boost him above the other sportsmen it represented, such as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Although MJ’s preferred shoe label was Adidas, the sneaker brand assured him they just could not make a shoe suitable for his needs. Therefore, Jordan’s agent, David Falk, advised him to join Nike, which was mostly known for track shoes, but the NBA player wasn’t really interested.
The Deal with Nike
Finally, Michael’s parents convinced him to accept the deal Nike had made for him, which was an amazing agreement for a rookie. Still, we cannot help but wonder what might have happened if Michael Jordan had signed with Adidas. Well, we will never know.
So the story begins. Phil Knight, Nike’s founder and former CEO, was adamant about creating an athletic collection for Jordan, which is why he hired Peter C. Moore to help put the concept into light. On the back of a napkin, Moore sketched a distinctive shoe, blending Jordan’s unique talent for “flying” with a basic basketball symbol depicting wings. That’s how the iconic Air Jordan I was born!
Rise to Fame
The NBA had rigorous footwear requirements in the early 1980s, as all shoes were supposed to be white. Sneakers in black and red? It was a courageous act, one that would initiate a saga that has resulted in the creation of one of the world’s most sought-after shoes.
Jordan was fined $5,000, which Nike paid, each time he wore the sneakers in the game. This story of resistance and brave magnetism would come to characterize the Air Jordan image for generations.
Everybody wished they could be like Mike and the Nike-Jordan was the ideal relationship. Jordan was basketball’s rising star, and the fact that his sneakers were banned by the NBA just added to the craze. In April 1985, Nike sold $70 million worth of Jordan shoes.
This, however, is only the point of departure. Several milestones shaped Jordan’s reputation, but the 1988 NBA All-Star Weekend Dunk Championship served to establish him as a phenomenon. Jordan slam-dunked the ball right into the net after blasting off from the free-throw line.
On his feet, you could spot a newfangled pair of Air Jordan III. This very moment. This instant. This contributed to the evolution of a brand into something entirely distinct. The Air Jordan became a cult hero!
Taking over the NBA and the World
The Air Jordan IV was a huge success as well, and Nike proceeded to release Jordan footwear under Tinker Hatfield’s design direction. But, following the release of the Air Jordan V, which featured non-Bulls colorways for the first time, the customer base shifted. Nike has now realized it can draw a larger audience.
Since signing with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, MJ had not won an NBA championship. He had gotten fairly close but hadn’t succeeded until 1991, when the Bulls won the title for the first time in years. Michael Jordan wore the Air Jordan VI, a sneaker that became famous alongside the image of him weeping with his father as he cradled the trophy.
From this point on, Jordan madness reigned. Every child in the United States wanted to make game-winning shots while sporting the Air Jordan VI. But then, with the release of the Air Jordan VII, it was rapidly forgotten.
The Bulls were well aware of the pressure they were facing in 1992, yet they remained unfazed. Jordan and his teammates created history once more, surging to triumph. Air Jordan is now a legend!
With the unbeaten run well established, the Air Jordan VIII would usher in one of the biggest feats of all time: the Threepeat. Michael Jordan was now a superhero; he had won three successive NBA titles. It was something that no one foresaw. And then, out of the blue, things took a dismal twist.
Jordan’s Retirement and Comeback
Jordan had been devastated by his father’s premature and terrible death in 1993, so he announced his retirement from the NBA. The sporting community was astounded. Many feared that it was the end of an era. Nike was also at a crossroads in terms of what to do. Air Jordan was caught off guard.
After the introduction of the Air Jordan IX and Air Jordan X, many questioned the line’s viability. Maintaining a footwear brand without a star to represent it was difficult, and it was an odd time for both the sneaker and basketball worlds. Fortunately, everything was moving in the right direction.
Michael Jordan returned and he was still on fire! The Air Jordan XI was introduced in 1996 and the superstar player led the Chicago Bulls to its first NBA Championship since his retirement. The white mesh was offset by black patent leather, creating a shoe that stayed with everyone who saw it. Air Jordan is back on fire!
Jordan and the Bulls won their second NBA title in 1997, and Michael donned the Air Jordan XII, a shoe that became associated with a single game: the Flu Game. Even though it has been nicknamed the “Flu Game,” Jordan was actually sick from food poisoning after having pizza in his hotel room the evening prior to the game.
He probably should not have taken the field against the Jazz. MJ, on the other hand, not only showed up, but he also played 44 minutes and scorched the Jazz for 38 points, making the game-winning three-pointer.
While Jordan wore the Air Jordan XIII throughout the 1998 season, it was the Air Jordan XIV that solidified his position as a legend. Michael Jordan’s “The Last Shot” cut back against Bryan Russell and put the Bulls ahead with only a few seconds remaining in the game. The second Threepeat has been accomplished. History has been made. And Air Jordan had the supporting role.
Air Jordans Today
With a career spanning nearly two decades, it was high time for MJ to call it quits after a few seasons with the Washington Wizards. This also marks the last Jordans worn by the Maestro himself. Although Air Jordan would never again be the same, the end of Michael Jordan’s career did not mark the closure of his legacy.
Air Jordan’s story has been solidified by strong alliances with businesses, artists, and designers in recent years. Eminem, Travis Scott, Virgil Abloh, Undefeated, and Kanye West have lent their support to Jordan’s prominence in footwear culture. But, most importantly, sneaker enthusiasts have not forgotten Jordan’s influence on the world of sports shoes.
Why Are Air Jordans So Popular?
Besides the spectacular career of Michael Jordan, these sneakers exemplify a certain level of belief and ambition. Even if their basketball talents are lacking, people will always cherish a pair of Air Jordans.
Apart from this remarkable pedigree, Air Jordan also provides high-performance products made of the finest materials, offering superior comfort and stability in comparison with other brands.
Although they are basketball shoes, these sneakers are worn by people of many ages and cultures in a variety of ensembles. They look amazing with a suit, for instance, because Jordans are both extremely fashionable and classy, quickly elevating any outfit.
The 25 Best Jordans of All Time
There are now 35 Air Jordan models released, not including the various palettes, partnerships, special editions, retro Jordans and super expensive models. There are Jordans for every mood, taste, and event, from 90s street style stalwarts to on-court pace-optimized footwear to high-fashion collaborations.
Thus, we’ve come up with a list of the 25 most legendary, famous, revolutionary, high-quality, and all-around best Jordans of all time. These are the premium sneakers that have catapulted the footwear industry to worldwide prominence. These are the Jordans that pique people’s interest in sneakers. Curious? Read on!
25. Air Jordan I High Shadow
After 37 years since its premiere, the Air Jordan I remains a timeless and versatile silhouette worthy of complementing any style. As the name implies, the Air Jordan I High Shadow maintains the same color scheme as the 1985 black and grey design.
24. Air Jordan XIII Bred
Michael’s Air Jordan XIII Bred was initially released in 1998, with further editions in 2004, 2013, and 2017. These sneakers are manufactured from a combination of leather, carbon fiber, and Zoom Air. Michael Jordan wore the AJ XIII throughout his last season with the Chicago Bulls.
23. Air Jordan V Tokyo T23
To mark the first steps of the Jordan Tokyo 23 store in Japan, the renowned shoe company created a special edition of the Jordan V that boasts a yellow suede top with Wolf Grey accents on the tongue, grommets, and stitching on the quarter side.
The most fascinating aspect of these sneakers is the applique symbol on the heel, which, instead of the classic number 23, spotlights a one-of-a-kind emblem as a reference to Japan’s Shibuya Ward.
22. Air Jordan IV Retro What The
Nike created the limited-edition Jordan IV Retro “What The” to immortalize Air Jordan IV’s 30th anniversary. In true Jordan flair, this style is a mix of some of the most renowned colorways that the premium brand has ever produced. Military Blue, Fire Red, White Cement, and Black Cement are among the hues displayed.
21. Air Jordan VII Olympic
The 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, saw the birth of the fabled “Dream Team,” one of the best basketball squads in history. It was the first time the United States engaged NBA professionals, including Michael Jordan.
The Air Jordan VII was manufactured exclusively for the Olympics and was fashioned in nationalistic red, white, and blue with silver and gold embellishments as well as Jordan’s Olympic jersey number 9 etched on the heels.
20. Air Jordan III Retro UNC
Nike was inspired by Michael Jordan’s legacy at the University of North Carolina and created the Jordan III Retro UNC exclusively for UNC players. However, MJ chose to make this edition public after considerable expectation, substituting the stitched UNC emblem on the tongue with his distinctive Jumpman logo.
19. Air Jordan XI Space Jam
The Air Jordan XI added a bit of refinement to Michael Jordan’s comeback as its glossy leather sheen alluded to great aerodynamics while inspiring casualness. It became an overnight sensation among players and caused a stir with its immersive masterpiece, the Space Jam, which Michael wore in 1996 on the eponymous movie set.
18. Air Jordan VI Carmine
The Air Jordan VI Carmine 2021 iteration was meant to celebrate the legendary silhouette’s 30th anniversary. Michael Jordan wore this unique colorway during his first championship run in 1991, and this is the first Air Jordan VI to entail dynamic color blocking on the top part. These well-known sneakers showcase the Chicago Bulls’ traditional colors of red, white, and black.
17. Air Jordan I High Pine Green
Designed by Peter Moore back in the 80s, the Air Jordan I came out with a new version color-blocked to excellence: AJ I High Pine Green.
Using the same guidelines as its relative, the “Shattered Backboard,” it’s fashioned from crumpled leather that’s plush and gentle, with dark green and sharp black panels that compete against one another, creating a retro aesthetic that is as prevalent today as it was back then.
16. Air Jordan VIII Aqua
Michael Jordan was on the cusp of winning his third championship and used the mid-season clash of the titans to unveil his new Air Jordan VIII, which had its first and only trip onto the field at the 1993 All-Star game when Jordan scored 30 points.
The Air Jordan VIII is the only sneaker from the series that bears crossover bands above the laces.
15. Air Jordan V Grape
In 1990, the Air Jordan V presented a more developed, more combative, and more sophisticated classic sneaker for a fiercer Michael Jordan. Despite being the most visually appealing and fun, the famous player never wore the Grape in a game.
Its purple and emerald hues entered the Air Jordan series for the first time, premised on MJ’s native state team, the Hornets, which had recently begun playing basketball in Charlotte.
14. Air Jordan I Royal
In homage to the original Black Royal colorway, today’s version offers a more vibrant rendition of the legend. The white leather side panel contrasts with the black Nike logo for a mainstream appeal, and the classic white wings symbol on the top is a mark of respect for the Goat.
This was the only colorway out of the top 3 Jordan I’s (Banned, Chicago, and Royal) that Michael never wore to the court. However, because the Jordan I Royal is his favorite pattern, any collector will be happy to get his hands on these shoes. Or better said, his feet in these shoes.
13. Air Jordan XI Concord
Visually, the AJ XI may be called the pariah of the famous series of Jordan sneakers. It misses the dynamic structure found in I and III, as well as the technical details present in IV and V.
Despite this, the AJ XI Concord is one of the most beloved and coveted footwear in the Jumpman franchise, and it also seems to be Michael Jordan’s first pick.
12. Air Jordan I Shattered Backboard
In 1985, Michael Jordan smashed a backboard in Italy during a Nike Europe campaign, while sporting an orange, black, and white outfit. This 2015 Air Jordan I Shattered Backboard footwear was brought into being to pay tribute to the event and MJ’s clothing.
11. Air Jordan III White Cement
An inspirational and iconic vision of basketball was born with Michael Jordan’s second slam dunk contest victory, this time while wearing Air Jordan III White Cement sneakers. And with it comes the outset of another symbol: the Jumpman.
What has emerged as one of the most distinctive styles in the sneaker world was conjured up with an architect’s sharp eye. At MJ’s demand, Hatfield, the illustrious name behind this sneaker’s design, created the now emblematic elephant print.
10. Air Jordan VI Black Infrared
Michael Jordan rocked the Air Jordan VI during his second “Most Valuable Player” season in 1991. He added another shooting title to his astonishing career and lifted the NBA championship trophy for the first time in his brilliant journey with the Chicago Bulls.
Tinker Hatfield created these sneakers with two grip holes inside the rubber tongue to help people slip their feet in, as well as a transparent sole to contrast with the colorful midsole. This gained a major style point once the legendary “Infrared” hue was released.
9. Air Jordan IV Kaws
Since quitting his streetwear company, OriginalFake, Kaws has been very secluded, only making an appearance for rare high-art endeavors or worthwhile partnerships. Nike recruited him for the Air Jordan IV re-interpretation and the outcome was awe-inspiring.
8. Air Jordan XI Black & Red
This vintage design and quintessential colorway require no opening, but we’ll narrow it down for those who are not familiar with the concept. Tinker Hatfield built the Air Jordan XI to challenge boundaries, using a carbon-fiber frame for unsurpassed power and patent leather for an unparalleled touch of class.
This innovative model appeared as Michael Jordan resurfaced from his initial retirement, catching the eye of the entire league and the shoe market as well.
7. Air Jordan IV Bred Black Cement
Are you eager to add timeless footwear to your bundle? Then you’ll want to invest in the most recent and finest Jordan IV Retro Bred released in 2019 to commemorate the silhouette’s 30th anniversary.
This high-end pair of sneakers retains the original colorway worn by Michael Jordan when he hit “The Shot” in 1989, with a black suede top accented by cement grey hits. The tongue and outsole present Fire Red embellishments, while the heel boasts Air for comfort.
6. Air Jordan I Black & Red
In 2016, the Air Jordan I in the original black and red design was reintroduced as part of the “Banned” campaign commemorating the shoe’s legacy. The distinctive model came up in its OG version, which displays the same structure and fabrics as the first launch. Put simply, the Air Jordan I Bred is a must-have staple for any sneaker enthusiast’s arsenal.
5. Air Jordan IV UNDFTD
Michael Jordan’s redesigned fourth hallmark sneaker, in partnership with Undefeated, was never actually sold in stores. Rather than that, the creators of the Los Angeles boutique, James Bond and Eddie Cruz, auctioned and gave away 72 sets of the Air Jordan IV Olive sneakers, marking the first time Air Jordan teamed with a third party on a mainstream item.
Later collaborations with UNDFTD have brought Nike a lot of attention over the years, but not as much as this remarkable one.
4. Air Jordan V Fire Red
When Tinker Hatfield came up with ideas for the Air Jordan V, he took inspiration from Michael Jordan’s rough-and-tumble movement and attacking flair. So, he designed Fire-Red shark teeth outlines that referred to American WWII fighter jets.
In the same way, the shoes had a translucent rubber sole, which Hatfield used when he created another piece of footwear that year: Marty McFly’s self-lacing Nikes from Back to the Future II.
3. Air Jordan III Black Cement
Tinker Hatfield first created the Air Jordan III, and he turned out to be the most productive Air Jordan designer, responsible for 21 of the franchise’s 35 sneakers.
The AJ III is widely regarded as the shoe that established Jordans as a complete status symbol. It boasted a distressed leather top and the now-renowned elephant-patterned accents, as well as the Jumpman emblem on the tongue. Moreover, it was ahead of its time as the first basketball mid-top shoe.
2. Air Jordan IV Eminem x Carhartt
In 2015, Eminem and the legendary industrial label Carhartt collaborated with Nike to develop the limited-edition Eminem x Carhartt x Air Jordan IV Black Chrome. Initially delivered only to the rapper’s friends and relatives, a further 10 pairs were manufactured to support the Marshall Mathers Foundation through an eBay listing.
The sale generated revenue of $227,000, which was used to help the Michigan State’s Community Music School’s attempts to recruit local students.
1. Air Jordan I Chicago
The Air Jordan I “Chicago”, created by Peter Moore in 1984 and launched in 1985, is undoubtedly the most sought-after sneaker under Nike’s trademark canopy. It’s not often that a classic released decades ago resurfaces intact.
The retro Chicago-themed version of the Air Jordan I features the original Nike Air tongue mark and the Wings symbol, further solidifying the brand’s hegemony. Its classic pattern, inspired by Jordan’s primary team, the Chicago Bulls, remains its most prominent, albeit the Air Jordan I was manufactured in a myriad of additional hues.
Besides all these beautiful tales, Air Jordans are unmatched in terms of appeal and longevity, which is why they are a long-term investment along with Hermes Birkins and Rolex Watches.
Therefore, if you haven’t already bought a pair, maybe you should check our record again and choose one. Or two. Or three. The list is long, and the possibilities are endless.
- History of Air Jordan
- Why Are Air Jordans So Popular?
- The 25 Best Jordans of All Time
- 25. Air Jordan I High Shadow
- 24. Air Jordan XIII Bred
- 23. Air Jordan V Tokyo T23
- 22. Air Jordan IV Retro What The
- 21. Air Jordan VII Olympic
- 20. Air Jordan III Retro UNC
- 19. Air Jordan XI Space Jam
- 18. Air Jordan VI Carmine
- 17. Air Jordan I High Pine Green
- 16. Air Jordan VIII Aqua
- 15. Air Jordan V Grape
- 14. Air Jordan I Royal
- 13. Air Jordan XI Concord
- 12. Air Jordan I Shattered Backboard
- 11. Air Jordan III White Cement
- 10. Air Jordan VI Black Infrared
- 9. Air Jordan IV Kaws
- 8. Air Jordan XI Black & Red
- 7. Air Jordan IV Bred Black Cement
- 6. Air Jordan I Black & Red
- 5. Air Jordan IV UNDFTD
- 4. Air Jordan V Fire Red
- 3. Air Jordan III Black Cement
- 2. Air Jordan IV Eminem x Carhartt
- 1. Air Jordan I Chicago