Jordan History

Let's take a trip down memory lane with the highest grossing nike sneaker line and the streets most coveted kix. In the beginning there was basket ball and then came Michael Jordan... Adidas had a shot at greatness but unfortunately things happen.

AIR JORDAN I (1): 1984-85

Auh the beginning. The first cultural iconic shoe since the adidas shell toes, was launched - the Air Jordan 1. Originally banned by the NBA for violating its “uniformity of uniform” rule. Jordan wears them anyway, incurring a $5,000 fine per game, chump change to a future champion. MJ unveils his revolutionary style of play to the league making his first All-Star game appearance, earning Rookie of the Year honors and inspiring Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird to observe one performance of the first taste of street ball the cross over.

AIR JORDAN II: 1986-87

The ’86-87 season is a breakthrough year for MJ, and his assault on the record books begins. Along with a return trip to the All-Star game, Michael wins his first Slam Dunk Contest and claims his first in a series of scoring titles. Averaging 37.1 points per game, he becomes the first NBA player since Wilt Chamberlain to top 3,000 points in a season. The Air Jordan II was designed by Bruce Kilgore and just as its predecessor (Air Jordan 1 (I)) it showed a great innovative design. The low-tops were very stylish, produced in Italy and were far from the ordinary basketball shoe.


With big time innovation and lethal good looks, this is the first shoe designed by Tinker Hatfield and features visible Nike Air and decorative synthetic elephant skin. Another milestone design element is the introduction of the iconic Jumpman logo. This is the season in which Spike Lee as “Mars Blackmon” makes his first appearance in Nike television ads, sparking a huge cult following. MJ steals the show this season by snagging his first NBA MVP award, Defensive Player of the Year honors, and another Slam Dunk trophy. In an interview with SLAM magazine, Michael cites the AJIII as one of his all-time favourites and in 2005 viewers of ESPN agreed, voting it the greatest sneaker of all time.

Air Jordan IV (4): 1988-89

As cool as its breathable mesh inserts and featuring super-steady stabilization straps and ultra-cushioned soles, Tinker Hatfield creates a sneaker custom made for fluidity, rhythm and grace. Michael makes it a reality with a series of gravity-defying dunks which, along with the distinctive tongues, were fast becoming a trademark. Spike once again pays fond homage when he features the AJIV in a scene from his movie “Do The Right Thing”, while more recently rapper Slick Rick announces his intention to purchase the entire 2006 retro line. With the IV, AIR JORDANs truly enter the modern cultural lexicon.

When it came to commercials Nike continued with Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee) and created the famous Can/Can’t tv commercial. Spike Lee really liked these shoes personally and gave them some extra promotion in his movie Do The Right Thing. A classic scene for all AJ fans is when Buggin Out gets his brand new Air Jordan IV (4)‘s scuffed by a bicycle rider and flips out about it, places his shoe upon a fire-hydrant and cleans it with a toothbrush. Rent the movie today if you haven’t seen it!

AIR JORDAN V (5): 1989-90

With fit-enhancing lace locks, reflective tongue and clear rubber outsoles for sole-to-the-hole traction, MJ and Tinker Hatfield once again surpass previous designs with these new innovations. Michael pilots his way to a career high 69 points against Cleveland and his fourth scoring total with an average of 33.6 points per game. Design inspiration came from World War II Mustang fighter planes, as seen in the shark teeth profile on the midsole. The Air Jordan V (5) was released in 1990. Phil Jackson took over as head coach for the Bulls in the 89-90 season. This gave the Bull’s an extra boost and everything was flying.

Air Jordan VI (6): 1990-91

The Air Jordan VI (6) was released in late 1990/early 1991. In the 90-91 season Michael added the only thing missing in his awards and titles received in the NBA. The Bulls finally won the NBA Championships beating the LA Laker’s in the final. After having lost the first game they won four straight games and were without a doubt the strongest team in the NBA in a long time. What is there to say else than Hatfield created another classic. This time with a rubber tongue featuring two holes which the bearer could use to easily get the kicks on. He kept the idea with clear rubber soles and lace locks from the Air Jordan 5 (V)s but apart from that this felt like a brand new AJ design.
The pattern on the shoe was interesting. If you looked at it in different angels and with a little bit of imagination you could see the number 23. The figure 2 standing up on the back of the shoe and the figure 3 lying down facing the ground close to the laces (soon there will be a picture illustrating this).

Air Jordan VII (7): 1991-92

With a form-fitting neoprene sock liner, the AIR JORDAN VII gives new meaning to the word ‘comfort’. Meanwhile, the Bulls dominate the 1991-92 season and Michael continues to redefine the game of basketball and make it his own. What to do for an encore? ‘His Airness’ laces up this year’s model for a second championship ring and his sixth scoring title, not to mention a short hop over to Barcelona to collect some highly prized Olympic Gold as part of the USA’s legendary ‘Dream Team’.

Air Jordan VIII (8): 1992-93

AIR JORDAN VIII is the first to feature anti-inversion cross-over leather, Velcro straps and thickened padding for added support and stability. The VIII is only issued in three different color combinations, making it one of the franchise’s most sought after. Michael enters the ’93 playoffs in highflying fashion, setting a Finals scoring record and lighting up the Suns for 41.0 ppg on his way to claiming his third consecutive title.

On the tongue of the White/Black and All-star versions you could almost make out a peace sign and some collectors came to call this the flower-power Air Jordan.
Very surprising was that this shoe was only made in three different color combinations. Previous models had sold very well and so did the Air Jordan VIII‘s so it’s really a big surprise that Nike decided not to make more of these. Even the quantity of shoes being produced were lower than the Air Jordan 7 (VII)s.

Air Jordan IX (9): 1993-94

Nine years of refinement produces this minimalist classic, complete with an outsole featuring symbols and languages of numerous countries. Michael helps design it and loves it unreservedly, yet for the first time never wears it in competition. Its November 1993 release follows his retirement the previous month following back-to-back-to-back championships and countless individual awards and accolades. MJ turns to pursue a childhood dream and embarks on a minor league baseball career. Naturally, the AJIX is redesigned as a baseball cleat.

Deeper meaning:

On October 6th 1993, Jordan gave the basketball world a shock when he announced his retirement from the NBA. This was just one day before Training Camp and it was not what anyone had expected at this time. The greatest basketball player of all time retiring at the age of 30. A decision probably affected by the fact that his father was murdered in North Carolina in the summer of 1993.

There were words in different languages on the soles of the shoes, this is what was said:

Right shoe:
dedie (french) – dedicated
fuerza (spanish) – force
intenso (italian) – intense
liberta (french) – freedom
anmutig (german) – graceful

Left shoe:
????? (russian) – sport
uhuru (swahili) – independence
??????? (russian) – freedom
athletisch (german) – athletic
muundaji (swahili) – ?????
There are also two Japanese words that reads “world” and “sport”.

This was the first model that Michael did not wear in an NBA seasonal game (due to the retirement). The Air Jordan’s had not disappeared from the courts though. Known as player samples there were Air Jordan IX‘s being produced with not only #23 on the back, but with individual numbers for players such as Kendall Gill (#13), and Mitch Richmond (#2).

Air Jordan X (10): 1994-95

These were the comeback shoes. It’s dunk déjà vu as Michael returns from the diamond for a return chartered flight to the top with Scottie. He issues a two-word press release to the world’s media: “I’m back.” Boasting full-length Nike Air cushioning, full grain leather uppers, speed lacing and an outsole listing the main man’s major hardwood feats, AJX is also issued in different color ways for different US cities. It seemed as if Nike wasn’t expecting to see Jordan back in the game so soon. They started to re-release older model’s of the AJ series (Air Jordan 1 (I), Air Jordan 2 (II), Air Jordan 3 (III)) and the Air Jordan 10 (X)‘s soles featured an honor or an award from each year Michael had spent in the NBA.

Apart from these soles the design was no real surprise and was overall very plain. Hatfield picked up a few design elements from previous models and you could see some obvious signs of influence from the Air Jordan 3 (III)‘s, the Air Jordan 5 (V)‘s and the Air Jordan 6 (VI)‘s. If the Air Jordan 9 (IX)‘s had a lot of different samples, the Air Jordan 10 (X)‘s were even worse. There were a lot of different team colors that were produced in limited quantities and there were samples with numbers for a lot of different players in the NBA. As Michael wore number 45 when he returned there were also samples with #45 stitched on the shoes. Few sneaker heads have the 45's on distinct sneaker head is rapper Drake who showed them off while giving the world a little look at his collection.

Air Jordan XI (11): 1995-96

Michael’s intuitive insight of bringing a “formal look” to the court serves as the inspiration for this remarkable rendition. Worn during his full return in the 1995-96 season, the XI quickly becomes one of the most popular AIR JORDANs of all-time. In another bold innovative step, the AJXI features patent leather for the first time on a athletic shoe, and a ‘secret weapon’ carbon-fibre spring plate and polymer-coated upper that refuses to stretch or lose its shape through MJ’s 72-win season and a fourth NBA title. MJ becomes only the second player ever to be crowned MVP for the season, the All-Star Game, and the Finals in a single season.

If Jordan was back, so was Tinker Hatfield. A terrific design with a new patent leather and the return of the clear rubber sole made the Air Jordan XI the most appreciated Air Jordan model ever released.
But when the design stunned everyone, the durability and quality was disappointing. Again the clear rubber soles easily yellowed and the patent leather also tended to crack up and/or easily get scratched. Top design – lacking quality. With the Air Jordan 11 (XI)‘s, we also saw the return of low-tops. Something that would follow the Air Jordan’s all the way to the Air Jordan 16 (XVI)‘s (though skipping the Air Jordan 12 (XII)‘s).

Michael was fined $5000 per game during the semifinals in 1995 for wearing the Air Jordan 11 (XI) Original (OG) – Concords (White / Black – Dark Concord). He wore them twice and this was looked upon as uniform violation as the rest of the Bulls wore entirely black shoes. This kind of brings back memories from when the Air Jordan 1 (I)‘s were banned from the NBA. Being fined two games was enough though and the next game he wore Anfernee Hardaway’s shoes. But did Nike enjoy MJ not wearing AJ’s? Probably not as he got the Air Jordan 11 (XI) Original (OG) – Space Jams (Black / Varsity Royal – White) for the remaining games. The same shoes that could also be seen in the movie Space Jam. When the Air Jordan 11‘s were retroed in 2000-2001, they would prove to become the retro that sold in the highest quantity ever and also the fastest selling Air Jordan’s of all time. Will this years 2011 retro concords do the same numbers?

Air Jordan XII (12): 1996-97

The first AIR JORDANs to utilize Zoom Air Technology for lightweight cushioning and lightning quick responsiveness. MJ wears them as he scores 38 points against the Utah Jazz, including a three pointer in the dying seconds, despite being so ill with the flu he has to be helped off the floor after the game by teammate Scottie Pippen. Using the Japanese rising sun as the inspiration, the Air Jordan XII features flowing lines reminiscent of the sending out its morning rays. The XII released in 1996 and 1997 in five mid-top colorways.

In September 1997 Nike decided to launch a new sub-brand of Nike called Jordan Brand. This made the Air Jordan XII one of the first products that were a part of the Jordan Brand collection.
Probably due to this fact, the Air Jordan 12 XII was the first Air Jordan that did not have a Swoosh or a Nike logo anywhere on the shoe. Not even on the insole.

Air Jordan XIII (13): 1997-98

Extremely lightweight and responsive, the XIII takes its design inspiration from the black panther, and, of course, from Michael’s predatory nature and catlike quickness on the court. The shoe features sleek Zoom Air, a unique Jumpman hologram that mimics the panther’s eye, and a carbon-fiber spring plate for more pounce in the paint. This season’s finale sees perhaps MJ’s most famous shot, in Game 6 of the Finals against Utah. (He actually wore an early release of the AIR JORDAN XIV in that game.) It proves to be the game winner, handing the Bulls their third consecutive Championship. Chicago becomes the first team in NBA history to repeat the three-peat.

Hatfield kept on making original designs. The Air Jordan 13 (XIII)‘s featured a nice hologram on the ankle and the design was said to be inspired by a panther. The outsole with pads like a paw and circles representing whiskers.

The hologram showed the following images:

- A basketball
- The number 23
- The jumpman logo

Two different low-top colors were also released to the public. These without the hologram.

Most of the previous models had been produced in Taiwan but Air Jordan 12 (XII) took the step to China and Air Jordan 13 (XIII) was also produced in China. It’s weird but this made fakes or so called factory variants of AJ’s very common, seems as if the factory really knew that this was a product that they could make money on. The fakes usually had awful color combinations and the quality was far from satisfying.

Air Jordan XIV (14): 1998-99

Another leap of innovative design and engineering, the AJXIV is a high performance luxury ride, made of full-grain leather and featuring Zoom Air cushioning and medial air vents for breathability. Inspired by Michael’s love of cars, the AJ XIV takes on the stylish design of his very own Ferrari 550 M. Now elevated to iconic status thanks to MJ’s accomplishments, many collectors and sneaker experts rate the XIV as the most comfortable AIR Jordans ever. Personally the 3's are the most comfortable to me.

The design was inspired by Michaels car, the Ferrari 550 M, and was made by Tinker Hatfield together with Mark Smith. A great stylish design and a great shoe for Michael to end his NBA career in.
This was the first Air Jordan that would feature laces with metal tips. Something that both the Air Jordan 15 (XV)‘s and Air Jordan 16 (XVI)‘s designs also would use.

The Air Jordan 14 (XIV)‘s also begun the trend of having a number of things that would count towards the model# of the shoe. On the Air Jordan 14 (XIV)‘s each shoe had seven jumpmans; ferrari-like shield, insole, sole, back, 2 x lace tip and front. Counting them on both shoes makes it a total of 14 (XIV) Jumpmans. Many fakes were made of this model as well.

Air Jordan XV (15): 1999-00

With a unique woven upper and aerodynamic design, the XV is inspired by two high-flyers: Michael Jordan and the ultra-fast X-15 fighter jet. The XV is inscribed with “23/6/15” down the heel in recognition of MJ’s jersey number/ championships won/model number of AIR JORDAN. Despite Michael’s absence from the game, this design proved to be as popular as ever. This one started the trend of bad designs for me.

The design of the Air Jordan 15 (XV)s originated from the air craft X-15 which was developed by NASA during the 1950′s and was, to say the least, a bit radical.
The tongue of the shoe was sticking out in a style that very much made your thoughts go directly to Michael himself and his tongue sticking out. The sides of the shoe were in a woven pattern.
Many people said this was a rip-off of a Prada shoe when it comes to the red stripe at the back of the shoe. Maybe the Prada shoes were inspiration sources for Hatfield as well, but that’s very uncertain.

Air Jordan XVI (16): 2000-01

Combining some of the AIR JORDAN franchise’s most coveted features, the AJXVI represents ‘transition’, with a squarer toe, a return to visible Air and a unique, removable gaiter that transforms the XVI from a street shoe into a game shoe. Designed for high performance, the XVI draws stylistic inspiration from automobiles, architecture and Michael’s move from the court to the front office as President of Basketball Operations with the Washington Wizards.

The Air Jordan 16 (XVI) were designed by Nike’s Senior Footwear Designer Wilson Smith. This meant it was the first design since the Air Jordan 3 (III) that Tinker Hatfield wasn’t behind. Hatfield was said to have moved up and he left Smith with the hard task in creating a revolutionary new design.

Smith decided to bring in a few design elements/fabrics from earlier releases. For instance we saw the return of the clear rubber sole (Air Jordan 5 (V), Air Jordan 6 (VI), Air Jordan 11 (XI)) and they also featured patent leather (Air Jordan 11 (XI)).

Air Jordan XVII (17): 2001-02

The comeback shoe (again). In anticipation of another return to the game he loves, Michael plays a pivotal role in the design of the XVII. The most expensive AIR JORDANs ever produced, this shoe is inspired by the characteristics of jazz – solid fundamentals, dazzling runs and lots of room for improvisation. At Washington, Michael reminds the world that he can still dunk. He scores his 30,000th career point against his former team, the Chicago Bulls. The XVII comes in a metal case and includes an interactive CD-ROM.

The Air Jordan 17 (XVII) design was said to be inspired by three things; “the fine details from an Aston Martin, the smooth lines and flow of a jazz solo and the long Air Jordan history of innovations in style.” (

Well, if the Air Jordan 17 (XVII) were equipped with a gaiter/shroud that was removable and that would cover almost more than half of the shoe, the Air Jordan 17 (XVII)s were no worse. With a removable midfoot cover you were once again given the power to choose whether or not the laces should be visible!

Air Jordan XVIII (18): 2002-03

Saving one of the best for last, the XVIII with its radical one-piece upper and Comfort Control Plate, is worn by Michael Jordan on April 16, 2003 for his last game in the NBA.

MJ's last game shoe also has many firsts. Inspired by Italian high-performance racing cars, the XVIII employs a virtual one-piece upper in addition to a patented carbon fiber Comfort Control Plate and dual-layer Zoom Air cushioning.

Creator of the design of the Air Jordan 18 (XVIII) was Tate Kuerbis (Jordan Senior Footwear Designer). A person that had been part of the Jordan footwear design team since 1999 and with Nike since 1995. The inspiration of the design is a combination fo a number of things; Sleek racing lines of the auto world, Carbon fiber-based monocoque of F1 race cars, Race car driving shoes (rubber heel wrap) and Fine Italian dress shoes (bold stitching on the soles).

Air Jordan XIX (19): 2003-04

The Air Jordan 19 (XIX) was released in 2004. As Michael had retired Jordan Brand turned to players such as Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Carmelo Anthony and of course Ray Allen, to promote the new Air Jordan. The lightest and most supportive Air Jordan sneaker to date featured an ultimate combination of sport and style.

The design of the Air Jordan 19 (XIX)was inspired by Inspired by the most dangerous snake on earth, the Black Mamba. Again Tate Kuerbis (Jordan Senior Footwear Designer) was the driving force of the model but he was highly supported by persons such as Jason Mayden, Wilson Smith, Josh Heard and Suzette Henri, so maybe one could say that this was the largest joint effort within Air Jordan design ever.

Air Jordan XX (20): 2004-05

The Air Jordan 20 (XX) was released in 2005. “Welcome to the future”, was one of the leading slogans in the advertising campaign for Air Jordan 20 (XX). Laser etched lace covers and the brand new I.P.S. (Independent Podular Suspension) technology made up for this somewhat bold marketing.

Tinker Hatfield returned to the driver seat when it came to the design of the Air Jordan 20 (XX). Finding inspiration from cycling shoes and motorcycle tires he created a shoe that celebrated the 20 year history of Air Jordan’s. On the heel you would find the figures 85 and 05 embedded in the mesh and the lace covers were laser etched with a massive amount of symbols representing different stages in MJ’s and AJ’s life.

The full specs
Here’s what Jordan Brand had to say about the Air Jordan 20 (XX):
“Celebrate the past and anticipate the future with the Air Jordan XX basketball shoe. Full-grain leather and nubuck upper with detailed laser etching to celebrate the history of Air Jordan footwear. Integrated midfoot performance strap combined with hidden lacing system offers lockdown performance fit. Heel ankle support system adds customizable support while memory foam-backed collar lining cushions the foot. Asymmetrical toe-cap provides durability in key areas, protecting against toe drag. Fabric-wrapped Phylon™ midsole with new I.P.S. (Independent Podular Suspension) technology. Individual pods support the foot in key areas. Internal shank plate brings midfoot and arch upport. Rubber cupsole with traction grooves inspired by motorcycle tires. Twenty herringbone pods celebrate the heritage of the Air Jordan franchise. Wt. 14.8 oz.”

Air Jordan XXI (21): 2005-6

Jordan Brand went with designer D’Wayne Edwards for the Air Jordan 21 (XX1 or XXI). The design of the Air Jordan 21 (XX1 or XXI) is very simple compared to the other Air Jordan models. But like always, the Air Jordan XXI was full of high tech materials.

With each year gone by, it is less likely that we will see MJ back in the NBA (sorry, I hate to break the news). Knowing this, the Air Jordan 21 (XX1 or XXI) was best described as being the DNA of a champion.

Air Jordan 21 (XX1 or XXI) History – Nothing new as far as inspirations go on the Air Jordan 21 (XX1 or XXI), which came from a Bentley Continental GT coupe (another car). The front of the AJ XXI is said to look like the grill on the Bentley.

The box that came with the Air Jordan 21 (XX1 or XXI) was nice. When opened, there are two separate compartments for each shoe. Also, the shoes came with a bag that can hold your air Pods.
Here is information released from Jordan Brand on technology, and the profile on the Air Jordan 21 (XX1 or XXI):

Upper : Combination of luxurious Italian suedes with rich full-grain leathers. Forefoot breathability features are combined with a newly engineered durable textile for support and durability in key performance areas. Extended heel counter construction provides extended ankle support. Newly foam-backed quilted collar complements the seamless booty construction to provide maximum comfort. Breathable mesh is brought to the tongue to dissipate heat, while the adjustable tongue cover flips up to expose the breathable technology, or flips down for a more sophisticated look.

Mid sole : Fully-double lasted phylon mid sole provide a low-profile stance. Evolution of the I.P.S (Independent Podular Suspension) now includes interchangeable cushioning technology with a customizable heel zoom pillar or heel encapsulated pillar. Carbon fiber shank plate offers mid foot and arch support.

Out Sole : New I.P.S. technology is integrated with the out sole through raised herringbone pods for traction in strategic performance areas. New innovative out sole pattern offers multidirectional traction.

Profile : The future is now. The next generation of the greatest performance basketball shoe designed for the greatest player to ever play the game. The Air Jordan 21 shoe embodies all the elements: The man, the style, the legend; Michael Jordan.

The commercial for these were dope!

Air Jordan XX2 (22) – 2007-08

The Air Jordan 22 (XX2 or XXII) was released on Michael Jordan’s 44th birthday, February 17, 2007. This is the 22nd model in the Air Jordan series which dates back to Michael Jordan’s rookie season in 1985. The Air Jordan 22 (XX2 or XXII) is cutting edge from all angles. It features an innovative design, unbelievable comfort, and powerful performance.

Like prior Air Jordans, the design of the Air Jordan 22 (XX2 or XXII) was inspired by a work of art off of the court. Previous models were designed after such things as Michael’s own Ferrari, the X-15 fighter jet, and even the P-51 Mustang. The Air Jordan 22 (XX2 or XXII) took inspiration from one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world – the F-22 Raptor.
Like Mike, the F-22 Raptor is equally as threatening offensively as defensively. Combine the F-22′s speed of 1600 mph as well as being a stealth jet and you have paralleled qualities Mike had on the court.

The design of the upper has sharp lines which takes inspiration from the sharp maneuverability of the F-22 Raptor. The Air Jordan 22 (XX2 or XXII) features zig-zag stitching similar to that of the F-22 which helps conceal the jet from enemy radar. On the shoes, this stitching helps provide a well produced shoe with lasting quality. Lastly, one cannot miss the distinct yet stylish 3M reflective material on the back of the shoe which lights up the court in the lowest level of light.

Air Jordan XX3 (23) – 2008-09

The Air Jordan 23 (XX3 or XXIII) is said to be the last model of the Air Jordan series by many individuals high in Jordan Brand including the head of footwear marketing, Gentry Humphrey. While there was alot of celebration for the 20th year anniversary of Air Jordans, there is much anticipation for the Air Jordan 23 (XX3 or XXIII).

Performance wise, the Air Jordan 23 (XX3 or XXIII) is said to be above and beyond that of any other Air Jordan. For the third straight year, the Air Jordan 23 (XX3 or XXIII) uses IPS (Independent Podular Suspension) Cushioning. For support, a carbon fiber plate extends along the bottom the of sole that modeled of Michael Jordan's thumb print.

Cosmetically, the shoe is as unique as any other Jordan model relative to the rest of the field. Starting at the toe, the toe cap has Michael Jordan's signature embossed. The side of the shoe features a stitched pattern that gives the shoes strength in addition to cosmetic effect. The tongue of the left and right are different for a first time with a Jumpman on the right shoe and “23″ on the left. Lastly what starts at the front of the shoe and extends the full length is a glittery glossy panel that covers the midsole body of the sneaker.