In 1985, a partnership between Michael Jordan and Nike changed the athletic apparel culture forever with the release of the first pair of Air Jordan sneakers. Fast forward about 30 years later and the Jordan Brand has become one of the most iconic athletic brands ever. MJ is the most marketable athlete in our lifetime and his legacy has impacted every athlete in some form or another.
Every kid in America in the ’80s and ’90s wanted to be like MJ and the closest thing to being like him was putting on a fresh pair of his kicks. A pair of Js was hands down the best gift for Christmas every year under the tree. Re-releases of the sneakers have kept the momentum going for the brand and the early kicks are now like fossils that sneakerheads must have.
In honor of His Airness’ birthday yesterday, we ranked every signature Air Jordan sneaker in order. This is possibly the hardest list to ever rank–feel free to comment and make some suggestions to the list.
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28. Air Jordan 2010
This is probably my least favorite Jordan sneaker of all-time because I didn’t feel like it belonged mentioned along with all of the other sneakers. The shoe was created as a symbol of Jordan passing down the torch to the new generation of stars such as D-Wade, who endorsed the shoe during the 2010 season.
Notable Colorway: Black/Varsity Red-White
27. Air Jordan XX2 (2007)
The 22nd installment in the Jordan line was released in 2007. The shoe drew inspiration from an F-22 Raptor fighter jet. The camo pattern toward the end of the shoe and the zipper-like lining just did not cut it for me.
Notable Colorway: Black/Varsity Red-Metallic Silver
26. Air Jordan 2011
Air Jordan 2011s were the 26th sneakers in the line and provided a superior focus on court performance and design. The best colorway was the “Year of the Rabbit.” In terms of the Chinese Zodiac, the year MJ was born (1963) and the release year in 2011, were in the Year of the Rabbit.
Notable Colorway: Grey/Red-Gold
25. Air Jordan 2009
The AJ2009 was the start of a new era for the Jordan Brand. It was the 24th Jordan shoe released and Nike decided to pay respect to MJ keeping his “23” legacy significant by retiring the number schemes that we all grew to love. The shoe was built for the future but definitely lacked the “Jordan” feeling with no Jordan logo.
Notable Colorway: White/Metallic Silver/Black
24. Air Jordan XX1 (2006)
I did love the commercial campaign for the 21st installment of Jordan kicks, paying homage to Jordan’s legacy through re-enactments of his famous career highlights. But the shoes, to me, were the first Jordans that started to lack the design features we were accustomed to seeing.
Notable Colorway: White/Black/Red
23. Air Jordan 2012
The AJ2012 was a sneaker for every sneakerhead that likes to experiment and be creative. The greatest sneaker designer, Tinker Hatfield, Michael Jordan’s lead designer for the majority of his shoes, called the sneakers the “most customizable Jordan ever.” The sneakers let players choose which style they wanted, having the ability to transform them into lo-tops or hi-tops.
Notable Colorway: Carolina Blues
22. Jordan XIX (2004)
A year after MJ retired it was time for a new set of NBA players to continue the legacy. The first installment of sneakers after MJ retired for the final time, Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton and Ray Allen were some of the names that endorsed the sneaker during the season. The sneakers main attribute was no laces.
Notable Colorway: White/red
21. Air Jordan XVIII (2003)
It was as if Jordan collaborated with Prada and created the last pair of kicks MJ donned on the court. During his retirement season in 2003, the AJ18 drew inspiration from race cars and Italian dress shoes. The sneaker featured black suede at the top with a blue outsole at the bottom.
Notable Colorway: Black/Royal Blue
20. Jordan XX (2005)
The Air Jordan XX was a sneaker that looked back on the 20-year legacy of Air Jordans. The sneaker was inspired by a motorcycle and the lace cover presented a reflective imagery of MJ’s career and life.
Notable Colorway: White/Varsity Red-Black
19. Air Jordan XV (2000)
These were the first Jordans released after MJ’s second retirement and the reviews for the sneakers were not great. The quality of the sneaker compared to the first 14 wasn’t as good. The sneaker was just planned out wrong and got inspirations from Jordan’s tongue, an aircraft and Prada shoes. With all that being said, they still feel unique to the line even today.
Notable Colorway: Black/Varsity Red
18. Air Jordan XX3 (2008)
The AJXX3 was the pinnacle of Jordan kicks. The goal of the sneaker was to create a shoe that was the best basketball shoe to support performance and sustainability. Hatfield wanted to build on the style with keeping an idea about the environment in mind.
Notable Colorway: Black/Varsity Red-Stealth
17. Jordan XX8 (2013)
When I first saw these I was skeptical of the latest installment in the Jordan line but after some time the sneakers grew on me and did not disappoint. A year has passed since it has released and I am still hearing rave reviews about the shoe performance on the basketball court. The sneaker exceeds all technological shoe performance and is the most tested and lightest Air Jordan ever (13.5 ounces). The shoe has come in a lot of interesting color ways and Russell Westbrook was one of the biggest supporters, wearing them the first day the shoe launched. This is, without a doubt, one of the most innovative sneakers that has released in a long time.
Notable Colorway: Black/White-Electric Green
16. Air Jordan XVII (2002)
I remember being in the fifth grade and getting my hands on these. The metal briefcase serving as a shoebox and the CD that came with it made the sneakers really better than what they actually really were. Just like the 16s before them, the XVII provided a shroud that could be removed.
Notable Colorway: White/ College Blue -Black
15. Air Jordan II (1986-1987)
I never really understood the criticism of the IIs. After a huge success with the first pair of Jordans, the IIs had a lot to look up too. During the 1986 season, Jordan’s popularity and stature in the game began to grow. He averaged a ridiculous 37.1 points per-game. The shoes were created in Italy and had a luxury feel to them. With MJ’s career taking off, the Jordan Brand began to take shape as what it was about to become.
Notable Colorway: White-Red-Black
14. Air Jordan XVI (2011)
When the sneakers were released it was the first time designer Tinker Hatfield did not work on a Jordan sneaker since the Jordan IIs. The shoe featured a clear rubber sole and patented leather, which were key elements in some previous Jordans. Another interesting feature was the shroud that covered the laces that could be taken off. They were also the first Jordans worn on his return to the NBA, playing for the Washington Wizards.
Notable Colorway: Black/Red
13. Air Jordan X (1995)
When Jordan came back from his first retirement after a brief baseball career, the Jordan Xs were the first kicks he wore on the court against the Indiana Pacers. A couple games later, MJ returned to the Garden and dropped 55 against the Knicks at the Garden wearing the 10s. The kicks were simple and deserve to be one of the best Jordans. During the 1994-95 season, there were eight original colorways for these, matching numerous NBA team color schemes in the NBA.
Notable Colorway(s): White/Black-Steel Grey and White/Black-True Red
12. Air Jordan XIII (1998)
The 13s took inspiration from a black panther and the hologram on the ankle made the sneakers very distinctive. The sneakers were released during MJ’s hunt for his sixth ring and many clutch moments came in this shoe. They received a lot of great reviews for how comfortable they were.
Notable Colorway(s): Black/Varsity Red and White/True Red-Black
11. Air Jordan IX (1994)
It is amazing to think that Jordan never wore these in an actual NBA game due to his sudden retirement after the first three-peat. The shoes were inspired by baseball cleats Jordan wore during his minor league baseball season. The advertisements for the sneaker were legendary, with comedian Steve Martin and Michael Jordan going under the alias of “Johnny Kilroy.”
Notable Colorway: White/Black/Red
10. Air Jordan XIV (1999)
The first thing that comes to mind about the 14s is Jordan’s last shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Jazz to win the game. It is the greatest basketball shot in history and with the XIVs on his feet, it cements the sneaker’s legacy as one of the best Air Jordans ever. The XIVs were inspired and designed like a Ferrari, made in low cut, and were great for performance.
Notable Colorway(s): Black/Varsity Red and White/Black-Varsity Red
9. Air Jordan XII (1997)
The 12s were the first Jordan under the sub-division in Nike, the Jordan Brand. It was the first Jordan kicks to not have a Nike swoosh anywhere on the sneaker. With designs inspired by the Japanese flag and a NYC Taxi, these are some of the most comfortable Jordans to play in. They were released during the 1996-97 season when MJ won his fifth ring against the Jazz. Another MJ event that is linked with the shoe is the famous “Flu Game.”
Notable Colorway(s): Black/Varsity Red and White/Black-Taxi
8. Air Jordan IV (1989)
The Jordan IVs were ground-breaking and featured Hatfield’s return to the production of the shoe. The sneakers were a must-have during their time in the ’80s in popular culture, thanks to Jordan’s popularity and Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon. The IVs debuted during the 1989 season in which Jordan was putting up staggering numbers. The shoes were part of one of MJ’s best signature moments with “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo.
Notable Colorway(s): White/Cement, White/Varsiy Red-Black, Black/Cement-Red
7. Air Jordan V (1990)
The Air Jordan Vs were released in 1990, the same season Phil Jackson became the coach of the team. The kicks had some elements from the IVs but the tongue and the rubber soles made the shoe different. They are usually overlooked because of being in the middle of dominant MJ sneakers such as the IIIs, IVs and VIs. Hatfield received inspiration from a World War II fighter jet, which you can see on the shoe by the shark teeth on the midsole of the sneaker. The V is one of the best sneakers to touch a basketball court.
Notable Colorway(s): White/Black-Fire Red, White, Black/Metallic Silver, White/Emerald Green-Grape
6. Air Jordan VIII (1993)
Released during the first three-peat run, the VIIIs embodied the player MJ was on and off the court. The shoe was very fashionable and completely out of this world compared to other sneakers at the time. The strap and the fuzzy Jumpman logo stuck out the most on the shoe. The shoe provided many different colors. MJ recorded a third championship, 20,000 career points and a seventh scoring title in the sneakers, making them legendary.
Notable Colorway(s): Black/True Red (The Playoffs), Black, Aqua, and White/Black-Red â€“Bugs Bunny
5. Air Jordan VI (1991)
The shoe brought MJ his first championship and is one of the greatest Jordans ever released. The sneaker was the last Air Jordan to feature the Nike logo after Hatfield felt that the brand shall represent itself. The Olympic colorway will always be one of my favorite pairs of Jordans ever.
Notable Colorway(s): Black/Infrared, Olympic’s Midnight Navy/White-Varsity Red, White/Infrared
4. Air Jordan VII (1992)
When the VIIs were released in 1992, Michael Jordan was the world’s most known athlete. MJ was on top of his game and won the NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal with the Dream Team.
Notable Colorway(s): White/ Black-Cardinal Red-Bronze, Black/Charcoal- True Red, White/Red/Blue-Bronze
3. Air Jordan III (1988)
The IIIs were the Jordan sneakers that made Jordan become a sneaker icon. In ’88, Jordan had an incredible season leading the Bulls to their best record in years, along with an MVP award and the Slam Dunk champion crown. One of the most successful Nike campaigns comes from Jordan’s ads with Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon in the “It’s Gotta be the Shoes” commercials. It probably comes down to the 3s and 11s for most popular Jordans of all-time.
Notable Colorway(s): Black/Cement, White Cement, and White/True Blue
2. Air Jordan XI (1996)
The XIs can obviously be number one, of course. It set a trend with patented leather and is one of the best basketball sneakers ever. From the Space Jams, Concords to the Cool Greys, these are the most popular Jordan kicks of all time. It is not only the patent leather that makes the shoe great but it is the sole that blends perfectly with it and the 23 on the back of the shoe. It is elegant is every way. The black and red dÃ©cor for the Bulls color scheme was just brilliant and came during a time when MJ was in his prime.
Notable Colorway(s): Black/Red, Concord, Cool Greys, Space Jams (Black/Varsity Royal)-White
1. Air Jordan I (1984-1985)
For every legacy there is a beginning. The Air Jordan 1 was the perfect sneaker for a budding NBA star fresh out of college. Released during MJ’s rookie season in 1985, the sneaker faced huge scrutiny by the league and was banned for violating uniform rules. They became the best selling sneakers of its time and exploded MJ’s popularity. When Nike included white into the sneaker, MJ was free to take off. The shoes ignited the greatest sneaker brand in history. From the famous logo and the cool appeal, these deserve the first spot.
Notable Colorway(s): Black/Red and White/Red-Black)
Which Jordans are your favorite?
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