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.
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.
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
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.
In 1984, a 21-year-old rookie by the name of Michael Jordan
first stepped foot on a professional basketball court. Little did the public
know, he would change the game of basketball and modern sneaker culture
After failing to secure a couple of key endorsement deals,
His Airness finally got the call from Nike offering him a $2.5 million-dollar
check and his own signature shoe. It was then that the iconic Air Jordan 1 was
The original Air Jordan was an updated version of designer
Peter Moore’s Nike Air Ship model but included the addition of the now-retro
Wings logo. Wearing the first shoe with multiple colors in league history, the
newly-minted and unproven MJ already stood out on the court with less than a
full season under his belt.
The stylish and colorful shoe immediately caught the
attention of the league, and they issued a ban of the Air Jordan 1 for not
meeting the stringent policy on uniforms and colors. Realizing they were in a
unique position to market this historic sneaker, Nike cleverly rolled out a
“banned” advertising campaign and floated the cash to pay the $5000 per game
fine so that Jordan could continue to rock the shoe.
From there, the rest is history. The “banned” marketing
campaign jumpstarted a new era of performance sneakers worn as must-have
fashion statements. The Air Jordan 1 became a staple in streetwear culture,
worn by popular musicians, movie stars, and skaters.
Each week, we’ll showcase the most popular upcoming shoe drops. We’ll give you the lowdown on the prices and sizes, break down the history of each shoe, and fill you in on the newest tech features. Check back every week for the hottest shoe drops. If it’s hyped, it’s here. You can check out the full list of releases on Eastbay’s Release Calendar. Here’s what you have to look forward to this week:
JORDAN RETRO 1 HI FLYKNIT ‘RE2PECT’ – FEB. 23 AT 10 AM ET
Derek Jeter may have retired, but his impact in the sports world will be felt for decades to come. His prescence in the sneaker game is staying strong, too, thanks to these special Retro 1 Flyknit kicks. As part of Jordan’s ongoing ‘Re2pect’ campaign, this modern take on the timeless shoe features a navy and cream colorway inspired by his New York team and gold trim along the Wings logo and tongue tag. Jeter’s ‘The Captain’ nickname can be seen through the blue translucent outsole. It’s a look that is truly fit for one of the greatest athletes of all time. Men’s $180.00
GIRLS’ JORDAN RETRO 13 – FEB. 24 AT 10 AM ET
From its gum rubber outsole to its black suede overlay to its white leather base, this Jordan Retro 13 is a treat built exclusively for female Jordan fans. This simple color scheme gives the shoe a classy, luxurious look which is topped off with gold accents along the tongue logo. It’s clean, it’s cool, and it’s certain to be in your sneaker rotation for a long time. Girls’ $140.00.
JORDAN WHY NOT ZERO. 1 – FEB. 25 AT 10 AM ET
Take a quick look at the latest colorway of Russell Westbrook’s signature Why Not shoes and you might assume that the inspiration comes from the team he leads in OKC. But this also pays homage to Russ’ past and the hard work that helped him get to where he is today. His father would put him through challenging practice sessions, spending late night after late night on his jump shot. Those long hours have obviously paid off and helped make him into the superstar that he is today. Men’s $125.00. Boys’ $95.00.
NIKE PG 2 – FEB. 24 AT 10 AM ET
Westbrook isn’t the only one in Oklahoma City with his own signature shoe — Paul George has his own line with Nike as well. The PG 1s were a big hit and if the early reviews are any indication, Nike struck gold with the PG 2s as well. You can try out the forward’s latest model for yourself with this new colorway that is dropping this Saturday. His new team’s navy and orange colors are featured throughout and also serve as a great way to highlight all of the shoe’s new features. What’s your favorite part – the Flywire cables in the forefoot, the upgraded Zoom unit, the all-new dynamic wings? Let us know in the comments and make sure to pick up your own pair. Men’s $110.00. Boys’ $90.00.
The Air Jordan line turned the basketball world upside down when it debuted in 1985. Over 30 years later, Jordans continue to be some of the world’s most sought-after shoes, delivering the perfect combination of innovative performance and street-worthy style.
Eastbay has been there every step of the way, from the introduction of the iconic AJ 1 to the hottest Jordans being released today. We combed through our archives, finding classic AJs that were showcased in the Eastbay magazine throughout the years. Eastbay has been your Jordan Retro Destination since 1985, when the AJ 1 graced our cover.
Check out some of our throwback magazines that featured famous Jordans and click here to see our huge selection of Retros available now.
A Look Back
1985 was the first time Air Jordans appeared in our catalog, thanks to the Retro 1 on this cover.
November of 1994 saw the debut of the soon-to-be-legendary Air Jordan 10.