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.