Air, the movie about Nike’s quest to sign the future GOAT Michael Jordan directed by Ben Affleck with an all-star cast, is in theaters now (check out our review of the movie here). And in honor of this movie, I’ve come up with my list of the top 5 Air Jordan models of all time.
Clearly, taking a “risk” on MJ in 1984 has paid off handsomely for Nike. Billions of dollars and 37 models and counting later, Jordan Brand and the Air Jordan line remain highly sought after 20 years after Michael last played in an NBA game. Without Jordan, Nike isn’t the Nike we know today, as Sonny Vaccaro told Rich Eisen earlier this week.
Now, this is my list, therefore it may differ from yours, which is totally cool. In fact, if you either agree or disagree I’d love to hear your list. Hit me on up on Twitter at @ByAndySilva to share it with me. Without further ado, here’s my list.
No. 5: Air Jordan 6
This is shoe is most notable as it was the shoe in which Michael Jordan won his first NBA championship.
It continued, broadly, some of the design elements of previous Air Jordan models while also serving a bit as the end of the road for where the line had been. This would be the last Air Jordan model to feature visible Nike Air branding (Nike branding was seen on insoles, but let’s face it, that doesn’t count). It was also the last model to feature a visible Air unit, as well as the last model to feature Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon in its TV ads (although Mars would make a few cameos here and there in the future).
The shoe featured a sports car-insipred spoiler on the back just above the Nike Air branding, while it’s two pull tab holes on the tongue also standout. The Black/Infrared colorway is perhaps the most popular colorway, with its 2019 retro selling for an average of $353 on StockX, along with the Carmine colorway, which has an average sales price of $232. Travis Scott also released his take on the 6, first in an Olive colorway in 2019 that has an average sale price of $518, and then in a British Khaki colorway in 2021, which has an average sale price of $398.
No. 4: Air Jordan 7
The Air Jordan 7 came along at perhaps the height of MJ’s popularity. Back-to-back NBA titles? Check. Back-to-back MVP awards? Check. Olympic gold medal as part of the Dream Team? Check. Commercials with Bugs Bunny? Check.
The Air Jordan 7 was a significant departure from previous Air Jordan models. Inspired by an Afropop poster legendary designer Tinker Hatfield came across in a shop in Portland, the Air Jordan 7 took a page from another shoe designed by the legendary Hatfield, the Nike Huarache basketball sneaker. Ultra lightweight well before it was cool or industry standard, the Air Jordan 7 utilized an internal bootie system and is, in my opinion, one of the more comfortable Air Jordan models to this day. The use of shapes and colors inspired by the aforementioned Afropop poster, along with the lack of visible Air or much Nike branding also set this model apart. As I have noted previously, the Air Jordan 7 is really the early beginning of what would become Jordan Brand.
The OG Olympic colorway remains one of my favorite Air Jordan colorways of all time, and at least in part inspired 2022’s Trophy Room collab (average StockX sale price: $303). Other noteworthy models include a Doernbecher drop, as well as Oregon Ducks and Ray Allen PEs. There have also been persistent rumors of a Travis Scott collab on the 7, so stay tuned.
No. 3: Air Jordan 1
The only shoe on this list not designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Air Jordan 1 changed sneaker culture, and really culture writ large, forever. In the days when Converse didn’t shine a spotlight on the player so much as the shoe, Nike took the opposite tact with the Air Jordan 1.
As told in the movie, Nike basketball was struggling big time in 1984, really on the chopping block. They had to take a big swing in order to try to reverse their fortunes and that big swing proved to be signing Michael Jordan and going all in on him. I went into the history of the Air Jordan 1 in greater detail last year and more specifically into the “Chicago” colorway for the drop of the “Lost and Found” 1s in November. The “Lost and Found” 1s may be the most beautiful sneaker in my collection (which it should be considering I had to pay resale value for it given how hard these were to get when they released). These were groundbreaking upon release in 1985 and laid the groundwork for what basketball sneakers would become in the future.
Not only were they groundbreaking in 1984, but the Air Jordan 1 remains relevant today. Go anywhere in the world and you’re likely to see at least one pair of Air Jordan 1s. Even for Gen Zers who never even saw MJ play, these remain the “it shoe.” The “Lost and Found” 1s were one of the hottest releases of 2022 and have an average resale price of $420 on StockX.
No. 2: Air Jordan 3
If the Air Jordan 1 helped make Nike what it is today, then the Air Jordan 3 is the shoe that helped save Nike. As I noted previously, Michael Jordan was ready to leave Nike after the Air Jordan 2. Luckily for all involved and all of us in the future, Tinker Hatfield delivered an all-time classic that changed the game. Also notably, the Air Jordan 3 marked the debut of Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon character in commercials for the line.
This model is considered one of the most wearable of all Air Jordan models and is one of those sneakers that looks good brand new out of the box or cooked after many, many wearings. A mid-cut shoe with a primarily leather upper, the thing that draws everyone’s attention is the elephant print on the toe box and toward the heel. The shoe released in four colorways in 1988 — the Black/Cement, the White/Cement, the Fire Reds and the White/True Blue. The Air Jordan 3 Reimagined (average StockX sale price of $292) is already a sneaker-of-the-year candidate despite it only being April and it could be argued this model is the beginning of an unprecedented sneaker success for the Jordan line. Of course, MJ delivered in the shoe as well, including a win in the Slam Dunk contest, a Defensive Player of the Year honors and an MVP award.
No. 1: Air Jordan 11
I mentioned when I wrote about last year’s annual holiday Air Jordan 11 release, but I think the Air Jordan 11 is the greatest sneaker of all time and Tinker Hatfield agrees with me.
A ballistic mesh upper with a striking patent leather mudguard, it’s fitting that this is the Air Jordan that was on MJ’s feet for the historic 72-10 Bulls romp to another NBA championship. MJ had been asking for years for something like what Tinker brought him in the Air Jordan 11. Not only did the build help MJ on the court, with the pattern leather helping to keep MJ’s foot from rolling over along with the carbon fiber plate providing additional torsion support, but they shined off the court as well. People have worn them to proms, weddings and most famously Boyz II Men wore them to the Grammys. These were sneakers that could be worn with suits. These also almost didn’t happen, as Tinker began developing them when MJ was still on his quixotic quest on the baseball diamond. Tinker was told the Air Jordan line was done and to forget it, but luckily for all of us sneakerheads Tinker had a feeling MJ would be back on the hardwood and he would be proven correct.
As I noted above, the Air Jordan 11 has become something of a holiday tradition, with recent releases including the Space Jams, Concords, Black/Reds and Cool Greys (sidenote: Jordan Brand, can we PLEASE finally get a retro of MJ’s All-Star Columbia Blues? Thanks). Nike has even gone so far as to add the futuristic self-lacing technology of the Air Mags from Back to the Future 2 into the Air Jordan 11 Adapt. The classic Concords (average sale price of $450 on StockX) remain a grail for many and it’s easy to see why — they are a thing of beauty. It takes a lot to top sneakers like the Air Jordan 3 and the Air Jordan 1, but this shoe is able to do it and then some.
Well, that’s my list. Again, let me know what you think and what your list looks like — I had given the Air Jordan 13 and Air Jordan 12 some serious consideration for this list as well, but they just missed out.
Make sure to check out this month’s release date calendar as well!