A Look Back: The Air Jordan 3 ‘Black Cement’

In the sneaker world, terms like “iconic” and “GOAT” are tossed around a lot these days. Name an Air Jordan shoe from the `80s or `90s, and there will usually be a cadre of hardcore fans who will argue that it is the greatest Jordan of all time. There is one model, however, that stands out above the rest; a model so timeless, so classic, so smooth that sneakerheads of all ages tend to agree that it is most definitely the GOAT. That model is the Air Jordan 3 “Black Cement.” It’s a shoe that the man himself, Michael Jordan, only laced up once in the NBA — and it wasn’t even a regular-season game. MJ broke out the Black Cements for the 1988 NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 7, 1988 – held appropriately enough in Chicago. In front of 18,403 fans, MJ dazzled the home crowd with 40 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals.

Jordan would take home All-Star MVP honors for that game. During the fourth quarter, there were complementary Air Jordan 3 commercials featuring MJ and a young Spike Lee, aka Mars Blackmon, on TV as well. Between the stellar performance on the court, the commercials, and the fact that he wouldn’t rock the Black Cements again, an iconic shoe was born.

Over the years, the Black Cement has retroed four times, with the fifth retro version releasing Saturday, Feb. 17th. The 17th also happens to be MJ’s 55th birthday.

Image of the `94 Retros — Courtesy of @mjo23dan

After the initial release in 1988, the Black Cement retro’d for the first time in 1994. Back then, retros of any sneaker were not nearly as popular as they are now.


The ‘90s in general were such an incredible era of innovation and design, people didn’t necessarily want something that was old. And, with that, the Air Jordan 3 Black Cements sat on shelves The kids’ version was so unpopular that it sat through 1995. And ’96. And ’97. In 1998, there was still a size 6 available for $19.99.

After a very successful retro of the Air Jordan 11 in 2000, other retros began to pick up steam. Nike went into a funky design phase in the early 2000s, which led to many sneakerheads yearning for the “good old days” of the late `80s and early `90s.


Those longings paved the way for the Black Cement 3 to come back in 2001, along with some new colorways – a white/mocha and white/blue version. In an effort to add a stylish new update to the model, Jordan Brand switched out the ‘Nike Air’ logo on the heel for a ‘Jumpman Air’ logo on the blue and mocha models. They would keep the OG ‘Nike Air’ on the heel for the Black Cement, though.

After the ’01 release, the Black Cements wouldn’t retro again until a “Countdown Pack” in 2008, featuring both the Air Jordan 3 and Air Jordan 20. That year, Jordan Brand celebrated 23 years of the Air Jordan line, so two models were paired up to equal the number 23. For example, the Air Jordan 1 was paired with the Air Jordan 22, the Air Jordan 2 with the 21, the 3 with the 20, etc. Of all the packs, the Air Jordan 3 would be the most popular, even though the ‘Jumpman Air’ logo replaced the ‘Nike Air’ logo on the heel (the first time this would occur for the Black Cement 3).

The Black Cements would come back just three years later in 2011, again with the ‘Jumpman Air’ logo on the heel. There were some other notable differences compared to previous models, including a much shinier leather upper. Overall, they were not, well received by the sneaker community.

Jordan Retro 3 ‘Black Cement’ Through The Years – Courtesy of @ijapino

These days, sneakerheads generally want retro versions of Air Jordan models to look as similar as possible to the originals. The slightest variation of materials or branding can set off a string of hysterical tweets or Instagram comments declaring Jordan Brand committed the equivalent of sneaker infidelity.

Thankfully, after seven years, the Black Cement 3 returns this Saturday. And much to the joy of sneakerheads everywhere, the original ‘Nike Air’ logo returns on the heel for the first time since 2001. The leather and elephant print is also more similar to the original `88 version.

  • 2.14 Retro 3
  • 2.14 Retro 3 1
  • 2.14 Retro 3 2
  • 2.14 Retro 3 3

Fortunately, it looks like the Jumpman got it right with the latest Black Cement 3 retro.


Follow Drew on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nikestories/?hl=en

 **Note—Make sure to cop the Black Cement 3 this Saturday, Feb. 17 at 10 AM ET at eastbay.com.

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