The Air Jordan brand is the union of Nike sportswear and Michael Jordan, the NBA’s most beloved player. Since 1985, 33 Air Jordan models served as the foundation for all future sneakers. This is a primer for sneakerheads on Jordan Shoes, the brand that launched it all.
A LITTLE OF HISTORY OF AIR JORDANS
The Air Jordan franchise was the foundation of the sneakerhead movement. This was the birthplace for collector culture, and the shoe that established the role of the ‘pro model trainer’ in sportswear. The Jordan ‘Jumpman” logo is as well-known today as the Swoosh and Trefoil of Nike.
The logic would suggest that Jordan’s 1985 Air Jordan I was the first model to be released by the brand. It was actually the Nike Air Ship that opened the door to all the hype. This mysterious sneaker, which is a precursor to the Jordan I, has been legendated and mythologized.
According to the story, Michael Jordan was fined $5,000 per match in 1980 for wearing black and red basketball shoes. These shoes were not in the NBA’s uniform of uniformity rules and David Stern, then the commissioner of the NBA, “took them out of the game”. Legend has it that MJ wore the sneakers even though Nike paid the bill.
It is often misunderstood that this shoe was the black-and-red – or ‘bred,’ as collectors call them – Air Jordan I. It was actually the Air Ship. The error didn’t hurt Nike’s sales. The Air Jordan I was a huge success. It was the first in a 33-year-long series of annual sneaker releases. Each one is just as popular as the previous.
Although sneaker releases are not new, there was a lot of buzz before Air Jordan. This brand didn’t just create hype, but it also helped to fuel it. Jordans are still one of the most sought-after sneakers on the planet. This has led to some problems in the past. We’re not talking about the long lines at drop day.
Sometimes, Jordans can whip up kick-hungry criminals to such an extent that people have died over pairs. According to a 2015 documentary, over 1,000 people are killed each year due to fatal muggings of sneakers. Air Jordan has been repeatedly cited by media, law enforcement, and NBA stars as the brand at the heart of this madness.
The BEST JORDANS OF ALL TIMES
Now, let’s get to the real deal: the best Jordans. This is our complete list of the top Jordan sneakers for men. What number are you holding on to?
AIR JORDAN XI
The XI was released in 1995 and carried Michael Jordan through some of his most memorable sporting seasons. The XI was there when Jordan won MVP, All-Star MVP, and Finals MVP. It was even featured in the blockbuster basketball movie Space Jam, which affected sales.
The sneaker was sleek and aerodynamic, with hints of patent leather. The sneaker was both sporty and modern, yet elegant and classy. The XI was a cult favorite among sneaker lovers and players alike.
2. AIR JORDAN IV
Air Jordan’s history was marked by the release of the IV. The brand’s first global release was this model, which set the foundation for its future as one the most respected and well-known sports brands on the planet. Tinker Hatfield, the legendary designer and architect of Air Jordan, designed it. This was a further testament to the iconic look that would be synonymous with the brand.
However, sports fans will be able to recall it for a different reason. This shoe is where Michael Jordan made “The Shot”, an epic, buzzer-beating series-winning basket against the Cavaliers in 1989. This is the stuff of sporting legend, and another step on the way to greatness for both MJ’s sneakers.
3. AIR JORDAN I
Although it’s difficult to believe, legend has it that Michael Jordan was not a fan of his first pro model when he saw it. “I’m not wearing this shoe.” he said (according to rumours) “I’ll look like an idiot.”
The shoe grew with him and others over time. The Air Jordan 1 is a design icon today and one of the most iconic Air Jordans ever made. It was the precursor to the most beloved line of shoes ever made. The simple styling and NBA-banned colors are still a favorite talking point for sneakerheads as well as design enthusiasts.
4. AIR JORDAN III
The Air Jordan III’s original design featured a Swoosh on the side. This is a little-known fact. Tinker Hatfield, a man who would create over a dozen shoes for Nike, was tasked with designing this first model. But he had other ideas, and decided to remove the logo.
Hatfield spoke to Sole Collector in an interview. Hatfield stated that he realized very early that it would really upset all the Nike people. Hatfield also said that he loved working with Nike. Hatfield stated, “This usually means I’m doing something new, so I wanted to shake up people.”
5. THE AIR JORDAN V
The Air Jordan V was a pioneer in sneaker design in the nineties. It was first released in 1990. Tinker Hatfield was inspired by the shark-tooth nose art found on World War II American fighter planes. In reference to Jordan’s “biting” style on the basketball court, he used similar shapes for the midsole.
The V has been a sensational Jordan in recent years. This is due in large part to the Supreme 2015 makeover. This made the V the first Air Jordan shoe to get the Supreme treatment, ceding its status as a streetwear staple and sporting classic.
6. AIR JORDAN VII
The Air Jordan VII helped Michael Jordan to become a worldwide sporting icon. MJ won the 1992 NBA championship and was named Finals MVP. He also led the USA to a Gold Medal at the Olympics in Barcelona.
The VII was another significant milestone in Air Jordan’s evolution to the force that it is today. Hatfield believed that the franchise was strong enough to be devoid of Nike branding for the first time. Hatfield removed all Nike branding from the sole, including the visible Air window. Air Jordan was first to be marketed apart from Nike Basketball and Nike Nike Basketball. This helped to distinguish it as an entity.
7. AIR JORDAN VIII
1993 was an incredible year even by Jordan’s standards. He was the first basketball player to win the Finals MVP three consecutive seasons, and he led the Chicago Bulls to their third straight title. It would be hard to stay grounded with such accomplishments, so it’s good that he has his Air Jordan VIIIs.
The eighth Jordan Pro model was a huge hit with sneakerheads. The strappy design was unique and out of the ordinary. The colourways were infused with more neon colors from the nineties than Mr. Motivator’s closet. It is still a favorite of collectors and one of the most iconic shoes of the decade.
8. AIR JORDAN VI
The Air Jordan VI was first released in 1991. Jordan debuted it during the 1991 NBA All-Star Game, Charlotte. MJ led all scorers with 26. Tinker Hatfield also designed the sneaker, which was released in five different colourways: white/infrared, black/infrared and maroon.
This sneaker’s design was heavily inspired by Jordan’s German sports car. Hatfield joked that the rubber heel tabs on the shoe were “spoilers” and four of the original colours had a monochromatic look, with matching accents at the midsoles and branding hits. However, the “Carmines” feature a two-toned design with bright red panels overlaid on a white upper.
Air Jordan VI will be the last model with visible Nike Air branding.