History of the Air Jordans | The Greats

 In A Look into the Past

The year was 1985. The man, Michael Jordan, was fresh off an Olympic basketball gold medal and a five-year deal with Nike. Ballplayers all around the world had the game turned on its head with the release of the Air Jordans I. At a price tag of $65, the shoes weren’t even allowed on the court — but Jordan wore them anyway.

Nowadays, Jordans are popular amongst basketball players, fans and even those who just love sneakers. These shoes were the first to blend functionality, technology, and style into a single package, which is why the appeal is still strong 35 years later.

Jordans haven’t just aged well, they still perform. On the court, the new shoes continue to innovate, including in the areas of:

  • Traction
  • Durability
  • Balance

A Risk with Great Reward

We’ve talked about where it all began, but we didn’t talk about the risk. You see, Jordan hadn’t even been named Rookie of the Year…yet. He had only been drafted in 1984, a mere one year before the first Air Jordans dropped. It was a risk, on Nike’s part. But it’s paid off more than most imagined.

Jordan, the man’s success, is forever part of the history of Air Jordans.

Without the publicity drawn by Michael Jordan’s balling, the shoes would not have sold as well as they did. Imagine a world where original Jordans were a failure.

Realizing they had a bull by the horns, Nike released 3 more Jordan’s in the 1980s:

  • Air Jordan II (1986)
  • Air Jordan III (1988)
  • Air Jordan IV (1989)

Riding the NBA Wave

Amazingly, the professional basketball became a powerhouse sport. The NBA was hitting its stride going into the 90’s — with Michael Jordan its star player and the Bulls one of the best teams in history. It was a worldwide phenomenon and the shoes that helped shape it were not slowing down.

From 1990 -1999, there would be 11 different shoes released, from the Air Jordan V in 1990 — all the way to the Jordan XV in 1999.

During this time, Michael Jordan (the man):

  • Retired once (to give baseball a shot)
  • Came out of retirement (back to the Bulls)
  • Won 3 more championships (in 96, 97, 98)

From the year 2000 to 2017, there were 17 Jordans to hit the market. Nowadays, Nike is capitalizing on the nostalgia and re-releasing some of the most popular shoes from years past. And while we could go over every single pair throughout the decades, we’ll keep it short and take a closer look as some of the most popular Air Jordans to date.

4 Historically Popular Air Jordans 

  1. The Original Air Jordan I Black/Red: This shoe started it all and can still command multiple x its launch price on sites like eBay.
  2. Air Jordan XI Black/Red:Jordan was back in Chicago and the Bulls would win the championship that year (after being defeated the year prior).
  3. Air Jordan XI (Space Jam):The movie, Space Jam, came out in the late 90’s. The shoe didn’t come out until the year 2000, but it is still a popular version of the Air Jordan.
  4. Air Jordan III Black/Cement: This shoe, released in 1988, was when Nike knew the partnership with Michael was a success and started the offer some variety in their sneakers.

The Future of Air Jordans

Jordans are still a popular basketball sneaker. However, the popularity lies (at least in part) in nostalgia. We’ve seen this in the uptick of re-releases. And with new partnerships being laid — the biggest being Lebron James — Jordans may not be as popular heading into the future. That said, it’s an exciting time for basketball, players and for sneakers.


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