ESTEEM Center for Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, English & Math



The Greatest Air Jordan’s of All Time

This article reviews the top three greatest Air Jordan’s of all time, and their legacies

Air Jordan 1

The Air Jordan 1, the most iconic sneaker of all time, was created in 1984 by Nike for a rookie Michael Jordan, and designed by Peter B. Moore. Peter was a respected designer for Nike at the time, but he knew that Jordan didn’t like Nike’s shoes much. This posed a significant challenge for Peter, who faced immense pressure to create something that would make Jordan stand out and something he would love. Despite these hardships, Peter came up with the Air Jordan 1, separating itself from the traditional white basketball shoe with bold black and red colors, which defied the NBA’s rules for uniforms, stating that shoes had to be at least 51% white. Since it violated the regulations for shoes, Michael Jordan was fined $5,000 every game he wore them, with Nike being willing to pay off the fines for Jordan. The defiance only enhanced the popularity of the Jordan 1, as Nike advertised the shoe by highlighting its rebellious spirit and the NBA’s ban. After releasing to the public in 1985, the Air Jordan 1 sold over 50,000 copies, becoming more than just a basketball shoe; it became a cultural staple. Ever since then, the Jordan 1 has been re-released many times with hundreds of colorways and the Jordan 1 Mid’s and Low’s, the lower cut versions of the original.

Air Jordan 3

The Air Jordan 3, released in 1988, marked a big change in the Air Jordan line and Jordan’s Nike partnership. The shoe was designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield, who single-handedly kept Michael Jordan with Nike. Jordan was considering leaving Nike after the first two shoes, which he wasn’t too fond of, stating that the 1’s made his feet bleed and the 2’s were clunky and uncomfortable. Tinker faced immense pressure and the daunting task of creating a shoe that would meet Jordan’s high expectations and convince him to stay. The Air Jordan 3 debuted several innovative features that completely differentiated it from the first two shoes. Firstly, the Jordan 3 introduced the Jumpman logo, which is now synonymous with the Jordan brand. The shoe also featured a visible air unit in the heel, providing a first-of-its-kind design element. The use of premium leather and iconic elephant print along the toe box and heel gave the shoe elegance while also having great performance as a basketball sneaker for its time. The shoe fit Jordan’s dynamic playstyle by having a low-to-the-ground, well-cushioned sole and good outer support. The Air Jordan 3 is still a beloved model by sneaker enthusiasts and basketball players, solidifying the Air Jordan legacy and Tinker Hatfield’s design.

Air Jordan 11

The Air Jordan 11, also designed by Tinker Hatfield, debuted in 1995 and is one of the most iconic Jordans in the line. Tinker faced significant challenges in introducing patent leather to a basketball shoe for the first time, offering a new and futuristic look while also providing higher performance. Despite the pressure to innovate and meet high expectations, Hatfield’s design quickly became legendary. Michael Jordan first wore the Jordan 11 in the 1995 Playoffs, and it quickly became legendary, as the following season, still wearing the shoes, he led the Bulls to the former world record for most wins in an NBA season, at 72, with only 10 losses. Later in that season, he soared through the playoffs and won his fourth NBA Finals. The sneaker racked up even more popularity when they were shown in the 1996 film “Space Jam.” In the movie, Jordan had to team up with the Looney Tunes to win a high-stakes basketball game against the Nerdlucks, who had stolen their basketball skills from famous NBA players. The “Space Jam” colorway of the Air Jordan 11, featuring a black upper with patent leather, a white midsole, and a translucent, blue outsole, became the favorite colorway of the shoe for many. The Air Jordan 11 is still worn today by many people, also coming out with a low-top version for the shoe, making it even more popular in the sneaker community. While this shoe is very old, many people consider it still good enough to compete with some modern-day basketball sneakers.



More to Discover