No shoes influenced basketball style like the Air Jordans. From I to XXXI, through design iterations of each, through different athletes that repped the brand over the years, Jordan has taken its place at the head basketball sneaker culture.
Many know the shoes, but few understand the history and background behind each release. For them, The 4th Quarter will go through a listing of all Air Jordan releases, and give a rundown of the circumstances surrounding each release.
We will add 10 shoes per week until everything is covered.
For the first week, we give you the history of the Air Jordans from I to X.
Air Jordan I
Release: 1985 -1986
Colorway: Black/Red, White/Black-Red, Black/Royal Blue, Black/Natural Grey White/Black-Red, White/Natural Grey, White/Dark Powder Blue
This is the OG, the classic, the shoe that started it all.
First produced in 1984 by designer Peter C. Moore, this shoe was released to the American market from 1985 to 1986. The original design, a prototype called the Nike Air Ship, was banned by NBA Commissioner David Stern for violating the league’s “uniformity of uniform” rule at the time with its heavy black and red colorway.
Many believed the Air Jordan I was banned and Michael Jordan was fined for wearing them during games, but there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding that claim. Nike used this circumstance for a marketing campaign using the word “banned” as the centerpiece for the Air Jordan I, capitalizing on the moment.
The Air Jordan I was retroed in 1994, from 2001 to 2004, and 2007 to 2016.
Air Jordan II
Colorway: White/Black, White/Red
There’s not as much scandal surrounding the Air Jordan II, but there was a lot of hype. The shoe, released in 1987, capitalized off of the success of the Air Jordan I, but took things in a bit of a different direction.
Nike kept designer Peter Moore and added Bruce Kilgore, and the shoes were made in Italy to give them a perception of luxury. For the first time, there was no NIke Air logo found on the shoe, but the Jumpman logo had not yet been born.
Instead, the logo focused on the words Air Jordan and a basketball with wings in the background. It also came in both high top and low style.
It was retroed in 1994, 2004 to 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2014 to 2016.
Air Jordan III
Colorway: White/Cement Grey, Black/Cement Grey, White/Fire Red, White/Cement Grey-True Blue
This was the first Jordan shoe to feature the Jumpman logo, which has become the iconic symbol of the brand. It was also the first to have a visible air pocket in the heel, a touch by designer Tinker Hatfield, who also designed the first Nike Air Max.
Other new elements included the elephant print trim over the heel and toe and tumble leather.
Though the Air Jordan III became one of the most beloved Jordan releases over time, it did not originally sell well, despite Nike’s partnering with Spike Lee for advertisements featuring Mars Blackmon, a character from his film She’s Gotta Have It.
Originally released in 1988, this shoe was retroed many times in many different colorways in 1994, 2001, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2016.
Air Jordan IV
Colorway: White/Black, Black/Cement Grey, White/Fire Red-Black, Off White/Military Blue
In 1989, Hatfield was at it again with the Air Jordan IV, the first released to the world market. Lee was in on the ads again, and featured the shoes in his movie called Do The Right Thing.
Michael Jordan made “The Shot” while wearing these shoes in the Bull’s Game 5 win over the Cavs in the first round of the 1989 NBA Playoffs. You can see them pretty clearly as they narrowly miss the face of Craig Ehlo during Jordan’s leap and fist pump.
They were re-released in 1999 and retroed in 200, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 to 2013, and 2015 to 2016.
Air Jordan V
Colorway: White/Black-Fire Red, Black/Black-Metallic Silver, White/Grape Ice-New Emerald, White/Fire Red-Black
These shoes, designed by Hatfield, moved away from the Air Jordan IV in many ways. They had a shiny tongue, clear rubber soles, and lace locks on the front. According to Hatfield, the design took inspiration from World War II fighter planes.
They were favorites of WIll Smith’s character on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Smith could often be seen rocking the Vs throughout the show, like his dance scene at the end of this video:
The shoes were released in 1990, and retroed in 2000, 2006 to 2009, 2011, and 2013 to 2016.
Air Jordan VI
Colorway: White/Infrared-Black, Black/Infrared, Off White/New Maroon, White/Sport Blue-Black, White/Carmine-Black
These were again designed by Hatfield and released in 1991. Like the Jordan V, they had translucent rubber soles, but differed in many other ways.
For one, they had two holes in the tongue, a molded heel tab, and an inner-bootie. It was also the last original Air Jordan shoe to prominently feature the Nike Air logo.
These shoes had some notable moments. Jordan won his first NBA Finals wearing them in 1991 over the Lakers. He was named MVP in the Black/Infrared colorway. They were also featured in the famous basketball movie White Men Can’t Jump.
The Air Jordan VI was released in 1991 and retroed in 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008 to 2010, 2012, and 2014 to 2016.
Air Jordan VII
Colorway: Black/Light Graphite-Bordeaux, White/Light Silver-True Red, Black/True Red, White/Midnight Navy-True Red, White/Black-Cardinal Red
In 1992, the Hatfield-designed Air Jordan VII introduced the world to huarache, a technology developed by Nike that helps shoes conform to feet. Huarache is still the backbone of many Nike products today.
The shoes also ditched the clear rubber soles of the V and VI as well as the Nike Air logo on the outside of the shoe, though it still existed on the insole.
The marketing campaign also featured Bug Bunny, though these shoes predated Space Jam by about four years.
In 1992, Michael Jordan also traveled to Barcelona to play in the Olympics with the infamous USA Dream Team that featured Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and some of the NBA’s other greatest stars of all time.
Nike released a special version for the Olympics that featured the number 9, which Jordan wore for the Olympic team, instead of his usual 23.
The Air Jordan VII was retroed in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 to 2012 and 2015 to 2016.
Colorway: White/Black-True Red, Black/Bright Concord-Aqua Tone, Black/Black-True Red
Again designed by Hatfield, the Air Jordan VIII featured a heavier, sturdier shoe with bolder colorways than ever before.
The shoes had a lot of positive features like full-length air sole and huarache inner-booties, but the double straps, dubbed “bunny ears,” made them a bit tight on the sides for people with broad feet. The intention was to make the width adjustable, thus more versatile for different foot shapes.
Other positives included improved ankle support and better on-court traction.
The Air Jordan VIII was released in 1993 and retroed in 2003, 2007, 2008, 2013, and 2015 to 2016.
Colorway: White/Black-True Red
Partially inspired by baseball cleats, the Air Jordan IX was the first Jordan shoe released after Michael Jordan’s first retirement to play America’s pastime in the Minor Leagues. It was designed by Hatflied.
The shoes had an inner-bootie sleeve and had symbols from different languages and cultures on the sole.
The most prominent images of the Air Jordan IX are the Michael Jordan statue outside of Chicago’s United Center and in Tupac’s “Thug Life” photo shoot in 1993.
The Air Jordan IX was retroed in 2002, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 to 2016.
Release: 1994 to 1995
Colorway: White/Black-Light Steel Grey, White/Black-Dark Powder Blue, Black/Dark Shadow-True Red, White/Black-True Red, White/Black-Royal Blue-Orange-Flame, White/Black-Royal Blue-Metallic Silver, White/Black-Kelly-Gold, Black/Dark Concord-Metallic Silver
These shoes were released in eight colorways, with six designated for certain team colors. They were the North Carolina Tar Heels, where Jordan played college ball, the Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, Seattle Supersonics, and Sacramento Kings.
The release of most of these colorways coincided with Jordan’s return to the NBA in 1995, but these shoes were designed while he was playing baseball.
On the outsole of the shoes was a listing of Jordan’s accomplishments including his Rookie of the Year, Dunk Contest, MVP, and Championship awards.
The Air Jordan X was retroed in 2005, 2008, and 2012 to 2016.