Back in the early 1980’s, Michael Jordan had a considerable following as a basketball player. It appeared that he was one of the best players at the time, and could potentially go on to become one of the best players that had ever played the game. During that time, Nike saw the potential within this young athlete and decided to take a big gamble: create a brand that was specifically curated for Michael Jordan. In 1984 they would come up with the Air Jordan line with the release of their first sneaker. This brand would go on to become arguably the most influential and financially successful sneaker brand of all time. Today Air Jordans are some of the most though-after sneakers among fans and sneaker heads, and people will often wait in-line for days before the release of a new Air Jordan model. The brand makes some $2 billion every year, and is certainly one of the largest moneymakers for Nike. Many athletes are signed under the Air Jordan brand, and countless sneakers have been released with the Jumpman logo on them. But out of all the various Air Jordan sneakers, which one’s have been the most successful and influential?
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
The Air Jordan IV
Originally introduced back in 1989, the Air Jordan IV’s have gone on to become one of the most successful and popular models for the brand. Designed by Tinker Hatfield, this was the first Air Jordan sneaker that was released to the global market. The sneaker featured extensive use of plastic mesh, a heel tab, and reinforced eyelets. It’s unmistakable a sneaker from the 1980’s, and the sneaker was even featured in Spike Lee’s prominent Do The Right Thing. Over the years it has be re-released with many different spin-offs (like all Air Jordans) including the pair pictured above.
Photo from Nike
The Air Jordan XI
Another prolific Air Jordan sneaker would by the Air Jordan XI’s, often simply referred as “11’s”. These sneakers came out in the late 1990’s when Michael Jordan actually retired from professional basketball to enter into the minor baseball leagues. It was the first sneaker to feature patent leather, and it even used carbon fiber in the design. At the time they were only prototypes, but Michael would then wear this model when he returned to the NBA in 1996. Jordan was actually fined for wearing the sneakers as the colors did not match those of the Chicago Bulls, but that didn’t stop him.
Photo from Nike
The Air Jordan V
Originally released in 1990 and again designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Air Jordan V’s quickly became very popular. While they do look similar to the IV’s, it’s reflective tounge and the translucent rubber soles differentiated the sneaker from its predecessor. It is understood that Hatfield drew influence from American WWII fighter planes that had shark teeth on the sides. There have been a few different variations of this model, however the original models came under scrutiny as the white soles would turn yellow after frequent use. Still, that didn’t hurt sales.
Photo from hiphopwired.com
The Air Jordan III
Michael Jordan was about to end his contract with Nike, but upon seeing the Air Jordan III’s, he stayed with the company. This is why these sneakers are often described as the “shoes that saved Nike”, and why we rank them so high up on our list. The unique pattern on the shoe was eye catching, but the most important detail was that these were the first Air Jordans to feature the Jumpman logo on the bottom of the sole. You know, so when you dunk over someone they know exactly what shoes you’re wearing. Pretty clever, right? These have often been described as Jordan’s favorite pair, and they go down it the books as one of the most popular and influential models ever.
Photo from sneakerhead.com
The Air Jordan I
Originally released in 1984, and as the name implies, the Air Jordan I’s were the first pair of Air Jordans ever made. The sneaker was designed by Peter Moore and originally featured a color scheme to match the uniform of the Bulls. NBA Commissioner David Stem would ban Jordan from wearing the sneakers, but he did so anyway, getting fined each game. This was the perfect mixture of an attractive shoe worn by a prominent athlete and a shoe that had an “outlaw” nature to it that allowed Nike to successfully market the sneaker. These are the sneakers that started the entire craze, so we had to put them at the number one spot.
Photo from Nike