A Look Back: The Air Jordan XI Low

A Look Back: The Air Jordan XI Low

Few can deny the impact the Air Jordan XI has had on the sneaker community over the past 25 years. From the very first moments we saw Michael Jordan rocking the XI’s, we were mesmerized by them. Tinker Hatfield’s genius design made them look super-sharp on and off the court. The Air Jordan XI was one of the most popular sneakers MJ ever wore, to the point that Jordan Brand started retro’ing them just five years later beginning in the late fall of 2000. We just couldn’t get enough of that patent leather goodness. 

Although Jordan Brand did release a low-cut version of the XI back in ‘96 in both a white and black colorway, these silhouettes had a different design compared to the mid-cuts. The OG lows were meant more for off-court styling, with breathable mesh weaved into the upper. It almost seemed strange at the time that Jordan Brand and Nike didn’t drop a low-cut version with the patent leather mud guard. That all changed in the Spring of 2001.

 

Drew Hammell Look Back Jordan Retro XI Low

In April and May of 2001, Jordan Brand released low-cut patent leather and super-stylish snakeskin versions of the Air Jordan XI. These shoes were meant to be rocked right away for the warm summer months. They were flashy and looked great with shorts. This low-cut version featured the same full-length encapsulated Air-Sole unit and composite shank-plate, just like the mids. There were also matching Jordan Brand shorts, caps, tees, and beanies – because back in the early ‘00s, your whole fit had to be color-coordinated from head to toe. 

In April 2001, the white/silver colorway dropped for ladies, the white/columbia and white/red dropped for men, and the white/pink dropped for girls. Then in May ‘01, the white/pink snakeskin dropped for women, and the white/navy snakeskin dropped for men. There was also a white/citrus and white/zen grey version.  

Though Michael Jordan was famous for rocking the AJ XI mids, he also wore the lows with patent leather as well. During the NBA Finals versus the Sonics in ‘96, he briefly wore the low-cut “Bred” colorway. He also rocked a low-cut patent leather “Concord” colorway during the trophy ceremony after the Bulls defeated the Sonics that year. It would have made sense for Jordan Brand to bring these classic colorways back in low-cut versions right off the bat, but we had to wait years for them to finally release to the public. 

While the holidays have always been about the AJ XI mid releases each year, the summer belongs to the lows. This spring, Jordan Brand is bringing back the white/citrus colorway, along with a low-cut version of the classic “Legend Blue”. The love for the XI’s is not going away anytime soon, so once again these models will be instant sell outs.

The Jordan Retro XI Low drops 5/7 on eastbay.com

Drew Hammell A Look Back

Drew is the creator of @nikestories on Instagram. Growing up in the ’90s, Drew loved playing soccer, basketball, tennis, and even dabbled in cross country running. He ended up focusing on tennis in high school and helped lead his team to multiple state titles. His favorite athletes growing up include Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Andre Agassi, and Ken Griffey, Jr. He was smart enough to save all his old Eastbay catalogs from the ’90s and loves sharing them with the sneaker community. Follow him at @nikestories

The Jordan Zion 1 Has Arrived

The Jordan Zion 1 Has Arrived

Zion Williamson has been a presence in basketball fans’ lives since his high school highlights were being reposted and shared by ESPN, Overtime, and Bleacher Report, among others. The jaw-dropping dunks and sheer athleticism on display were unlike anything anyone had seen since LeBron.

Zion would go on to spend one year at Duke, where he exceeded expectations. The most memorable moment of his college career might have been when, in a game against UNC, his shoe exploded after he tried to plant and cut. That high-profile incident, plus his status as the most hyped prospect in a decade, made his decision about what sneaker company he would sign with one of the most highly anticipated choices in a decade. 

While every major brand made a huge push to land Zion’s signature, he eventually committed to Jordan. Now, in his second season with New Orleans, Zion has the team challenging for a playoff spot. Meanwhile, Jordan announced the launch of his first signature shoe, the Jordan Zion 1.

Zion is built like almost no other player in the league. The brute strength and raw power he plays with make him nearly unguardable in one-on-one situations. Designing a shoe that will hold up to and accentuate his style of play was going to be a challenge, but the team at Jordan seems to have risen to it.

Cushioning and support were always going to be the two most important aspects of the shoe. Zion is a big man, and he needs a shoe that will prevent as much wear and tear on his knees and feet as possible. A full-length Air Strobel unit stitched directly into the upper helps give the impression that of walking on a cloud. Pair that with a Zoom Air unit sitting under the forefoot, and that’s how the design team came up with the perfect amount of cushioning for any player no matter how big or small.

The support in the shoe is also broken down into two components. The first is the higher sidewalls to protect players moving side to side. The shoe is a 5/8 cut, splitting the difference between low and high. The other component is a two-loop band that locks players in every time they lace up.

Other key components of the shoe include a multidirectional traction pattern to provide elite grip for all the planting and cutting players do throughout the game. There is also a padded tongue to relieve some of the pressure the laces put on the top of your foot.

The Jordan Zion 1 will be available starting 4/23. Make sure to head to Eastbay to snag a pair as well as all other Zion apparel from Jordan.

The Last Dance: A Look At Each Shoe Jordan Won a Title In

The Last Dance: A Look At Each Shoe Jordan Won a Title In

Over the past several weeks, millions of Americans have tuned in to ESPN to relive the ’90s and get a behind-the-scenes look with His Airness, Michael Jordan. It’s been wild to get behind-the-scenes glimpses of one of the greatest dynasties to ever take the court. In honor of the finale, we thought we’d dive into the seven (yes, seven) shoes that Michael Jordan wore during each of his Finals wins.

Air Jordan VI

For years, the ‘Bad Boys’ of Detroit had knocked Chicago and Michael Jordan out of the playoffs thanks to their physical style of basketball highlighted by the ‘Jordan Rules.’ This involved aggressively fouling Michael before he could get off the ground to dissuade him from attacking the basket. In 1991, Jordan and Chicago finally broke through, sweeping Detroit to match up with Magic Johnson and LA in the Finals. Despite dropping the first game, MJ and Chicago reeled off four straight wins to capture their first title.

As confetti fell from the rafters, Michael headed off to the locker room to celebrate in his Air Jordan VI. Designed by Tinker Hatfield, and modeled after Jordan’s German sportscar, the VI also made a special appearance on Jerry Seinfeld’s feet during several episodes of ‘Seinfeld.’ There were just a few notable updates from the V, the most noticeable of which was the addition of a loop on the heel after MJ complained that he was struggling to get his shoes on.

Air Jordan VII

As Detroit fell from power in the East, Patrick Ewing and New York rose to take their place as Jordan’s rivals. A hard-fought seven-game series between Chicago and New York paved the way for Michael to meet Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and Portland in the Finals. While Drexler was a superstar, MJ took offense at comparisons people were making between the two and vowed that he was going to show everyone how much better he was. During the first game he came out and knocked a then-record five triples en route to 39 points and victory. Chicago would go on to win in six games.

During that series, Michael was putting up buckets in the Air Jordan VII, another Tinker classic. Evoking elements of West African tribal art, the shoes bright, bold, colorful lines across the midsole. Bugs Bunny also made his debut in the marketing campaign for the VII, paving the way for ‘Space Jam.’

Air Jordan VIII

MJ and Chicago went into the 92-93 season on a quest to do something rarely seen in sports, the three-peat. In the playoffs, another hard-fought battle between Chicago and New York ended with Jordan vanquishing Ewing for a second straight year. In the Finals, MJ and Chicago faced off against league MVP Charles Barkley and Phoenix. Despite falling in a hole early, Phoenix had hope as they were leading Chicago 98-96 in a pivotal Game 6. Despite coach Phil Jackson drawing up a play for Jordan to take the final shot, guard John Paxson found the ball in his hands in the closing seconds and proceeded to knock down a game-winning three.

As Jordan walked off the floor into his first retirement, he was wearing the Air Jordan VIIIs. The VIII was an experimental shoe that featured lockdown straps and a chromatic midsole, firsts for the line. In real ’90s fashion, the Jumpman logo on the tongue is carpeted. All in all, the VIII became distinct for being the heaviest shoe in the line.

Air Jordan XI

After Jordan’s brief stint in baseball, he returned to a team where Scottie Pippen had fully emerged from his role as a second banana, and Toni Kukoć was a burgeoning star. Coming off a loss to Orlando the previous year, Jordan helped lead Chicago through the playoffs where they once again defeated New York and got revenge on Orlando to reach their fourth Finals. There, they faced off against Seattle’s dynamic duo of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. At a dinner before the Finals Jordan bumped into Seattle coach George Karl, a fellow UNC alum. MJ felt that Karl was ignoring him and used it as motivation to eviscerate Seattle and win his 4th championship.

MJ dominated the series in one of the most famous Air Jordans ever, the XI. With sleek patent leather gracing the upper and designed to be worn on the court or with a suit the shoe is widely considered one of the most famous silhouettes. The shoe quickly became immortalized when Jordan wore it in the 1996 film ‘Space Jam,’ a cult classic. The shoe is beloved by sneakerheads everywhere and is still widely popular even today.

Air Jordan XII

Chicago was on top of the world. The best player in the game had returned and they were poised to be a title contender for the foreseeable future. With what is widely considered one of the greatest teams in history, Chicago ran through the regular season racking up 69 wins. They breezed through the playoffs to eventually battle Utah, who had John Stockton and Karl Malone. The series famously featured the “Flu Game” where a sick and tired Michael Jordan led Chicago to a win in Game 5 and then a title in Game 6.

During that series, Jordan was lacing up the Air Jordan XII. Topping the XI was a tough task for Tinker, however, on Jordan’s advice to look to women’s fashion for inspiration, he was able to turn out another iconic sneaker. Modeled after a 19th-century women’s shoe called the “Nisshoki” and featuring elements from Japan’s “Rising Sun,” the result is a clean, smooth shoe that’s brilliance lies in its simplicity.

Air Jordan XIII & Air Jordan XIV

One three-peat is rare. A second three-peat? Nearly impossible. Yet that was the expectation as Chicago entered the 1997-98 season. The year was filled with drama as speculation mounted about whether MJ would retire after it was announced that Phil Jackson would not be returning as coach. Scottie Pippen also made waves when he demanded a trade halfway through the season. Through all the turmoil, though Chicago pushed through the East in the playoffs, culminating in a brutal, seven-game series with Indiana that required an 88-83 Game 7 victory to get to the Finals. Once there, in a dramatic Game 6 against Utah, Jordan hit a game-winning shot to earn his sixth ring. It would be the last shot he ever made in a Chicago uniform.

While he made the infamous “Last Shot” in a pair of AJ XIVs, he actually began the series by wearing the AJ XIII. The XIII was inspired by Jordan’s predatory nature and his nickname “The Black Panther,” with the outsole of the shoe resembling the paw of a jungle cat. With the XIV, Tinker went back to a familiar tactic of drawing inspiration from exotic cars. This time he took elements from Jordan’s Ferrari and incorporated them into the shoe to give it a sleek, edgy look. The XIV is also regarded as one of the most comfortable Air Jordans ever released.

The History of Jordan

The History of Jordan

Since it’s introduction in 1985 the Air Jordan line has been one of the most famous, sought after, iconic signature shoe lines in the world. Go back to where it all began and check out Eastbay’s history of the first 15 Air Jordan’s ever made.

AJ I

The shoe that began it all. The very first Air Jordan was designed by Peter Moore and released in 1985. What really sold Michael Jordan on the shoe was how thinned down the midsole was, which he requested because he wanted his feet to be lower to the ground in order to “feel the court.” Many colorways were made, but none were more famous than the OG black and red style which drew the ire of league commissioner David Stern who sent a letter to Nike warning them the shoes violated league rules.

AJ II

Following up a shoe as iconic as the AJ 1 was always going to be a challenge, but it was one that designers Bruce Kilgore and Peter Moore rose to meet. Released in 1986, Nike wanted the AJ 2 to be an exclusive, premium shoe. To accomplish this, the shoe was made in Italy and Nike limited the release to only 30 stores. The shoe was also stripped of the Nike Swoosh in favor of the iconic Wings emblem. Though MJ only played 18 games in the AJ 2 due to injury, he did wear them on his way to winning the dunk contest in Seattle.

AJ III

After two successful releases, Nike was going through several changes. Bruce Kilgore and Peter Moore were leaving to form their own company, and there was a real fear that Michael Jordan would leave with them. In stepped a young designer named Tinker Hatfield who really honed in on what MJ wanted in order to create one of Michael’s favorite shoes, the AJ III. The Nike Swoosh was once again dropped, but this time in favor of the now-instantly recognizable Jumpman logo. In one of the most famous marketing campaigns ever, Nike paired MJ with director Spike Lee who would play the iconic character Mars Blackmon.

AJ IV

With Tinker Hatfield now firmly entrenched as the lead designer of the Air Jordan line, he focused more on the performance aspect of the shoe. Released in 1989, the IV was more streamlined and lightweight than the III. Featuring several signature details, including mesh netting on the side panels and tongue to improve breathability, the IV wasn’t well received by the public initially, but is now well-known for being the shoe Jordan was wearing when he hit “The Shot.”

AJ V

Tinker was back at it again with the AJ V, pushing boundaries on how well a basketball shoe could perform. Drawing inspiration from the aggressive look of WW2 fighter jets featuring the “shark mouth” design, Tinker placed several cartoonish teeth along the side of the shoe. He also brought over the visible Zoom Air unit from previous generations. In addition, the shoe was a mainstay on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and came to really encapsulate early ’90s fashion.

AJ VI

After bumping up against Detroit in the playoffs the season before, MJ finally broke through to win his first championship, and he did it all in the Air Jordan VI. Designed by Tinker, the VI was released in 1991 and drew on inspiration from MJ’s German sportscar. One of the more noticeable changes was the loop Tinker added on the heel after MJ complained he was struggling to put on previous versions of the shoe. By this point, the Air Jordan line had fully permeated pop culture and the VI was no different with comedian Jerry Seinfeld rocking them on “Seinfeld.”

AJ VII

Comedic Rockstar Bugs Bunny introduced himself to the line with the Air Jordan VII. It was the first time Bugs was used in the marketing campaign, paving the way for “Space Jam.” Rather than taking inspiration from a car or airplane, Tinker drew from West African tribal art with bold, colorful lines running across the midsole. The VII was the first shoe to feature no external Nike branding whatsoever, drawing a stark line between the Jordan line and Nike. Despite the separation between the two brands, the VII’s design leaned heavily on the ethos of the Huarache line.

AJ VIII

Michael Jordan was on a roll in 1993. He was still tearing up the league, averaging 32 ppg on his way to a seventh-straight scoring title, all while leading Chicago to a third consecutive title. While MJ was pushing the limits of greatness on the court, Tinker was busy working to deliver a brand-new Air Jordan. The VIII featured several characteristics never before seen including a chromatic midsole and unique lockdown straps. It also had the only appearance of a carpeted Jumpman logo and was the heaviest shoe ever in the line.

AJ IX

The Air Jordan IX has the unique designation of being the only shoe Jordan himself never wore. After walking away from the game to play baseball, Tinker and Nike scrambled to design a shoe to carry on the legacy while also setting the tone moving forward. The result was a sleeker, more streamlined shoe that featured the debut of the one-pull lacing system. Though Jordan would never wear the AJ IX in a game, players such as Ray Allen, Mitch Richmond, and BJ Armstrong all wore exclusive versions of the shoe throughout the season.

AJ X

With MJ still playing baseball, Tinker and Nike proceeded in designing the Air Jordan X under the assumption Jordan would never return. As a result, the X was the first shoe that didn’t receive MJ’s explicit approval. There weren’t a lot of frills with the X – the only real signature details were on the outsole where Tinker had listed accomplishments for every year Jordan was in the league. Of course, it was during this season that MJ announced he would be returning to the court where he guided Chicago to the playoffs in the X’s.

AJ XI

The Air Jordan XI is one of the, if not the, most beloved models of the entire line. Tinker has said it’s his favorite design, and it has certainly continued to be popular with sneakerheads of every generation. With MJ fully back in the fold, he requested a shoe that had a bit more class, so he would be able to wear the shoe with a suit. Tinker accomplished this by using patent leather – a first for a basketball shoe. In addition to making the shoe stronger on the court, patent leather also added that touch of class MJ was looking for. Tinker wanted the shoe to look like a convertible with its sleek design. The shoe also graced the big screen as MJ wore them as he led the Tune Squad to victory in “Space Jam”.

AJ XII

Coming off the wildly successful XI, Tinker had his work cut out for him. For inspiration, he turned to women’s fashion, something MJ had been a big proponent of in the past. He modeled the AJ XII after a 19th century women’s shoe called the “Nisshoki” and also included some elements from Japan’s “Rising Sun” to create a really clean shoe. Famously, Jordan was wearing the XII when he played in the “Flu Game” where he led Chicago to victory over Utah.

AJ XIII

For the XIII Tinker wanted to highlight Jordan’s predatory nature on the court. He chose a panther as his inspiration and designed the outsole, so it looked a panther’s paw. Unbeknownst to Tinker, one of Michael Jordan’s lesser known nicknames was “Black Cat,” something his friends called him because of the power and ferocity he played with.

AJ XIV

Once again, drawing on inspiration from MJ’s collection of exotic cars, Tinker modeled elements of design from Jordan’s Ferrari. Released in 1998, the XIV is regarded as one of the most comfortable Air Jordans ever created. It’s also the last signature model Jordan ever wore during his run with Chicago.

AJ XV

With Jordan retired for the second time, there was concern about whether the Air Jordan line would have the same impact. Thankfully, Tinker stuck around to shepherd the brand through the change. For the XV Tinker looked to mimic Jordan’s otherworldly, jaw-dropping style of play, Tinker purposefully designed the tongue to protrude. He also took inspiration from the X-15 fighter jet.

Back in the Spotlight: The Jordan Retro XI ‘Bred’

Back in the Spotlight: The Jordan Retro XI ‘Bred’

The Air Jordan line has been around for more than three decades. Starting with the 1985 release of the original Air Jordan 1, plenty of praise has been heaped upon the line for the cutting-edge tech and innovative design it introduced. Several of the shoes — like the AJ I, AJ IV, and the AJ X — have become pop culture icons with devoted followers. Perhaps no shoe from the line has captured the imagination of both sneakerheads and casual sneaker fans more than the Air Jordan XI.

Designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield and released in 1995, the XI became instantly beloved. Under a directive from Michael Jordan to create a classier shoe, Hatfield developed a patent leather upper that quickly became the signature detail of the shoe. Hatfield has claimed the XI was his favorite design, and that he wanted the shoe to look like a convertible. It became forever enshrined in the public consciousness after Jordan wore it in the hit movie “Space Jam.”

Jordan has released a Retro 11 every December for the past several years and each time the shoe has been well received. There was extra excitement this year, though, when Jordan announced they would be releasing the Air Jordan Retro 11 ‘Bred’, one of the most popular colorways of all time.

First released in 1996, the ‘Bred’ colorway was worn by MJ during the 72-10 season, and for the entire playoff run culminating in a championship. It features a fully black upper with patent leather, a white midsole, and a red outsole which all add up to really represent Jordan’s legacy in Chicago. It is arguably the most famous Air Jordan to ever be made. The ‘Bred’ will be available at Eastbay on December 14. Make sure you’re ready to get your pair so you can flex on everyone with your outfit.

Best Jordan Gifts for the Holidays

Best Jordan Gifts for the Holidays

No player has left a bigger impact on and off the court in their sport than Michael Jordan. Not only did he win six rings, but he was able to help build up an empire that produces some of the best performance gear as well as some of the hottest casual apparel and shoes. If you want to upgrade your look in the classroom there is no shortage of classic or modern styles to keep you fresh. If you want to dominate on the court Jordan has some of the most technologically advanced shoes so you can take it to your opponent.

Whether you’re shopping for yourself or another athlete in your life check out our Top Jordan Gifts below to see what you need to win the holidays.

Jordan B’Loyal

Jordan Gift Guide Blog B'Loyal

Combining elements from the Air Jordan 1, 4, and 5 the B’Loyal should now be a part of every sneakerhead’s closet. Take to the streets in a full grain leather upper and the classic Jumpman logo drawing looks with every step.

Jordan Jumpman Classics Fleece Hoodie

Jordan Gift Guide Blog Classics Hoodie

Brace for the cold this winter with Jordan. This fleece hoodie is made with brushed French terry fabric to keep you warm and comfortable all day and night.

Jordan Retro 4 Hoodie

Jordan Gift Guide Blog Retro 4 Hoodie

Part of the new Retro 4 collection, this Jordan hoodie blends style and comfort so you can wear it wherever you go. With clean graphics and the Jumpman logo emblazoned across the front, this hoodie is dripping with style.

Jordan Retro 4 Pants

Jordan Gift Guide Blog Retro 4 Pants

Go full retro by pairing these Retro 4 pants with the hoodie. Sleek designs on the side give these pants a clean look for off the court.

Jordan Long-Sleeve Retro 11 T-Shirt

Jordan Gift Guide Blog Retro 11 LS

Inspired by one of Tinker Hatfield’s most famous designs, and his personal favorite, this Retro 11 t-shirt celebrates one of the most iconic Air Jordans ever. (Coming soon)

Jordan Retro 11 Backpack

Make sure to secure all your gear with the Jordan Retro 11 backpack. Now you can rep Jordan brand head to toe.

Jordan AJ 85 Jumpman T-Shirt

Jordan Gift Guide Blog AJ 85 Shirt

A shout-out to the infamous 1985 photoshoot, this shirt is made with cotton jersey fabric for a super soft fit while showcasing nostalgic style.

Jordan 1 Mid

Jordan Gift Guide Blog AJ 1 Mid

Inspired by the original Air Jordan 1, the Mid 1 holds true to the essential design elements but uses updated materials for a modern take on a classic. This shoe is built for those who are fans of the shoe that started it all but prefer a lower-cut silhouette.

Jordan AJ I Low

Jordan Gift Guide Blog AJ 1 Low

The iconic Air Jordan I is a shoe beloved by people of all ages. It is the perfect shoe for the streets, with the signature Air Sole Unit providing comfort and a low cut to give your ankle greater flexibility. (Coming soon)

Jordan AJ XXXIV

Jordan Gift Guide Blog AJ XXXIV

The latest performance basketball shoe from Jordan will shatter your expectations. The design team stripped away all non-essential material from the tooling to create one of the lightest game shoes ever. The XXXIV also introduces the Eclipse Plate which creates a smooth transition from the midfoot to the forefoot.