History of Air Jordan

Air Jordan 1

  • In 1984, after winning a national title at the University of North Carolina and a Gold Medal at the Olympic games in Los Angeles, Michael Jordan was selected 3rd overall by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Draft. That year Nike also signed Michael to a five-year endorsement contract worth a reported $2.5 million (plus royalties). There was initially some skepticism over the hefty contract being given to an unproven marketing commodity, but MJ was quick to prove the critics wrong.
  • In 1985, Nike gave Jordan and his signature line of sneakers and apparel a unique logo - clearly, this line was created to be very different from Nike's previous basketball efforts.
  • Designer Peter Moore was given the task of coming up with the first Air Jordan shoe. The Air Jordan 1 featured the Nike Swoosh on the mid panel and a newly designed wings logo on the upper ankle. The first Air Jordan was similar in design to other popular Nike models released in the 1980s such as the Air Force 1, Terminator and Dunk. The Air Jordan I featured a Nike Air unit for heel cushioning, padded foam ankle collars for additional protection and a toe overlay for added lockdown.
  • Although the AJ 1 lacked technology, the colors and cultural significance set the sneaker industry on its ear. The Air Jordan 1 paved the way for colorful basketball sneakers. It transformed the way people looked at athletic shoes. During the 1985 NBA season, Michael wore the Air Jordan 1, which retailed for $65 - at the time, the most expensive basketball shoe on the market. The AJ I Black/Red colorway was banned by the NBA because of rules regarding shoe colors; Jordan was fined $5,000 for every game he wore them (Nike gladly footed the bill, as the fines created even more buzz around the Air Jordan 1). MJ's rookie campaign resulted in an All-Star appearance, Rookie of the Year honors and leading the Bulls to the playoffs after a four-year absence. Michael wore the Air Jordan I Red/White/Black as he scored 63 points against the Boston Celtics in the 1986 playoffs. Although the Bulls ended up losing to the Larry Bird-led Celtics, Michael showed that he was one of the bright young stars in the NBA.

Air Jordan 2

  • Following the frenzy created by the first Air Jordan was a tall order, but designer Bruce Kilgore - who also designed the classic Nike Air Force 1 - took the reins for the second shoe in the Air Jordan series and, as intended, went in a new and different direction.
  • The Nike Swoosh that was so prominent on every Nike shoe up to that point was removed from the Air Jordan II. With a simple and clean design, the shoe featured upgraded materials, including a faux lizard skin upper and a molded plastic heel counter.
  • Known for its Italian craftsmanship, the Air Jordan II featured vast upgrades in quality from the Air Jordan 1. A full length Air unit beefed up the midsole to cushion Jordan's sore foot (he'd broken it and missed much of the season) and the high-top cut of the shoes provided great ankle support. Embossed on the tongue, the Air Jordan Wings logo played a more prominent role in the Air Jordan II. The Air Jordan II paved the way for quality basketball footwear and set the stage for the madness that would follow with the Air Jordan III. Although the Air Jordan II didn't see the court much, it still has its place in sneaker culture as the first "luxury basketball sneaker." The wings box the shoes came in is one of the most sought-after and loved Air Jordan boxes to date.
  • Michael won his first NBA slam dunk title while wearing the Air Jordan II. During the 1985-1986 NBA season, Michael only wore the Air Jordan II for 18 games due to a broken foot. When Jordan returned to the court for the playoffs, he wore the Air Jordan I as he lit up the Celtics in his legendary 63-point game.

Air Jordan 3

  • With buzz surrounding Michael Jordan and his signature kicks, Nike looked to corporate architect-turned-footwear-designer Tinker Hatfield to head up the creation of the Air Jordan III.
  • Hatfield's design of the Air Jordan III was unique in several aspects: - The Air Jordan "wings" logo was no longer present - it was replaced by the newly introduced Jumpman logo on the tongue
  • The cut of the shoe was a mid, which had never been seen in the basketball shoe world before. The midsole was crafted with highly sculpted polyurethane, which introduced a fresh look. The visible Air unit was introduced to the Air Jordan line, allowing players to literally "walk on air."
  • Possibly the most distinct aspect of the Air Jordan III was the upgrade in materials. The upper was constructed of rich full-grain tumbled leather and was built to feel broken in - Jordan could wear a brand new pair every game without worrying about stiffness in the shoes.
  • Hatfield also chose to combine the tumbled leather with faux elephant skin. The elephant print was featured on the toe cap and heel of the kicks. (It also showed up on the bottom of the shoe box.)
  • The Air Jordan III continued the progression of the footwear industry. Its materials, technology and fresh design - with the assistance of a revolutionary Air Jordan commercial - took the basketball world by storm. Nike linked up with writer/actor/director Spike Lee for a spot starring Michael Jordan and Spike's character Mars Blackmon. MJ and Mars collaborated on several more Air Jordan commercials in the coming years.
  • Michael averaged 35 points per game on his way to being voted to his fourth straight All-Star game where he won the MVP award and second straight Slam Dunk title. He was also voted the Defensive Player of the Year, won the league scoring title and took home the league MVP trophy - all while wearing the Air Jordan III.

Air Jordan 4

  • Following the success of the III, Tinker Hatfield delivered one of the most comfortable, most-loved Air Jordans in the series, the Air Jordan IV.
  • The Jumpman logo made its second appearance on the tongue but with the word "Flight" added below it.
  • Like the sculpted midsole, the cut of the shoe was the same as the Air Jordan III. The visible Air unit and padded tongue and collar also carried over from the AJIII.
  • The nubuck material was introduced to the sneaker world on the upper of the Air Jordan IV. The AJ IV featured mesh for the first time, increasing breathability. Multiple areas of the IV featured plastic. Attached to the nubuck heel was a lean triangular plastic piece that was connected to a hard plastic lace holder. The lace holder at the forefoot provided added lockdown.
  • The heel tab that read "Nike Air" was plastic and similar to that of the Air Jordan III. Also on the upper was a plastic grid pattern that lay over the breathable mesh and behind the triangular piece.
  • To market the shoe, a new batch of Michael Jordan/Mars Blackmon commercials aired.
  • The Air Jordan IV is one of the most collected shoes in the series. Ten years after its original release, Nike retroed the AJ IV in 1999; it sold out immediately.
  • Wearing Air Jordan IV, MJ was voted to his fifth consecutive All-Star game and won the league scoring title for the third consecutive year. One of the most memorable Air Jordan IV moments was when Michael hit the series-clinching, hanging jumper over Craig Ehlo in the first round of the playoffs against Cleveland - better known as "The Shot."

Air Jordan 5

  • In 1990, Designer Tinker Hatfield continued to push the envelope with the Air Jordan line. His creativity and innovative thinking continued on several levels with the design of the Air Jordan V. The shoe featured an asymmetrical collar and the cut of the shoe was higher than the previous two Air Jordans. The V still had the sculpted midsole, but included a new pattern inspired by a World War II fighter plane.
  • The visible air unit carried over from the III and IV, as did the use of mesh from the AJ IV. The outsole of the V was made of translucent rubber while very thin, clear rubber adorned the side panel of the upper and the lower part of the tongue.
  • Certain colorways of the AJ V used reflective 3M material on the tongue - a nice innovation to the Jordan line. On every Jordan V, an "AIR JORDAN" patch was stitched on the inside of the tongue.
  • Another first was the Grape Purple /Emerald colorway that had never been seen on a basketball shoe.
  • The heel of the AJ V was built with strong ankle support. The heel featured a stitched "NIKE AIR" logo with a Swoosh underneath. Lace locks were included with the Air Jordan V for added lockdown.
  • The V continued the great success of the Air Jordan line and came at a good time as Michael Jordan was hitting his stride in the NBA.
  • Jordan Brand has re-released the Air Jordan V in multiple colorways, including the original Grape, Fire Red and Black/Silver colorways as well as the White/Royal/Maze color inspired by Jordan's high school alma mater, Laney High.
  • While rocking the Air Jordan V in 1990, Michael Jordan made his sixth straight All-Star game appearance, won his fourth straight league scoring title and was named to the All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team. Although the Bulls lost to the Pistons in the 1990 Conference Finals, Jordan was on the verge of one of the NBA's greatest dynasties - and driving the footwear industry to new heights.

Air Jordan 6

  • While Michael Jordan was hitting his stride on the court, designer Tinker Hatfield took to the drawing board once again to design the sixth shoe in the Air Jordan line.
  • The sculpted midsole, visible air and translucent outsole were carryovers from the Air Jordan V but were slightly altered. The upper of the Air Jordan VI is said to have been designed to abstractly depict the number 23. Three original AJ VIs were made of leather, while the Black/Infra Red colorway was made of rich suede.
  • The White/Carmine/Black Jordan VI featured a leather heel and upper with carmine red suede on the toe and underlay. Other traits included a clean toe cap, rubber tongue with finger loops, lace locks, a molded plastic heel tab and an inner booty sleeve.
  • The Air Jordan VI is one of the most loved shoes in the Air Jordan line. Originally released in 1991, the White/September blue version was seen on the feet of Jerry Seinfeld in the second season of his hit TV series.
  • Tinker Hatfield designed the Air Jordan VI-inspired Batman boots worn by Michael Keaton in the 1992 film Batman Returns. On the court, Ray Allen and Vin Baker wore White/Navy/Red editions of the Air Jordan VI at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
  • In 1991 while wearing the AJ VI, Michael averaged 31.5 points per game to win his fifth straight NBA scoring title. That year MJ was voted first team All-NBA, first team All-Defense and notched his seventh straight All-Star appearance while being named the 1991 league MVP. Most importantly Michael Jordan's skills and dedication culminated in the Bulls' first NBA Championship and was Jordan was named NBA Finals MVP.

Air Jordan 7

  • In 1992, following the success of the Air Jordan VI and Michael Jordan's first NBA Championship, Tinker Hatfield continued his innovation in the Air Jordan line with the Air Jordan VII which was inspired partially by West African Tribal culture and partially by the Nike Huarache basketball shoe line. The AJVII had a more colorful, more minimal and more lightweight design than previous Air Jordans.
  • The Air Jordan 7 design said goodbye to visible Air, the translucent outsole and the prominent Nike Air logo (except on the insole). The upper was similar to the AJ VI with minor alterations; the toecap design was a carryover from the VI.
  • A stitched Jumpman appeared on the heel of the thin, unpadded leather upper. A triangular piece of the rubber outsole wrapped up to secure the midsole. The heel featured a hard plastic arrow-shaped piece with the number 23. The heel piece had a pull tab used to lock the foot into the inner sockliner.
  • The Air Jordan VII marked several changes in the Air Jordan series: There was minimal Nike branding both on the shoe and in the marketing campaigns. Ads shifted from MJ's teamup with Mars Blackmon to Michael and Bugs Bunny. One commercial featured the duo both wearing the AJ VII beating another team in a game of hoops.
  • Michael Jordan wore the Olympic-inspired version of the VII as he led the "Dream Team" to a Gold Medal at the 1992 summer games in Barcelona. That pair featured the number 9 on the heel, reflecting MJ's jersey number on Team USA. MJ won his sixth straight scoring title while wearing the AJ VII and was again named first team All-NBA, first team All-Defense and an All-Star for the seventh consecutive time. He was voted league MVP for the second straight year and won his second NBA Championship ring and Finals MVP with the Bulls.

Air Jordan 8

  • The shoes on Michael Jordan's feet for the first Three-peat Championship were the Air Jordan VIII.
  • Unique to the upper of the Air Jordan VIII is a color splash on the heel/outsole and lockdown straps embossed with the number 23. The padded high-top cut returned to the Air Jordan line. The popular inner booty sock liner also made its return. A circular carpet-like Jumpman logo appeared on the tongue of the AJ VIII a nice touch to a well-crafted shoe.
  • Three colorways of the Jordan VIII were originally produced: White/Black/Red (leather), and two suede versions, Black/Red and Black/Aqua.
  • The Air Jordan VIII was the first shoe MJ wore after his international visibility in the 1992 Olympics, and the Bugs Bunny/ Michael Jordan ad campaigns returned for the VIII.
  • The Aqua colorway of the VIII that MJ wore in the 1993 NBA All-Star game is one of the most sought-after original Jordans. It was re-released in 2007 and sold out immediately.
  • Michael was again chosen as first team All-NBA, first team All-Defense and made his eighth consecutive All-Star game. In the Air Jordan VIII Michael scored 32.6 points per game to collect his seventh straight league scoring title. He was named NBA Finals MVP for the third straight year while collecting his third championship ring with the Bulls.

Air Jordan 9

  • After leading the Chicago Bulls to three straight NBA Championships, Michael Jordan retired from pro basketball to pursue his dream of playing baseball. MJ signed a contract with minor league baseball's Birmingham Barons in February of 1994. He wore number 45 and played outfield for the White Sox affiliate.
  • Still, the Air Jordan basketball shoe line moved forward. Tinker Hatfield once again designed the AJ IX, with a graphic design assist by Mark Smith. And although MJ never wore the original Air Jordan IX on the basketball court, the shoes could be seen on the Michael Jordan statue outside the United Center in Chicago. (Jordan wore the Air Jordan IX baseball cleats during his brief minor league baseball stint in 1994.)
  • Although Michael Jordan never wore the original Air Jordan IX in an NBA game, Penny Hardaway, Kendall Gill, BJ Armstrong and Mitch Richmond each wore exclusive versions during the 1993-1994 NBA season. High-schooler LeBron James wore a white/green/gold St. Vincent St. Mary's version of the IX during his 2003 high school senior year.
  • The upper of the AJ IX was constructed of leather, nubuck and mesh. The nubuck area wrapped around the toe and contained reflective sparkles in three out of the four original color styles. The inner booty sock liner carried over from the previous two Air Jordans. A one-pull lacing system a new innovation at the time was introduced with the AJ IX.
  • A polyurethane midsole in a tooth-like design sat atop the rubber outsole. A molded plastic globe graphic with a Jumpman logo appeared on the back of the IX. The sole of the shoes featured words in different languages, symbolizing Michael Jordan going global.
  • MJ retired from baseball on March 10, 1995 and planned a return to the NBA. Air Jordan fans around the world couldn't wait to see the latest Air Jordan design.

Air Jordan 10

  • Michael Jordan returned to the NBA on March 19, 1995, against the Indiana Pacers. He wore the "Chicago" colorway of the Air Jordan X.
  • The Air Jordan X's design was very simplistic. The original "steel" version was designed with a stitched toe piece. Michael didn't like the toe piece, so all subsequent colorways of the AJ X had a clean toe cap.
  • The X featured a padded collar, pull tab at the heel and an elastic band lacing system. The midsole of the X was constructed of lightweight Phylon connected to a rubber outsole. The outsole listed Jordan's career achievements on alternating stripes.
  • Eight original colorways of the AJX were released. The steel and powder blue uppers were made of full grain leather; the black/shadow version had a suede upper.
  • The other original colorways of the X were part of the city series that featured five color schemes of teams in the NBA: Chicago, Orlando, New York, Sacramento and Seattle. These have become some of the most sought-after Air Jordans the Chicago Xs, for example, have sold for thousands of dollars on auction sites.
  • Nine days after Jordan told the world "I'm back," he torched the Knicks for 55 points in his return to Madison Square Garden. Michael and the Bulls made it to the playoffs, but were eventually eliminated by the Orlando Magic, led by Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal.

Air Jordan 11

  • Thanks to great performance coupled with an innovative design, the Air Jordan XI (particularly the Concord colorway) is one of the most-loved sneakers ever. Sole Collector magazine voted the XI the top shoe of all time.
  • Tinker Hatfield's design for the Jordan XI featured patent leather for the first time on a basketball shoe. The upper was constructed of a polymer?coated, thin nylon ballistic mesh material. The collar and tongue were padded for max ankle comfort. The translucent outsole lay atop a full-length carbon fiber shank plate which provided extra spring. The shoe also included a full-length Air-Sole unit for maximum cushioning.
  • Michael wore the black/varsity royal/white version in the movie Space Jam. Jordan also wore the same "Air Jordan XI Space Jam" shoe in the NBA playoffs. Many Brand Jordan athletes worn the AJ XI over the years; Ray Allen sported a white/green/gold version during the Celtic's 2008-09 season.
  • When the XI was made, MJ was quoted as saying someone would one day wear them with a tuxedo. Months later Boyz II Men appeared at an awards show wearing tuxes and AJ XIs.
  • While wearing the Air Jordan XI, Michael was elected an All-Star for the 10th time, the All-Star game MVP for the second time, scoring champion for the eighth time, and was again league MVP. The Bulls won the NBA title for the fourth time, and as he was for the previous three championships, Jordan was again the Finals MVP.

Air Jordan 12

  • Tinker Hatfield and Michael Jordan collaborated to create the durable, stylish Air Jordan XII as a follow-up to the XI.
  • Inspired by a women's fashion shoe and the Japanese flag, the Air Jordan XII was clean and simple. The rich leather upper was stitched to resemble a rising sun, while the toe and accent overlays were made of faux reptile leather. The XII featured the slogan "TWO 3" down the tongue, metal lace loops with Jumpman logos and a pull tab that ran up the entire heel that read, "QUALITY INSPIRED BY THE GREATEST PLAYER EVER."
  • The XII had a full-length carbon fiber shank like the AJ XI. The XII introduced full-length Zoom Air cushioning to the Jordan line.
  • The Air Jordan XII was originally released in five colorways, including the black/red version that MJ wore during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. In that game, Michael was ill and his appearance was questionable, but he was able to play and put together an unbelievable performance in the Bulls win. The shoe he wore during that game is known among collectors as "Flu Game XII."
  • The other colors of the XII saw the floor during that season as well. Jordan wore the black/white shoe during 1997 playoff games. With the Air Jordan XII on his feet, MJ made his 11th All-Star game appearance, won his ninth NBA scoring title and was named first team All-NBA and first team All-Defense. He won his fifth NBA title and NBA Finals MVP while wearing the XII.
  • Beginning in 2003, the Air Jordan XII was re-released in several additional colors.

Air Jordan 13

  • For the 1997-1998 season, designer Tinker Hatfield inspired by Michael's cat-like play drew up the AJ XIII. (He didn't realize Michael's friends had already nicknamed him "The Black Cat.")
  • The hologram on the upper resembled the eye of a panther and the outsole had a paw-like design. The XIII featured heel and forefoot Zoom Air, a Phylon midsole and podular tooling, making it one of the most comfortable Air Jordans in the series. A carbon fiber midfoot shank and asymmetrical collar were also featured on the XIII.
  • The Air Jordan XIII was originally released in five mid colorways and two low colors. Jordan wore the AJ XIII throughout the 1997-1998 season and into the playoffs (until he introduced the AJ XIV in the 1998 NBA Finals against the Jazz). Michael wore the white-based colorways of the XIII at home and the black-based versions on the road throughout the season.
  • The AJ XIII was brought back in 10 colorways in 2004 and 2005. The season MJ wore the AJ XIII, he was voted to his 12th All-Star game (he was again the MVP), won his record-setting 10th straight league scoring title and was named first team All-NBA and first team All-Defense. The Bulls beat the Jazz to win their third consecutive title, giving MJ his sixth NBA Championship and sixth NBA Finals MVP award.

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