Journal / History Every Air Jordan

The History Of Every Air Jordan


After many disappointing seasons, the fortunes of the Chicago Bulls began to turn around the night of June 19, 1984, when they drafted a 21-year-old from Wilmington, North Carolina named Michael Jordan. By the end of the 1984-85 season, the dazzling rookie had become the talk of the league and helped the Bulls break through to the playoffs. Now more than 30 years later, Jordan’s impact on the game of basketball is unmatched. The same can also be said for the effect of his Air Jordan on the sneaker industry.

After Jordan was drafted and began looking for a sneaker endorsement deal, he set his sights set on his favorite brand, adidas. But adidas was in a state of upheaval. Company founder Adi Dassler had recently passed away, and tensions were high due to reshuffling within the organization. Adidas made Jordan no offers, and so with the support of his father, Jordan began to look elsewhere.

He’d always worn Converse while playing at the University of North Carolina, and although the brand already had superstars like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Jordan landed a meeting with the brand. He attended a pitch along with his father James where Converse promised to treat Jordan the same as the rest of its all-stars. This wasn’t enough for Jordan’s father, who asked the Converse representatives if they had any fresh ideas. Converse said it couldn’t justify paying Michael more than any of their three top athletes. Jordan’s father was unimpressed.

Enter Nike. Jordan’s agent David Falk had a long-standing relationship with Nike’s “deal man,” Rob Strasser, and knew that the brand desperately wanted a new marquee athlete. Although it began as a fast-rising star in the world of athletic brands, Nike stagnated a bit in the mid-80s. A boost to their image, product, and marketing was needed, and they decided Jordan was the solution.

It almost didn’t happen, however. Jordan was weary of any more pitches. He told Falk to get him the deal with adidas and be done with it. But Falk persisted and finally got Jordan on a plane to Nike headquarters in Oregon.

Once he arrived, Jordan mentioned that one of the reasons he liked adidas sneakers was because they were lower to the ground than most of the shoes Nike was producing. Unlike the rest of of the pitches he’d heard, Nike was willing to work with Jordan, and said it could tailor a shoe to his liking. Jordan was offered a 5-year/$500,000 per year contract, which was an unprecedented amount at the time.

Jordan accepted, and everyone immediately got to work. Nike committed to putting $1 million into marketing the shoes. Falk came up with the name Air Jordan in the first week. When designing the Air Jordan I shoes, Nike intuited that all Jordan shoes needed to be recognizable merely by their silhouette — bold and unsurpassed in style by any other performance basketball shoe on the market. And thus, the Air Jordan’s crossover appeal to the casual and fashion worlds was established.

Soon, Jordan was breaking the rather conservative NBA uniform rules with a flashy new pair of black and red sneakers every time he set foot on the court. Inspired by the Nike Dunk, the original Air Jordans were relatively simple, but they created an aesthetically pleasing silhouette and were recognizable from across the room. Jordan was fined $5,000 for every game he wore them. Nike gladly paid each fine, and a significant buzz began to build up around the footwear. Nike made a commercial actually bragging that the shoes were banned, which only made them more desirable. This occurred before the shoe was even available to the general public, creating a precursor to today’s sneaker hype.

By the end of the 1984-85 season, Michael Jordan had been named Rookie of the Year, averaging 28.2 points per game, and his star was clearly on the rise. Jordan quickly evolved from a humble rookie into the NBA’s biggest attraction, and his shoes were an important part of that. Air Jordan 1s hit stores nationwide in March of 1985 at $65 a pair. By May, Nike had sold $70 million worth.

That was only the beginning. More than 30 years later, the Air Jordan line has become a legend in the world of athletic footwear. They are more than just shoes to their owners. Air Jordans have become a way of life.

 

A TIMELINE OF EVERY AIR JORDAN

The history of Air Jordans is one of impeccable timing, visionary design, and one incredible athlete.

Air Jordan 1

Designer: Peter Moore
Released: 1985
Original Price: $65

The sneaker that started it all. The original Air Jordan 1 remains one of the most popular sneakers of all time, and is always in high demand when re-released, especially in its original colorways. The Air Jordan I was the only Air Jordan shoe to feature a prominent Nike Swoosh and also introduced the Jordan wings logo.

Air Jordan 2

Designer: Bruce Kilgore
Released: 1986
Original Price: $100

By 1986, Michael Jordan’s star had risen considerably, and the Air Jordan 1 had been an unprecedented success. So the second design needed to feature something new and fresh. Known as the first “luxury” sneaker, the Air Jordan 2 had an Italian-inspired design. It featured premium leather with faux lizard skin detailing. A bold move at the time, Nike decided to drop the Swoosh from the shoe’s design, allowing the Air Jordan name to stand on its own.

Air Jordan 3

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1988
Original Price: $100

The Air Jordan 3 brought even more recognition to the Air Jordan line. The first Air Jordan model designed by now-legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, the shoe turned heads with its use of the now-iconic elephant print paneling at the toe and heel. The Air Jordan 3 was also the first Jordan shoe to feature the iconic Jumpman logo. The introduction of the Air Jordan 3 was boosted by a TV commercial that featured director/actor Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon.

Air Jordan 4

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1989
Original Price: $110

The Air Jordan line’s popularity continued to grow in 1989 with the release of the Air Jordan 4. The second Jordan sneaker designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Air Jordan 4 is characterized by large mesh panels on the midfoot and tongue along with large “wings” incorporated into the lacing system. Jordan’s most famous moment in the Air Jordan 4 was his game-winning basket in the 1990 NBA playoffs versus the Cleveland Cavaliers that would become known simply as “The Shot.”

Air Jordan 5

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1990
Original Price: $125

Michael Jordan’s signature sneaker got even more flashy with the Air Jordan 5 in 1990. Taking inspiration from World War II-era fighter planes with shark head paint jobs, designer Tinker Hatfield added tooth-like detailing to the midsole. Reflective silver material was added to the tongue, which made it pop when hit with a camera flash. The Air Jordan 5 was also the first time that a clear rubber outsole was used in the series.

Air Jordan 6

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1991
Original Price: $125

Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls team finally won an NBA championship in 1991. The sneaker on MJ’s feet for the first of his many titles was the Air Jordan 6. Like the Air Jordan 5, Jordan’s sixth signature shoe featured clear rubber on the outsole and visible Air in the heel. But the Air Jordan 6 had a sleeker design and included a rubber tongue with two large holes and a heel tab for easy access.

Air Jordan 7

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1992
Original Price: $125

The Air Jordan 7 was a bit more streamlined than a few of the previous Air Jordan models, with a back-to-basics design by Tinker Hatfield. The Air Jordan 7 dropped the visible Air in the heel and incorporated elements from the Nike Huarache such as a neoprene inner bootie that supported the foot. The sharp lines of the upper and outsole of the shoe were inspired by traditional African artwork and design.

Air Jordan 8

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1993
Original Price: $125

In 1993, Michael Jordan continued his dominance on the court in the new Air Jordan 8. Once again designed by Tinker Hatfield, the shoe featured a cross-strap system to lock down the foot during play. The design is accented with graphic panels at the heel. The Air Jordan 8 was what Jordan wore when he completed his first “Three-Peat” with the Bulls.

Air Jordan 9

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1993
Original Price: $125

Michael Jordan retired at the height of his success after winning his third NBA title, in 1993. While Jordan was off playing minor league basketball, Nike continued the Air Jordan line. Tinker Hatfield’s Air Jordan 9 had an international theme, playing off the fact that Michael Jordan was at this point a globally-known athlete. The characters of multiple languages are found on the sole, while the heel of the shoe featured a Jumpman logo over the Earth.

Air Jordan 10

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1994
Original Price: $125

With Michael Jordan still retired when it came time to design the Air Jordan 10, Tinker Hatfield gave the shoe a commemorative theme by listing the career highlights of His Airness on the outsole. The upper features a relatively simple design, crafted in premium leather with a quick-lacing system. When Jordan decided to come back to the NBA in 1995, the Air Jordan 10 was the shoe on his feet for the rest of the season.

Air Jordan 11

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1995
Original Price: $125

Hailed by many as the greatest Air Jordan model ever, the Air Jordan 11 released in 1995 and was worn by Michael Jordan during the Bulls’ historic 72-win season that culminated in Jordan's fourth NBA title. Tinker Hatfield's design was unlike any basketball shoe before it. The Air Jordan 11 featured a ballistic nylon base with shiny patent leather wrapping above the translucent outsole. In addition to being one of the most popular sneakers of all time, the Air Jordan 11 was also immortalized on the silver screen when it appeared in the classic film Space Jam.

Air Jordan 12

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1996
Original Price: $135

The beloved Air Jordan 11 was a hard act to follow, but Tinker Hatfield produced another hit in 1996 with the Air Jordan 12. Inspired by the Japanese rising sun motif, the shoe featured a distinct two-tone color block with full grain leather for the body and basketball-textured pebbled leather for the large panels that run from the toe to midfoot. The Air Jordan 12 was the first of Michael Jordan’s signature shoes to be released under the newly created Jordan Brand imprint of Nike.

Air Jordan 13

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1997
Original Price: $150

Inspired by Michael Jordan’s “Black Cat” nickname, the Air Jordan 13 features a fierce design modeled after a panther. The upper features a holographic “eye” jewel at the heel, while the shape of the outsole is reminiscent of the big cat's paw. The Air Jordan 13 was the first model since the Air Jordan 2 to be available at launch in both a low-top and mid-top version.

Air Jordan 14

Designers: Tinker Hatfield, Mark Smith
Released: 1998
Original Price: $150

The Air Jordan 14 is most noteworthy for being the last sneaker that Jordan wore as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Jordan debuted the shoe during the 1998 NBA Finals, capping off his legendary Bulls career with the memorable “Last Shot,” a championship-clinching jumper in Game 6. Tinker Hatfield teamed up with Mark Smith to create the shoe, which was inspired by the clean lines of a Ferrari as a nod to Jordan’s love of exotic sports cars.

Air Jordan 15

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 1999
Original Price: $150

Jordan announced his retirement in January 1999, so for the Air Jordan 15, Hatfield was challenged to come up with a unique shoe that Michael would never wear on the court. The heel counter contained numbers that corresponded with special details of Jordan’s career — his jersey number, the number of titles he won, his birthday, and also the shoe's model number. The unusual tongue design jutting forward was an ode to Jordan’s habit of sticking out his tongue when he took a shot.

Air Jordan 16

Designer: Wilson Smith III
Released: 2001
Original Price: $160

Things transitioned for Nike and Jordan during the early 2000s. Jordan was moving into his role as part owner and president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards, and Wilson Smith was appointed the new designer for the latest Air Jordan model. The Air Jordan 16 was made of full-grain leather and featured a shroud lace cover inspired by fine dress shoes. The Air Jordan 16 would also be the first shoe on Michael’s feet for his return to the court in 2001 with the Wizards.

Air Jordan 17

Designer: Wilson Smith III
Released: 2002
Original Price: $200

After wearing the Air Jordan 16 during the 2001-02 NBA preseason, Jordan switched to the brand-new Air Jordan 17 for the remainder of the season. Designed by Wilson Smith, the Air Jordan 17 took inspiration from jazz. Music notes were part of the design of the snap-on lace cover. The design also took cues from Aston Martin cars, while the outsole mimics the look of a golf course.

Air Jordan 18

Designer: Tate Kuerbis
Released: 2003
Original Price: $175

The Air Jordan 18 was the last sneaker Michael Jordan ever wore while playing an NBA game. It was also the first Air Jordan designed by Tate Kuerbis, who took inspiration from the sleek design of Formula 1 race cars as well as the streamlined design of the suede footwear drivers in the sport wear. Just like a race car, the shoe was packed with plenty of high-performance tech, including a full-length Zoom Air unit in the sole and carbon fiber support.

Air Jordan 19

Designers: Tate Kuerbis, Wilson Smith III, Jason Mayden, Josh Heard, and Suzette Henri
Released: 2004
Original Price: $165

The bold design of the Air Jordan 19 features a stealthy design inspired by the black mamba snake. The unique lace cover is constructed in a material called Tech Flex that was designed for extra support has also compared to a fencing mask. The Air Jordan 19 originally released in three different versions: the initial “shrouded” construction, the "SE" with no lace cover, and a low-top edition.

Air Jordan 20

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 2005
Original Price: $175

For the special occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Air Jordan line, Tinker Hatfield returned to design the Air Jordan 20. One of the most unique silhouettes in the entire Air Jordan series, the Jordan 20 features a free-floating ankle collar that connects to the rest of the shoe at the heel. The luxurious yet sporty design was partly inspired by Michael Jordan’s love for motorcycle racing. It also introduced the now-iconic lasered graphic with nods to Jordan’s career achievements.

Air Jordan 21

Designer: D’Wayne Edwards
Released: 2006
Original Price: $175

The Air Jordan 21 returned to more of a traditional sneaker silhouette but preserved the luxurious and ultra-sporty design. The lush red suede was the most famous of the original colorways. Once again turning to luxury automobiles for inspiration, the design was based off of the Bentley Continental GT, with the mesh panels near the base of the shoe modeled after the car’s grill. Another high-end feature of the Air Jordan 21 was the interchangeable “pod” cushioning in the heel that offered Zoom Air or Nike’s standard encapsulated Air.

Air Jordan 22

Designer: D’Wayne Edwards
Released: 2007
Original Price: $165

The Air Jordan line went into stealth mode in 2007 for the Air Jordan 22. The sleek design of the shoe was inspired by the Raptor F-22 fighter jet, borrowing the cutting edge military aircraft’s sharp lines and speedy look. All versions of the Air Jordan 22 were built in premium leather, and it was also released in a limited edition pebbled basketball leather upper.

Air Jordan 23

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 2008
Original Price: $185

Michael Jordan made 23 one of the most famous numbers in sports history, so it only made sense that the Air Jordan 23 live up to the number's legacy. Tinker Hatfield’s design certainly didn’t disappoint, as the blend of luxury and performance achieved in the Air Jordan 23 quickly became regarded as one of the best models released after Jordan’s retirement.

Air Jordan 2009

Designer: Jason Mayden
Released: 2009
Original Price: $190

In 2009, Jordan Brand decided to change the naming convention of their flagship model. Instead of Air Jordan 24, they named it after the year, thus the Air Jordan 2009. The Jason Mayden-designed shoe featured diamond-cut detailing and was characterized by sharp lines and luxe materials across the upper. The design also introduced a new technology to Air Jordan shoes: a separated heel platform named Articulated Propulsion Technology modeled after carbon fiber leg prosthetics for athletes.

Air Jordan 2010

Designers: Tinker Hatfield, Mark Smith
Released: 2010
Original Price: $170

Pushing the boundaries of sneaker design once again, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith created one of the most unique Air Jordans yet with the Air Jordan 2010, featuring clear windows on each side of the upper for a see-through effect. The theme of transparency continued on the clear outsole which allowed for a look at the full-length Zoom Air unit. Dwyane Wade helped debut the Air Jordan 2010 shortly after his move from Converse to Jordan Brand.

Air Jordan 2011

Designers: Tinker Hatfield, Tom Luedecke
Released: 2011
Original Price: $180

The Air Jordan 2011 allowed the wearer to “Choose Your Flight” with interchangeable insoles for different cushioning options. One “Quick” sole utilized Zoom Air ideal for the faster play of guards, while the “Explosive” sole was built with softer encapsulated Air for big men. The versatile performance was complemented with a clean look for the upper in premium textured leather.

Air Jordan 2012

Designers: Tinker Hatfield, Tom Luedecke
Released: 2012
Original Price: $180

Building off the interchangeable cushioning options for the Air Jordan 2011, the Air Jordan 2012 added even more customization. In addition to three cushioning systems available in three different insoles, the sneaker also featured two drop-in booties for a variety of support options. There was a standard mid top and an extra high top with a velcro strap for a lockdown fit.

Air Jordan 28

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 2013
Original Price: $250

The Air Jordan line reached new heights in 2013 with the release of the Air Jordan 28. The radical design by Tinker Hatfield featured an ultra-high shroud covering the entire upper and extending up past the ankle. The bold and stealthy design also debuted Jordan Brand’s new Flight Plate technology, which utilizes separate heel and forefoot platforms with Zoom Air cushioning connected with a carbon fiber plate in the midfoot for lightweight and responsive performance. The Air Jordan 28 was also later released in a second edition without the shroud, the Air Jordan 28 SE. This model reverted back to the original naming system of the Air Jordan line, designating it as the “XX8” instead of “2013.”

Air Jordan 29

Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Released: 2014
Original Price: $225

The Air Jordan 29 was the lightest Air Jordan signature shoe yet. It was the world’s first basketball shoe constructed in a fully woven knit upper, which provided ample support, natural movement of the foot, and durability in a lightweight material. The Air Jordan 29 also featured the Flight Plate technology used in the Air Jordan 28 before it. All together, it was the most advanced Air Jordan yet.

Air Jordan 30

Designers: Tinker Hatfield, Mark Smith
Released: 2016
Original Price: $200

Much like the design of the Air Jordan 29, the Air Jordan 30 featured a knit upper with the same Flight Plate tooling. The Air Jordan 30 featured an out of this world “cosmos” graphic and a bold “XXX” motif on the heels.

Air Jordan 31

Designer: Tate Kuerbis
Released: 2016
Original Price: $185

For the Air Jordan 31, the brand decided to pay homage to the original Air Jordan 1 by taking the iconic silhouette’s DNA and transforming it into a modern performance basketball shoe. The luxe construction of the Air Jordan 31 featured a blend of premium leather and Flyknit on the upper. The Jordan 31 released in colorways inspired by the Air Jordan 1, including the beloved “Banned” and “Royal” editions.

Air Jordan 32

Designer: Tate Kuerbis
Released: 2016
Original Price: $185

For the Air Jordan 32, designer Tate Kuerbis wanted to blend a nod to the past with a fresh look straight from the future, reimagining the design of the Air Jordan 2 with modern technology including a Flyknit upper. The resulting Jordan 32 features a mixture of high performance with luxury aesthetics. The launch of the Air Jordan 32 also marked the first time that an Air Jordan shoe was initially released in both a low and mid version at the same time.

 

Find your perfect pair of Air Jordans today.

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