After the success of the ultra-popular documentary “The Last Dance,” sales of Nike Air Jordans are on the rise. First created in 1984 by a struggling Nike, their fortunes changed forever along with Jordan’s after he signed his first $500,000-a-year contract. In nearly 40 years since the Air Jordan 1, “His Airness” has made over $1.3 billion from Nike.
Originally he wanted to sign with Adidas and Nike was just a stopgap. After two decades of success, sales dropped in 2014. Fashion had changed and stars like Stephen Curry with UnderArmor provided new contemporary competition. But now the Jordan brand is back with a vengeance. We’ve already looked at 20 secrets ‘The Dance’ revealed. Now, it’s time we ranked every Air Jordan shoe to date. There are some iconic pieces of footwear on the list that follows.
34. Air Jordan XV
This is possibly the most bizarre design out of them all. Inspired by the X-15 fighter jet, it’s one of those ideas that’s awesome in theory but doesn’t exactly translate well to reality. Constructed with kevlar, it’s a sturdy shoe and has that going for it if nothing else.
Even Tinker Hatfield admitted it was his worst design. Shaped like an anvil, they actually look a bit like Ridley Scott’s Alien. Luckily, Jordan didn’t wear it on the court because of retirement so it’s probably best to just forget about it. You could say it was before its time, but it’s time is probably on a spaceship in 1000 years.
Another mess of a shoe, this one continued the brand’s bizarre SciFi trend. First of all, let’s start with the good. It was actually a decent basketball sneaker because it had great support and made you feel locked down. But it’s just not enough to be functional when you look this bad.
It’s just too weird and has way too much going on. First of all, the mesh shroud looks like an add-on. The thick heel sole makes you think its a boot, not a sneaker. Also black should look classy, but the two-tone vibe on the XIX just makes it look cheap.
Not much of this sneaker looks right. In fact, you could call this the Frankenstein of the Air Jordans because it looks like a bunch of different shoes cobbled together. At least they went back to numbers instead of years after this one.
However, that’s about the only good thing going for it. Two different sleeves and three different midsoles make this shoe too complicated. Maybe if you like the retro vibe then you’ll have a soft spot for them, but otherwise, they belong near the bottom of this list.
Fighter jets are awesome when they are pulling off incredible maneuvers in the sky and shooting down the enemy. But has anybody ever looked at an airplane and said, “Oh I’d like to wear that on my feet?” We don’t think so.
Somebody needed to say this to the Air Jordan design team. Influenced by the F22 Raptor, this shoe just does not look good at all. In fact, it actually looks like it has another sneaker wedged onto the back of it. Furthermore, the titanium mid-plate looks out of place.
The overall shape of this sneaker actually isn’t that bad. In fact, you could say that it’s a classic, generic basketball shoe with its big tongue. Overall, it’s nothing to get excited about. When you take a look at the detailing, that’s where you start to run into its design flaws.
The hole on the side that makes this shoe look strange. Most people mock it because it looks like you can order a Chick-a-Fil burger through it. They’re not wrong either. However, Dwayne Wade did wear them as MVP in the All-Star game, so they do have that going for them.
Once again, we’ll give it props for their performance qualities. Another comfortable shoe, it was great on the court. But let’s be real here, the late noughties weren’t a good time for the fashion industry at all. That’s the problem for these awful sneakers.
This time they went for a glass-blown look, which is an attempt to be interesting. They get credit for trying, but it doesn’t work very well. Furthermore, it’s also the first Air Jordan with a year instead of a number. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to say about number 29.
This is a real love-hate shoe. For performance, you can’t make any complaints. They’re almost as good as any of the other editions on this list in that regard. But in terms of design, this model is really polarizing. However, there’s no denying they make a statement.
First of all, we have to talk about that shroud. How good it looks really depends on the colorway. The electric green version looked like you were wearing a supervillain on your feet. But the tech in these shoes is superb, with carbon fiber and Zoom Air reducing the need for foam.
This is a shoe with all kinds of weird aesthetic features that remind you how strange fashion ideas were less than 10 years ago. First of all, it looks like a duck boot, with a design that just isn’t the prettiest. It’s a shame because it has some nice personalization ideas.
It came with two different cushioning and the leather changed colors with hand-buffing. Symbolizing Jordan’s versatility, it’s a nice idea. While it’s not the most beautiful sneaker, it was definitely a good court shoe, so it gains points for that.
Wilson Smith took over the reins from Hayfield for this shoe that annoyed a lot of wearers. The sneaker featured a shroud that served as a thermal protector and also as a new look. However, a lot of people complained that the removable shroud fell off too easily.
Another complaint was that the shoe was just too stiff. The leather cracked and wore far too easily. They do look much better without the shroud. Yet that was a major selling point, so we can’t just ignore it. As Jordan moved into the boardroom, the Air Jordan series moved along with him.
First of all, what’s going on with this ankle strap? When you have to come up with a new design every year, it’s great to try something fresh. But it’s safe to say the fan reception for this shoe was a resounding ‘meh.’ As a 20th anniversary shoe, this one doesn’t quite hold up today.
The silhouette looks weird because of that bizarre strap. However, some of the details are fantastic. Hayfield embossed 200 symbols in the shoe to represent Jordan’s life story. 69 dimples on the side represent the 14-time All-Star’s highest-scoring game.
Jordan really likes his cars as proven by this shoe. This one looks to the Bentley Continental GT for inspiration, as opposed to the Italian racers of previous editions. The suede editions underwhelmed compared to their leather counterparts, which is a shame.
They’re almost like two different shoes, which is unfortunate because they’re comfortable and look good. One of its innovations is a tenable I.P.S. suspension system that lets the wearer choose between Zoom and Encapsulated air. The model tends to be overlooked but was close to being a classic design.
A lot about this shoe is very similar to the XX9 although it’s arguably not as good in terms of performance. However, as Air Jordan entered its third decade, it wanted to look towards the future. Inspired by the cosmos, the aesthetic is deliberately futuristic and celebratory.
However, there is a nod to the past as the argyle weaves are an ode to Jordan’s Alma Mater UNC. Dynamic Fit technology ensures that this is one comfortable sneaker. It also replaced the carbon fiber Flight Plate with plastic for more flexibility. It’s a sleek installment.
Another real love-hate installment, we may get crucified for putting this one so low. However, we’re just not fans of the ‘Photo reel’ colorways. They make the shoe look cheap and when you’re paying a couple hundred bucks, that’s unforgivable. Obviously, that’s a subjective view, but we stand by it.
However, as a performance shoe, this one is as good as it gets. Lighter than any other Air Jordan shoe, it used Flightweave technology, the precursor to Flyweave. This tough weave meant that the on-court appeal was stronger than ever before, we can’t deny that.
The most noteworthy thing about this shoe is that it was the last of Jordan’s playing career. Heavily influenced by Italian sports cars and fashion, it even came with a towel, brush, and driver’s manual. You’ve got to love the production’s imagination even if the design itself seems a little low-key.
Designed by Wilson Smith, they actually look a bit like Kobe Bryant’s Adidas 1. Inspired by the sleek racing lines of the auto world, carbon fiber-based monocoque of F1 race cars, and race car driving shoes, there’s a lot going on. While it’s tasteful, it’s not dramatic enough to rank higher on this list.
These were the first $200 Air Jordans, definitely a landmark at the time. Furthermore, they came in a metal briefcase with a CD-ROM, which has kind of aged badly. However, they gain points because Jordan actually wore them while with the Washington Wizards in 2001-02.
But they definitely do look better than some of the shoes that came after them over the next few years. Not all Jordans have aged well as fashion items, even if they retain the collector’s value. These were high-performance shoes with a TPU heel stabilizer and a full-length shank plate.
There is nothing particularly wrong with the AJ II. Yet the truth is, it’s just not particularly special in appearance. It definitely isn’t as eye-catching as the first installment, and they suffer because Jordan didn’t wear them for long. Often overlooked by sneaker aficionados, perhaps they deserve more respect.
However, they are a slick design that holds up much better than many from the late 2000s. Made in Italy, they have a luxurious feel to them. The II was also the first in the line not to feature the Nike Swoosh logo. Furthermore, it had better cushioning than the first shoe, which made it very comfortable to wear.
The XI is one of the most desired Air Jordans out there, while the IXs have a lot of cultural significance. In short, it’s easy to forget about the X. As a design, it’s nice if a tad undramatic. In fact, it’s very minimalist for the era, which is not something you’d expect from the 1990s.
However, Jordan did actually wear these when he came out of retirement in 1994. Also, they hold a special accolade. With less than a dozen pairs made for charity auction, the Air Jordan X Special “Grimm” Editions are the rarest Air Jordans in the world.
Clearly inspired by the legendary first installment in the series, the XXXI pays visible homage to that shoe. The red and black ‘banned’ colorway is definitely the best. It brings back the Nike swoosh combining it with the Jordan Jumpman and Wings logo for the first time.
Designed by Tate Kuerbis, these shoes use Flyweave technology to create a lighter performance shoe. Worn by several members of Team USA at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, these are a great pair of sneakers that stand apart on their own right.
The latest model at the time of writing, this is also the best on-field shoe on this list. However, it does lose some points in the looks department because it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing sneaker in the collection. Tate Kuerbis’s design brought back the laces and focused on performance.
The AJ XXXIV emphasizes its Eclipse Plate combined with Zoom Air technology to make athletes soar. In sum, this sneaker is ridiculously light, yet still offers support with herringbone traction. An iconic brand continues to innovate and showcase superb on-court technology; just ask Zion Williamson.
One of the nicest designs of Jordan’s post-playing career, you could definitely envision him wearing them on the court. They might not hit the mark for everybody but they’re a good effort. Of course, as they also coincide with his number, this was a given.
With their hand-stitched criss-cross upper design, they’re a classy shoe. With his thumbprint on the tongue and the DNA inspired pattern, this was a homage to Jordan the man. The first Air Jordans produced with sustainability in mind, these are a special pair of shoes.
For a pair of shoes never worn on the court, these still manage to be iconic. After Jordan’s shock retirement and switch to baseball, there were questions over whether his brand would be able to remain relevant. The answer was a clear and resounding yes.
If you can’t beat them, join them. Hatfield modeled these on Jordan’s baseball cleats marking his direct transition between sports. They were also the chosen shoe for Jordan’s statue outside the United Center in Chicago. Not bad for a sneaker that never hit the hardwood.
Some people will disagree with this one, but that’s okay. We like the Ferrari-inspired design of these shoes. The yellow logo pays tribute to the Italian supercar manufacturer’s golden stallion. They also looked great on Jordan when he was on the court, even if not everybody could pull them off.
However, the fact that he wore them as he pulled off ‘The Last Shot’ against the Utah Jazz seals their place in history. That was his final game for the Chicago Bulls in the 1998 NBA Finals. If you wanted to criticize them, you could say they look like motorbike boots. But they ended a golden era of Air Jordan design.
This is more than just a really nice sneaker. It also signifies Jordan Brand’s move into 21st-century innovation. While a previous couple of designs paid clear tribute to the first shoes in the series, this one was a firm statement of intent for the future. Just check it out.
The first-ever laceless Air Jordan, it features FastFit technology with a tightening and release system. Influenced by the AJ III, this sneaker definitely belongs to the now. The carbon-reinforced FlightSpeed Plate and Zoom Air Unit reduce weight while producing the necessary propulsion for takeoff.
One of the most recent in the line, this is a contemporary classic. A celebration of the second-ever Air Jordan, it would have been so easy for it to be just a mere pastiche. But it’s so much better than that and in fact, it’s superior to the II in every way from looks to performance.
The Flightspeed technology made them one of the best sneakers of 2017. Jordan Brand released a special “Banned” colorway to coincide with the 31st anniversary for when the NBA banned the original Air Jordan I black and red colorway.
The first of our Air Jordan top 10, the VIIIs were the beneficiaries of brilliant commercials. Jordan teams up with Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes? What’s not to love? They’re probably the most 90s-looking shoe on this list and when it comes to Jordan Brand, that’s a good thing.
They were heavier than the previous editions, which made them divisive in terms of performance Furthermore, the shoe gained the nickname, ‘The Punisher’ because of the advanced basketball ankle support and enhanced traction. In sum, from the weight to the double strap, they’re probably the first truly polarizing Air Jordan.
Shoes that Jordan actually wore are almost all ranked higher than those he did not. If he picked up an NBA ring then their appeal is even greater. Inspired by the black panther, the sole even looked like the animal’s paw. Symbolizing Jordan’s agility on the court, they had a hologram on the back that lit up in the dark like a panther’s eyes.
Worn by Denzel Washington in the hit movie He Got Game, these are a great-looking pair of sneakers that have been retro-ed many times. The shoe also featured a carbon fiber plate and Zoom Air to make them super light. It obviously worked.
The ‘Dream Team’ from the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona is the stuff of legend. So it’s unsurprising that these shoes are standouts because of that success. That alone would make them worthy of a high spot but of course, it also helps that they look really good too.
This time they decided to forgo the translucent sole. This shoe introduced the Air Huarache technology which allowed the shoes to better conform to the user’s foot and made them a great fit. As Air Jordans go, these have the legacy factor and looks to earn a high ranking.
Jordan won his first NBA Championship in these shoes, beating the Lakers in 1991. Named the NBA Finals MVP for his efforts, these shoes immediately gain prestige points. Featured in the movie White Men Can’t Jump starring Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, they got a lot of great exposure.
As a design, the tongue really helps them to stand out, even amongst the boldest designs on the line. The heel tab and toe also gave them a great look. They’re not the most eye-catching pair of Air Jordans, but their history and retro use make them significant.
Worn during the famous “Flu Game,” that alone is enough to make these shoes stand out. It helped that “His Airness” also won the 1997 NBA Championship in them too. The Jordan XII utilized Zoom Air’s fiber pressurized unit for the first time. This made them very comfortable and one of the best performance shoes he actually played in.
Aesthetically they ere also a success. It combined inspiration from the Japanese flag and a woman’s dress shoe. This combo definitely works. Furthermore, it has no Nike branding on it of any kind. Previous shoes had Nike Air or other logos on them. Air Jordan was finally big enough to stand alone.
The last of a three-year sequence of power designs by Hayfield, these were a phenomenal-looking pair of sneakers. We’ve complained about the fighter jet designs, but this one makes us eat our words. The WWII P-51 Mustang fighter plane allegedly inspired this shoe, as can be seen in the shark teeth shapes on the midsole.
With a translucent sole and a clear rubber tongue, these were a clear attempt at trying something different. While we are very critical of some of the later designs, it’s difficult to keep a brand fresh year-after-year. Here it really worked as Hayfield dramatically shifted the Air Jordan in a new direction.
Spike Lee helped to make this shoe very famous as he featured it in his movie Do The Right Thing. Jordan also helped to seal their place in history by wearing them when he hit ‘The Shot’ against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989. The first internationally sold Air Jordan featured four color styles.
But most of all, this Hayfield design was just cool. He introduced mesh, plastic wings, and nubuck leather for the first time in a hoops sneaker. The Air Jordan brand wasn’t just about commercial success, it was also a brand leader in innovation. These shoes prove that.
This was the first of the line to feature the iconic Jumpman logo. It’s also the shoe that saved Jordan brand because the Bulls star was ready to leave Nike for Adidas. That makes this shoe – the first designed by Hayfield – so important in the history of the brand. The design is perfect too.
Mixing tumbled leather with faux elephant print, it just works in a way that can’t be put into words. Jordan wore them in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest and are his favorite in the line. To sum up, they’re one of the most historically significant sneakers of the brand.
The 11 is rightfully one of Jordan Brands’ best successes. First of all, it’s a legendary design. The shoe combines the golden trifecta of patent leather, carbon fiber, and box office glory to make a perfect product. That’s right, this is the sneaker that Jordan wore in Space Jam, instantly sealing its place in pop culture.
As a performance shoe, it’s also very good. The technology was innovative for the time, with carbon fiber in the support shanks. Jordan couldn’t resist wearing them after his return from baseball in 1995. The patent leather gave the shoe a formal look and he even wore them instead of dress shoes.
The shoe that kicked off the entire series is still the most profitable Jordan Retro to date. That’s no surprise because it still looks fresh today. As soon as you say ‘Air Jordan’ this is the sneaker people think of. In short, you could argue that the design reached its peak in year one.
Obviously the red and black color combination is the most iconic. Furthermore, you can still wear a pair from 1985 and they’ll be fine – that’s how durable they are. The NBA’s ban of the original ‘Air Ship’ design definitely helped them gain infamy. Peter C. Moore’s design is perfect.