When the team uniform colors of the North Carolina Tar Heels appeared on Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan 1 shoe, it was the first time a professional athlete’s signature sneaker was inspired by a college basketball team. Commonly referred to as “University Blue,” the hue has been featured on some of the greatest Air Jordans ever produced. In honor of the Air Jordan 3 “UNC” releasing tomorrow—which is available now at Stadium Goods—we’re taking a look back at six of the most iconic Air Jordans we think best represent the collegiate look.
Sure, the Air Jordan 1 “UNC” didn’t exactly sync with the team uniform colors of the Chicago Bulls, but a point was made when Nike unveiled the look back in 1985. Both the brand and its premier signature athlete were going to play by their own set of rules, one of which included creating compelling product backstory.
The Air Jordan 9 has a special bond with UNC colorways. The model became just the second Air Jordan to don the baby blue hue in 1994 since the Jordan 1 had nine years earlier. Moreover, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace wore the shoe while members of the Tar Heels in the mid-90s. The Air Jordan 9 “UNC” that was released in 2019 continues the silhouette’s association with the eye-pleasing colorway.
We’d be remiss not to mention perhaps the most coveted Carolina Blue colorway of any Air Jordan to date: Virgil Abloh’s Off-White x Nike Air Jordan 1 “UNC.” One can’t help but imagine Jordan performing his signature fade-away in the deconstructed design.
Designed with premium patent leather panels, the Women’s Air Jordan 1 “UNC Patent Leather” goes heavy on the Carolina vibes. Despite releasing exclusively in women’s sizing, the look has become one of the most coveted non-original Air Jordan 1 colorways by sneaker fans and collectors.
Eric Koston has (not so) fond memories of seeing the original Air Jordan 1 “UNC” on the shelves of discount sneaker stores back in the day. Priced at $24.99, Koston’s mother still wouldn’t buy the young sneakerhead and Jordan fanatic a pair to wear. The unkind memory services as the inspiration behind his Air Jordan 1 Low SB that was released in 2019. Koston goes as far to include the price of the shoe (on sale) on the inside of the tongue tab.
Making a name for himself at two separate stops in his basketball career—in college at the University of North Carolina and in the pros with the Chicago Bulls—Michael Jordan rose to fame and helped popularize the two teams most closely associated with his accomplishments. The Women’s Air Jordan 1 “UNC to Chicago” combines the finer elements of both team uniforms.
Back by popular demand. Done up in the team uniform colors of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, the Air Jordan 3 “UNC” was first seen on-court as a player exclusive colorway during the 2018 NCAA Men’s March Madness Tournament. Jordan Brand decided to give the shoe an official release ahead of the 2020 March Madness festivities, granting the wish of collectors and fans of the popular basketball team.