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 gave you the history of the Air Jordans from I to X. For week two, it’s the Air Jordans from XI to XX.
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.
Release: 1995 to 1996
Colorway: White/Black-Dark Concord, White/Columbia Blue-Black,Black/True Red-White, (Low) Black/Dark Grey-True Red, (Low) White/Light Grey-Cobalt
Hatfield designed these shoes hoping Jordan would wear them when he decided to return to the NBA after his Minor League Baseball stint. He got his wish. Jordan returned to the court in 1995 and wore these through several notable performances, including the 1995-96 NBA Championship, and in the 1996 NBA All Star Game.
These sneakers really came into the public eye when Jordan wore them in Space Jam.
That appearance propelled the Air Jordan XI to be the brand’s most popular sneaker. The most notable change was the patent leather mudguard that gave the shoes a more formal, classy look. It’s also Hatfield’s favorite Jordan design.
The Air Jordan XI was retroed in 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2006 to 2017.
Release: 1996 to 1997
Colorway: White/Black-Taxi, White/Varsity Red-Black, Obsidian/White-French Blue, Black/Varsity Red, Black/Varsity Red-White-Metallic Silver
These are the Jordan “flu game” shoes. Jordan wore the XIIs when the Bulls dropped the Jazz on his three-pointer in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 1997 NBA Finals.
Jordan dropped 38 points in that game, after which Scottie Pippen had to help him off the floor. It became the stuff of NBA legend.
These shoes, known as the most durable Jordans, were inspired in part by the Japanese Flag and a 19th century womens boots. They were also the first Jordans released after it became a subsidiary brand. There’s no Nike branding at all on these shoes.
The Air Jordan XII was retroed in 2003, 2004, 2008 to 2009, 2011 to 2013, and 2015 to 2016.
Release: 1997 to 1998
Colorway: White/True Red-Black, White/Black-True Red-Pearl Grey, Navy/Carolina Blue-Flint Grey-White, Black/True Red-White, Black/True Red, (Low) Navy/Metallic Silver-Black-Carolina Blue, (Low) Black/Chutney
The design of these shoes was largely inspired by panthers. The sole of the shoe has a unique, wavy design and looks like a panther paw both from the side and the bottom. The hologram logo near the back of the shoe shines like a panther’s eye.
Other aspects include extra cushioning along the feet and unique spotted-type design along the outside.
The XIIIs were worn by Denzel Washington in his role as Jake Shuttlesworth in the Spike Lee film He Got Game. This might be one of the ultimate sneakerhead scenes.
The Air Jordan XIII was retroed in 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2010 to 2015.
Release: 1998 to 2000
Colorway: White/Black-Varsity Red, White/Varsity Red-Black, White/Black-Oxidized Green, Black/Black-Varsity Red, Black/Black-White-Indiglo, (Low) Varsity Royal/Black-White, (Low) White/Obsidian-Columbia Blue, (Low) Light Ginger/Black-White. White/Black-Carolina Blue
These sneakers were inspired by the Ferrari 550 M, a car that Jordan himself owned. The Jumpman symbol was even placed within a Ferrari-shaped logo by designers Hatfield and Mark Smith.
Jordan wore these in his final game with the Bulls, the 1998 NBA Finals win over the Jazz, when he hit the shot that brought the team its third straight title, Jordan’s sixth in total.
Each pair of these shoes had 14 Jumpman logos on them, seven on each shoe. That number is meant to correspond with the shoe’s place in the Air Jordan line.
The Air Jordan XIV was retroed in 2005 to 2006, 2008, 2011 to 2012, and 2014 to 2016.
Release: 1999 to 2000
Colorway: Black/Varsity Red, White/Columbia Blue-Black, Flint Grey/White, Obsidian/White-Metallic Silver, (Low) White/Deep Red, (Low) White/Midnight Navy, (Low) Black/White/Metallic Silver
This is the first shoe released after Jordan’s retirement from basketball. The design was inspired by an aircraft prototype made by NASA in the 1950s called the X-15. The shoe also features kevlar fiber weaved into the side.
These shoes are largely considered to be the ugliest of the Air Jordan line by many sneakerheads, and were received negatively upon the release.
The Air Jordan XV was retroed in 2007 and 2008.
Colorway: Black / Varsity Red, White/Midnight Navy, Whisper/Cherrywood-Light Graphite, Light Ginger/Dark Charcoal-White, (Low) White/Black-Varsity Red, (Low) Black/Black-Metallic Silver
These are the first Air Jordans since the II that Hatfield was not involved with. Instead, they were designed by Wilson Smith, a senior designer with Nike. Smith brought back in some classic design elements from previous Air Jordan sneakers.
He included the clear rubber soles from the V, VI and XI and the patent leather from the XI. New to this sneaker was the outer covering or “shroud” that could be removed to give the shoe two different looks.
Certain elements of this shoe were not viewed positively, like the shroud, which would often fall off while playing basketball and the often-cracked and creased patent leather.
The Air Jordan XVI was retroed in 2008, 2014, and 2016.
Colorway: White/College Blue-Black, Black/Metallic Silver, White/Varsity Red-Charcoal, White/Black-Metallic Copper-Sport Royal, (Low) White/University Blue/Black-Chrome, (Low) White/Lightning-Black-Chrome, (Low) Black/Chrome
These shoes coincided with Jordan’s return to the NBA court as a member of the Washington Wizards. The shoes were packaged in a metal, Jumpman-labeled carrying case that contained an interactive CD.
These shoes, again designed by Smith, marked the first time a Jordan shoe retailed for $200 or more.
They came with a removable midfoot cover. Much like the shroud of the XVI, it gave the shoe two distinct looks. They also had a reinforced midsole, which made for a sturdy and supportive chassis for these shoes.
The Air Jordan XVII was retroed in 2008 and 2016.
Colorway: Black/Sport Royal, White/Black-Sport Royal, White/Varsity Red, (Low) Black/Metallic Silver-Chrome, (Low) White/Chrome-University Blue-Met Silver
The Air Jordan XVIII was the last Jordan shoe made during his professional basketball career. Jordan would finish out the 2002-03 season with the Wizards, playing his last game on April 16, 2003 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The shoe was designed by Tate Kuerbis, a member of the Nike team since 1995 and Jordan since 1999. It was inspired primarily by race cars and the stitching of Italian dress shoes.
The packaging came with a “Driver’s Manual” pamphlet to guide shoe care, and a Jumpman towel and brush.
The AIr Jordan XVIII was retroed in 2008.
Colorway: White/Chrome/Flint Grey-Black, Black/Varsity Red, Black/White-Metallic Silver, White/Varsity Red-Metallic Silver, White/Midnight Navy-Varsity Red, (Low) White/White-Black-Cement Grey, (Low) Black/Metallic Silver-Varsity Red, (Low) Neutral Grey/Black-Light Graphite, (Low) Obsidian/Vapor, (Low) Cinder/British Khaki, (SE) Olympic White/Metallic Gold-Midnight Navy, (SE) Black/Metallic Gold, (SE) White/Flint Grey-Deep Red, (SE) White/Metallic Gold-Varsity Purple
The Air Jordan XIX came out following Jordan’s third and final retirement from NBA basketball. Before Kobe Bryant gained the “Black Mamba” nickname, the snake inspired this shoe’s design, especially the Black/Varsity Red colorway.
Jordan sought to try out some new, innovative materials, including a foot sleeve developed by Material ConneXion, a materials consultancy that sourced the sleeve from material typically used to prevent PVC pipes from bursting.
Though the shoes had laces, the idea was that the shoes would fit well without them because the material would not stretch. The materials also allowed for a sleek design, and for these to be the lightest shoes ever from the Air Jordan line.
The Air Jordan XIX was retroed in 2008.
Colorway: White/Varsity Red-Black, Black/Stealth-Varsity Red, White/Black-Varsity Red, Chutney/White-Black, Varsity Red/White-Black, University Blue/White-Black, (Low) White/Midnight Navy-Neutral Grey
Hatfield was back again to design these shoes inspired by Jordan’s love for motorsports. He hadn’t been involved with an Air Jordan design since the Air Jordan XV.
According to the stories, Hatfield had intimate conversations with Jordan while designing this shoe, and one of the elements that came from that was the laser-inscribed designs.
These shoes had a large strap that covered the laces and a free-floating ankle collar for extra support.
The Air Jordan XX was retroed in 2008 and 2015.