The History of Michael Jordan Shoes

When they first arrived on the shoe scene, Air Jordan shoes were hugely popular. In fact, so many people wanted these shoes that there were often riots and fighting over them. People would actually come to blows about who would get the most popular shoe on the planet. No doubt, Michael Jordan never anticipated how popular the shoes would become, but each additional version of Jordan’s signature shoe line is as popular as the last.

The Origin

Michael Jordan signed a deal with Nike in 1984 to endorse a particular brand of Nike basketball shoes – the Air Jordan. Besides Michael Jordan, other athletes to endorse the brand are Carmelo Anthony and Roy Jones, Jr. You might say Air Jordans were the shoes that built Nike, as they had been struggling prior to Jordan signing the shoe deal. However, if it were not for Jordan’s manager, the deal may have never taken place. Jordan himself actually preferred the shoes made by Adidas and Converse.

The Air Jordan Deals

The initial deal for the Air Jordan I shoes was $2.5 million, plus royalties and other benefits, for five years. As the first shoes (with a winged basketball logo and a price tag of $65) rolled off the manufacturing line and into the stores, it was obvious the pairing was ‘gold.’

Eventually, though, the National Basketball Association (NBA) banned Jordan from wearing the black and red shoes by handing out $5000 per game fines. However, Nike wasn’t about to let go of this valuable advertising. The company paid the fines and kept Jordan’s feet shod with the shoes. This kept the public clamoring to get the same pair or similar ones for their personal use.

The Banning Story

While the red and black Air Jordans might be popular, they’re seen more than their share of controversies. As if Michael Jordan wanting to opt out wasn’t enough, the very first Air Jordans are also known as the banned versions.

We’ve mentioned above that Jordan was fined for wearing these shoes in NBA games. The reason behind this was that they broke the uniform rules for the whole league. While Nike did pay the fines to retain the advertisement, they went a step further in their campaign. Their main aim became marketing the shoes as a sort of forbidden fruit, hence enhancing their appeal.

The History of Michael Jordan Shoes

Still, there are some sources that say this whole story is a myth. It’s hard to find photographic evidence of Jordan wearing sneakers with that color combination in any NBA game from that time. In fact, Marvin Barais, a known Jordan collector, has claimed that the player was likely wearing the Nike Air Ship. For whatever reason, Jordan himself has stuck to the banned tale for more than three decades.

Logo Changes

The Air Jordan log changed to the current logo, which features the Jumpman, after Jordan won the 1986-87 Slam Dunk competition. At the time, the retail price of the shoe rose to a $100 a pair. By the third year, Jordan wanted to void the contract. After Tinker Hatfield spoke face-to-face with Jordan and asked for his input into the shoe, Jordan decided to maintain his commitment and the rest, as they say, is history.


While Michael Jordan may not have thought the shoes named after him were the very best, he actively put in ideas towards making it better. This is why the Air Jordan III shoe was redesigned upon Jordan’s suggestion to have it three-quarter cut. The materials were lighter than average, which made wearing the shoes more comfortable. This change was wildly popular, so the shoes flew off the shelves.

Jordan and Hatfield continue to work on the designs for the Air Jordan until the XV version. By 1997, the Air Jordan brand became a sub-brand to Nike. In fact, you will not see the name Nike or the Nike logo – the Nike Swoosh – on the Air Jordan shoes.

Retro Versions

The original red/black Air Jordan shoes were a powerful item, and they were far too powerful not to make a comeback. Around 2001, Nike came out with several old models of the Jordan brand. This appealed to Nike purists, who appreciated the similar price range and the Nike Air brand logo o the shoe’s tongue.

There were many more retro releases in the coming years, but they weren’t all so popular. In fact, the 2009 version created quite a bit of debate among Nike and Jordan collectors. This was because it had the Jumpman logo instead of the Nike Air Branding on the tongue. For someone who was passionate about having purely Nike goods, this move was close to sacrilege.

A Satin Pair

While the popularity of the ‘Banned’ Air Jordans was partly due to its extra-buttery feel, Nike decided to take things up a notch. To this end, they made a super-limited version of Air Jordans which has an upper made completely from satin. They also came with matching accessories such as sports apparel.

These shoes might not have the same performance and durability of the original Air Jordans because of that luxurious satin. However, the price is quite hefty due to this being a collectible item. This is why the Air Jordan 1 Satin can even resell for more than $2,000.

The Air Jordan Series

Here’s an overview of each of the Air Jordan shoes that have been made from the very first one to the latest version.

1. Air Jordan I

This is the very first Air Jordan and it was designed by Peter Moore in 1984 for Michael Jordan. Air Jordan I is the only one in the series that featured the Nike Swoosh logo and it was released on the market from 1985 to 1986.

2. Air Jordan II

Nike released the Air Jordan II in 1986 due to the success of the Air Jordan I. This is designed by Bruce Kilgore, who is the one who designed Nike’s Air Force as well. This is the first Air Jordan that does not have the familiar Swoosh logo. Instead, the word Nike was placed across the top of the heel counter and the Wings logo was on its tongue.

3. Air Jordan III

The Air Jordan III was released in 1988 and it was designed by Tinker Hatfield. It has a Jumpman logo on its tongue with the word AIR under it. It has a sculpted midsole, a visible air unit, and a padded tongue and collar. This is said to be Michael Jordan’s favorite shoes.

4. Air Jordan IV

The Air Jordan IV is also designed by Tinker Hatfield after the success of the Air Jordan III. It also features the Jumpman logo on the tongue and below it is the word “Flight”. It also has the sculpted midsole and the padded tongue collar from the AJ III. But it featured mesh which increased the breathability of the shoes.

5. Air Jordan V

The Air Jordan V was a statement of Michael Jordan’s aggressive nature on the court. It was again designed by Tinker Hatfield. It features a shark tooth design on the outer midsole and some of its elements are from the AJ IV. Some of the added features it has are a reflective tongue, translucent rubber soles, and lace locks.

6. Air Jordan VI

The Air Jordan VI was released in 1991 and once again designed by Tinker Hatfield. It was the shoes worn by Michael Jordan to the first Chicago Bulls championship. It has leather overlays revealing the numbers 2 and 3, honoring MJ’s uniform number. It also features two holes on the tongue and a molded heel tab on the back of the shoes which was personally requested by MJ to stop hurting his Achilles tendon. This is also the last Air Jordan to feature the Nike AIR logo.

7. Air Jordan VII

The Air Jordan VII is also designed by Tinker Hatfield and it was released in 1992. The inspiration for these shoes was from the West African tribal art. It features bold lines on the midsole and it has a neoprene inner body for more comfort. It is the lightest basketball shoes during that time. It also no longer had the visible air sole, translucent sole, and the famous Nike AIR logo.

8. Air Jordan VIII

The Air Jordan VIII was also designed by Tinker Hatfield and it was released in 1993. Compared to other Air Jordan shoes before it, it was noticeably heavier due to the many details it has such as two crossover straps on each shoe and a Jumpman logo. It also has a full length air sole and a poly carbonate shank plate making it more comfortable to wear.

9. Air Jordan IX

The Air Jordan IX was released in 1993 as well after the retirement of Michael Jordan. This is the very first Air Jordan that MJ wouldn’t wear in any basketball tournament. In fact, Nike prepared the Air Jordan IX to be introduced without Michael Jordan. During the 1993 to 1994 basketball season, Mitch Richmond, BJ Armstrong, Penny Hardaway, and Kendall Gill all wore an exclusive version of this Air Jordan. The upper part of this shoe is made of leather, nubuck, and mesh, and it introduced the one-pull lacing system.  

10. Air Jordan X

The Air Jordan X was released in 1994 and it was worn by Michael Jordan when he returned to the NBA on March 19, 1995. This Air Jordan has a very simple design. It features clean lines and lightweight cushioning. It has become one of the most popular and sought after Air Jordan shoes.

11. Air Jordan XI

The Air Jordan XI was one of the most loved sneakers ever and it was released in 1995. In creating the shoe, Tinker Hatfield used patent leather because it was stronger. The AJ XI also fulfilled Michael Jordan’s desire to have a shoe that he can wear with a suit.

12. Air Jordan XII

Tinker Hatfield also designed the Air Jordan XII and he got the inspiration from a woman’s fashion shoe and the Japanese flag. The AJ XII features a rich leather upper, resembling a rising sun. It has toe and accent overlays comprised with artificial reptile leather. It also features the slogan “TWO 3” down the tongue. It has metal lace loops with Jumpman logos and a pull tab where you can read, “Quality inspired by the greatest player ever.”, which run up its entire heel.

13. Air Jordan XIII

The Air Jordan XIII was released in 1997 and it was inspired by the Black Panther. The soles of the shoe resemble the pads on a Panther’s paw. It also has a hologram on its upper part resembling the eye of the panther which is its most prominent feature. It also has Zoom Air in the heel and a Phylon lightweight foam midsole, making it the most comfortable shoes in the Air Jordan series.

14. Air Jordan XIV

The creation of the Air Jordan XIV was inspired by Michael Jordan’s Ferrari 550M. These shoes were introduced during the 1998 NBA finals. It was also the last pair of shoes worn by MJ as a Chicago Bull. The shoes featured a Ferrari-like shield with the Jumpman logo. The AJ XIV has 14 Jumpman logo per pair and you can see them on the side heel, outside sole, insole, back heel, toe, and on the metal lace tips.

15. Air Jordan XV

The Air Jordan XV was a challenge for Tinker Hatfield because he was challenged to design an Air Jordan that MJ would never wear on the court. He got the inspiration for the AJ XV from the X-15 fighter plane. It featured an aggressive and sharp-edged silhouette. It also bears the official signature of Michael Jordan. 

16. Air Jordan XVI

The Air Jordan XVI was released in 2001 and it was designed by Wilson Smith III, Nike’s senior footwear designer. The inspiration for the shoe came from marching boots, high-performance automobiles, and architecture. It is one of the most stylish off-court Air Jordan shoes.

17. Air Jordan XVII

The Air Jordan XVII was released in 2002 and it was also designed by Wilson Smith III. It features a midsole which provided a sturdy and stable framework for the shoe. When it was released, it came in a metal briefcase and a CD-ROM was included which contained the Air Jordan XVII song. With this, it became the most expensive Air Jordan at time.

18. Air Jordan XIX

The Air Jordan XIX was released in 2004 and it was designed by several designers such as Wilson Smith III, Jason Mayden, Tate Kurbis, Josh Heard, and Suzette Henri. The design of this shoe was inspired by the Black Mamba snake. It also has a featured lightweight and supportive Tech Flex material, making it the lightest and most breathable Air Jordan.

19. Air Jordan XX

The Air Jordan XX was once again designed by Tinker Hatfield and it was released in 2005. The design was inspired by bicycle shoes. It has a strap that is placed over the laces in the center of the shoes. It was worn by Ray Allen and Carmelo Anthony in the 2004 to 2005 season.

20. Air Jordan XXI

The Air Jordan XXI was released in 2006 and it was designed by D’Wayne Edwards. Its design was inspired by sport touring vehicles. It has a premium and elegant style. It features an Independent Podular Suspension Technology which allows the wearer to choose between Zoom Air or encapsulated Air cushioning in the heel.

21. Air Jordan XX2

The Air Jordan XX2 was released in 2007. The AJ XX2 was inspired from the F-22 Raptor fighter jet with its aggressive and sharp designs. It has two models, one was for MJ’s birthday on February 17 and the other one was the Omega model, featuring a laser-etched image of MJ in 1998 after winning his 6th NBA championship.

22. Air Jordan XX3

The Air Jordan XX3 was designed by Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith. It was the very first basketball shoe to incorporate the Nike Considered construction system. It was developed to reduce waste and use environmental friendly materials. The AJ XX3 has MJ’s initials stitched on the upper part of each colorway.

23. Air Jordan 2009

The Air Jordan 2009 was designed by Jason Mayden. The inspiration for this shoe is from MJ’s defensive focus from the sport of fencing. This is also the second Air Jordan to use the Nike Considered process. It features a durable pleated silk upper part, a carbon fiber arch plate, and a zoom air structure.

24. Air Jordan 2010

The Air Jordan 2010 was designed by Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith for the 25th anniversary of Air Jordan. It was endorsed by Dwayne Wade when it was released on February 13, 2010. When you combine the base of each midsole of the shoes, you will be able to find a quote that reads, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life, and that’s why I succeeded.”. It was a quote from MJ from an ad in 1997.

25. Air Jordan 2011

Tom Luedecke designed the Air Jordan 2011. It was technically two shoes in one because it has interchangeable insoles, the red one and the blue one. The analogy of this, according to Tom, came from MJ. It was like a warrior choosing his weapon before going to a battle when referring to the player picking which insole to use.

26. Air Jordan 2012

The Air Jordan 2012 was designed by Tinker Hatfield and Tom Luedecke. It has six configurations, two interchangeable sleeves, and three insoles which can adapt to various playing styles. The AJ 2012 also has two models, the Deluxe and the Flight.

27. Air Jordan XX8

The Air Jordan XX8 was designed by Josh Heard and Tinker Hatfield. It has all the cushioning and stability from Air Jordan shoes. It lived behind a shroud, zippered, which enables you to decide how much to reveal.

28. Air Jordan XX9

The Air Jordan XX9 was designed by Tinker Hatfield and it was released in honor of the Year of the Goat. It is the lightest ever made in the Air Jordan series. It was debuted in the NBA by Kawhi Leonard and Russel Westbrook.

29. Air Jordan XXX

The Air Jordan XXX was designed by Mark Smith and Tinker Hatfield. What inspired them was MJ soaring to the hoop during the 1988 slam dunk contest. The midsole cushioning of this shoe is made with a plastic material instead of carbon fiber for more flexibility.

30. Air Jordan XXXI

The Air Jordan XXXI was designed by Tate Kuerbis and it was highly influenced by the Air Jordan I. Its upper part is made of leather and it has the Nike Swoosh and Jumpman logos. It also has the Wings logo. The AJ XXXI has an added ankle support because of its higher top. It was used by Team USA during the 2016 Olympic basketball tournament.

31. Air Jordan XXXII

The Air Jordan XXXII was designed by Tate Kuerbis as well. It features a Flyknit upper part comprised of high-tenacity yarn, combining stretch, support, and zonal lockdown. The release of AJ XXXII marked the first time Air Jordan was released worldwide.

32. Air Jordan XXXIII

The Jodan XXXIII is the latest iteration in the Air Jordan series and it is the very first Air Jordan to go laceless. It is also the first sneaker equipped with the new FastFit technology, where the sneaker tightens by itself according to the size of your foot. It also features an oversized tongue and heel section and both have pull tabs.

Continuing Popularity

Air Jordans may have changed over the years, but each new shoe has met with the same fervor. The brand, as well as the shoe, has grown and prospered. Many wonder if the Nike brand would be as popular today without its past Air Jordan connection.

The latest Jordan shoe – the Air Jordan XXXI (31) — was released in 2016 and marked the 32nd year of the Nike and Michael Jordan partnership. Being engineered for performance, they are much more than a shoe fashion item. Ask anyone who has worn a pair of these shoes, and they will tell you that they’re proud to be part of the Air Jordan legacy. Even in a very limited way, anyone who’s ever worn a pair of Air Jordan has been a part of shoe history.