The Best Air Jordan Sneakers Of All Time

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Here’s a fact about sneakerheads: they really know their Roman numerals. Why? Is there some unspoken pact by which they all adhere to a redundant numerical system? No. The real reason lies, somewhat less surprisingly, with a particular line of trainers. More specifically, the most important, influential and genre-defining line of sports footwear ever created – one that also happens to use numerals with each new release.

We’re talking, of course, about the lovechild of sportswear giant Nike and NBA superstar Michael Jordan: the Air Jordan brand. Since 1985, 33 Air Jordan models have acted as the backbone for all sneakers moving forward.

Here are the 20 best Jordans ever made, followed by every sneakerhead’s need-to-know facts about this legendary brand.

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The Best Jordans Of All Time

And now for the main attraction: the best Jordans out there. Here’s our complete round-up of the best Jordan sneakers for men of all time. How many are in your collection?

1. Air Jordan XI

Released in 1995, the XI carried Michael Jordan through one of his most memorable sporting years. It was on his feet when he won MVP, All-Star MVP and Finals MVP. It even made an appearance in basketball blockbuster Space Jam – something that didn’t exactly harm sales.

The sneaker featured a sleek, aerodynamic design, backed up by hits of patent leather. It was sporty and modern, but also classy and elegant. An instant favourite among players and sneaker enthusiasts alike, the XI remains one of the best Jordan models and a sporting stalwart through and through.

air jordan XI

2.  Air Jordan IV

The release of the IV marked a pivotal point in the history of Air Jordan. This was the brand’s first global market release, sowing the seeds for a future as one of the most recognised and respected sports labels on the planet. It was also the second Air Jordan sneaker to be designed by designer, architect and Nike legend Tinker Hatfield, further solidifying the unique look that would become emblematic of the franchise.

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Sports fans, however, will remember it for a different reason. This is the shoe in which Michael Jordan made “The Shot”: an epic, buzzer-beating, series-winning basket hit in the last three seconds against the Cavaliers in 1989. The stuff of sporting legend and another important step on the road to greatness for both MJ and his sneakers.

air jordan iv

3. Air Jordan I

It’s hard to believe now, but legend has it that when Michael Jordan set eyes on his first pro model, he wasn’t a fan. “I’m not wearing that shoe. I’ll look like a clown,” he’s rumoured to have said.

With time, the shoe slowly grew on him, and everyone else. Today, the Air Jordan 1 is nothing short of a design icon and certainly one of the best Air Jordans of all time. The precursor to the most lauded line of sports shoes ever produced, its NBA-banned colours and simple styling remain favourite talking points among both sneakerheads and design enthusiasts alike.

air jordan I

4. Air Jordan III

It’s a little-known fact that the Air Jordan III was originally designed with a Swoosh to the side. This was the first model for which Nike enlisted the help of Tinker Hatfield – a man who would go on to create more than two-dozen shoes for the franchise. He had other ideas and elected to take the logo off.

“I realised very early on that it would really piss off all the people at Nike, which I loved doing, to be honest,” Hatfield said in an interview with Sole Collector. “That usually means that I’m doing something different, so I really wanted to shake people up.”

air jordan III

5. Air Jordan V

Originally released in 1990, the Air Jordan V was something of a trendsetter in terms of nineties sneaker design. Tinker Hatfield (him again) took inspiration from the shark-tooth nose art often found on World War II American fighter jets. He used similar shapes to decorate the midsole, in reference to Jordan’s “biting style” on the basketball court.

In more recent years, the V has enjoyed unprecedented levels of hype as one of the best Jordans out there, thanks in no small part to a makeover by transcendent skate wear label Supreme in 2015. This made it the first ever Air Jordan shoe to receive the Supreme treatment and cemented its place as both a both a sporting classic and a streetwear staple.

air jordan V

6. Air Jordan VII

As Michael Jordan took steps towards becoming a global sporting icon, the Air Jordan VII kept him surefooted along the way. As well as winning the 1992 NBA championship (and Finals MVP for the second year running), MJ also led the USA to a gold medal at the Olympics in Barcelona.

In design terms, the VII marked another important milestone in Air Jordan’s journey to becoming the force it is today. For the first time, Hatfield felt the franchise was strong enough in its own right to lose the Nike branding entirely. To achieve this, he did away with any exterior Nike logos and the visible Air window to the sole. This was the first time Air Jordan was marketed separately from Nike and Nike Basketball, helping to distinguish it as a separate entity.

air jordan VII

7. Air Jordan VIII

Even by his standards, 1993 was a crazy year for Michael Jordan. He became the first player in basketball history to clinch Finals MVP for three consecutive seasons and led the Chicago Bulls to a third straight title. With achievements like that it’d be difficult to remain grounded, so it’s a good thing he had his Air Jordan VIIIs to strap himself into.

The eighth Jordan pro model whipped sneakerheads up into a frenzy almost immediately. The strappy design was out of this world and unlike anything else around at the time. Meanwhile, the colourways were spattered with more nineties neon vibrancy than the inside of Mr. Motivator’s wardrobe. Today it remains a collectors’ favourite and one of the defining shoes of the decade.

air jordan VIII

8. Air Jordan VI

Originally released in 1991, Jordan debuted the Air Jordan VI during the 1991 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, where MJ led all scorers with 26 points. The sneaker dropped with five original colourways: White/Infrared, Black/Infrared, Maroon, Sport Blue and Carmine, and was also designed by Tinker Hatfield (surprised?).

The design for this sneaker was heavily influenced by Jordan’s German sports car, with Hatfield even jokingly referring to the shoe’s rubber heel tabs as “spoilers.” Four of the original colourways sported a monochromatic look with matching accents along the midsole and branding hits. The “Carmines”, however, feature a two-toned approach, with bright red paneling overlaid on the white upper.

Fun fact: The Air Jordan VI would be the last model to feature visible Nike Air branding.

air jordan VI

9. Air Jordan XII

The Air Jordan’s XII claim to fame? The flu. This boldly designed sneaker, inspired by the Japanese “Rising Sun” flag emblem, helped Michael Jordan score 38 points in one of his most legendary performances: Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. Battling a serious case of the flu, Jordan fought sickness and dehydration to lead his team to a series-shifting win. The colourway he was wearing that night (black/red) has been dubbed “Flu Game” ever since.

The Jordan XII is also famous for being the first shoe officially under the Jordan Brand (founded in 1997). It was also the first Air Jordan to not have a Swoosh anywhere on it (Air Jordans VII-XI) still had Nike logos on the insoles), and was the last one to come in a Nike-branded box.

air jordan XII

10. Air Jordan II

After Jordan injured his foot in his second season, Nike created the Air Jordan II to adapt to his injury. Designed by the godfather of Nike Air shoes, Bruce Kilgore,  the shoe had a soft midsole that redefined sports shoes by marrying luxury with sports performance. Jordan would go on to win the first of his seven consecutive scoring titles with these.

The Jordan II was also costlier than its predecessor – exceeding $100 at retail. The reason? It was produced in Italy using faux lizard skin. There’s also the theory that in 1994, the OG models were destroyed – not lost. The intrigue alone puts this model in the top 20!

air jordan II

11. Air Jordan IX

Released in 1993/1994, the Air Jordan IX would never be worn by Jordan on the court due to his brief retirement stint. However, they are memorialized through the Michael Jordan statue that was unveiled in November 1994 outside the Chicago Bull’s United Center stadium.

Designed by Hatfield, the shoe recognizes and reflects on Jordan’s global superstardom, featuring texts in various languages, including Japanese, Russian, German, Spanish, French, and Swahili.  The words translated to words inspired by Michael, like “Dedicated”, “Intense”, and “Sport”. Even the heel’s Jumpman logo featured the world behind it! Since these shoes were never worn by Jordan himself on the court, a few NBA players were given customized versions to wear. These players included: Penny Hardaway, Latrell Sprewell, BJ Armstrong, Mitch Richmond, Kendall Gill, and Harold Miner.

air jordan IX

12. Air Jordan X

This version of the Air Jordan was designed when everyone thought that MJ had hung up the towel for good and moved on to his brief stint in the MLB. That means that Jordan didn’t have a say in the design, until he returned to basketball in 1995. The original designs of the X had a toe overlay that was nixed by Jordan upon his return.

Instead, the X that we all know and love (and was worn on the court) was in the Chicago colourway with #45 stitched into the side to reflect Jordan’s new jersey number. The Air Jordan X also featured MJ’s career highlights and achievements from 1985-1993 inscribed on each sole as a tribute to his legacy. Was it premature? Yes. But was it a touching tribute? Also yes.

air jordan X

13. Air Jordan XVII

After a second brief retirement, Jordan joined the Washington Wizards for his comeback season of 2001-2002 – and these Air Jordans reflected this move. Released for retail in 2002, the shoe had three colourways in its standard edition, including the most popular Wizards-friendly White/College Blue version. Designed by Wilson Smith of the Jordan Brand, the inspiration behind the shoe was the “smooth lines and flow of a jazz solo”. You can find music notes on the lace cover with other inspirations coming from Aston Martin luxury sports cars and golf.

This shoe (of course, one of the best Jordans) ended up on the pricier side, being sold in a brief-case shoebox with a CD-ROM. With the Air Jordan XVII on his feet, Jordan successfully completed his second return to the NBA, leading the Wizards in points, assists, and steals despite only playing 60 games due to a knee injury. He even became the fourth player in NBA history to record 30,000 career points, meaning that the XVII can and should be considered the comeback Air Jordan model.

jordan XVII

14. Air Jordan XVIII

Worn by Jordan for his final season ever in the NBA, this would be the last shoe that Jordan would wear on the court. Jordan Brand Senior Designer, Tate Kuerbris, was inspired by the sleek design of Formula 1 race cars, with carbon fiber playing a big role in the shoe. A carbon fiber “comfort plate” supported the midsole, while more carbon fiber was found at the heel of the upper.

Like many Air Jordans, it was also partly inspired by luxurious Italian dress shoes and was even packaged with a hand towel and brush for proper upkeep. The shoes also came with a “Driver’s Manual” to really play into this race car theme. The XVIII would go down in history as the last shoe of Jordan’s NBA career.

air jordan XVIII

15. Air Jordan XX

There is a love/hate relationship with the XX – and for that very reason, it makes it onto this list of best Jordans. This 20th-anniversary model brought Tinker Hatfield out of his Jordan-design hiatus and drew inspiration from motorcycle racing. The most unique aspect of the shoe? The free-floating ankle strap and the newly debuted laser graphics designed by Mark Smith.

For the XX, the laser graphics featured a mosaic of various Air Jordan models, logos, and stories from MJ’s career. The shoe is also symbolic: “85” and “05” can be found one the heel of the left shoe, representing the release years of the Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 20 respectively.

air jordan XX

16. Air Jordan XIX

Also known as a forgotten gem, the XIX hit the market in 2004. Also designed by Tate Kuerbris, it was inspired by the black mamba snake (before Kobe Bryant took up that mantle). The shroud (which couldn’t be removed) consisted of a material called Tech Flex, a tough but light and flexible material used in the auto industry. This version of the Air Jordan also restarted their love of patent leather, which was featured on every version and colourway.

The XIX also features a carbon fiber support shank, and an immense amount of cushioning thanks to a full-length Zoom Air bag double-stacked with a traditional Air unit in the heel, that’s then all contained within a Phylon midsole. It has been dubbed one of the most comfortable Air Jordans ever.

air jordan XIX

17. Air Jordan XIV

The XIV will go down in history as the shoe Jordan wore during his famous “Last Shot” with the Chicago Bulls during their 1998 NBA Finals victory, giving the Bulls their second three-peat and Jordan’s sixth ring. The colourway he wore on this historic night (black and red) is now known as the Last Shot colourway.

The design also leads to this being one of the favorite and best Air Jordans of all time. With Hatfield at the helm, the shoe was inspired by Jordan’s love at the time: Ferrari. The signature look of this famous Italian sports car is translated into the sneaker in various ways, including a sleek silhouette, a Ferrari-shaped Jumpman jewel logo, the “spoiler” tongue, and a ventilated medial “exhaust” hole. Along with the tech, this shoe is considered one of the most versatile Jordans.

air jordan XIV

18. Air Jordan XVI

Despite this shoe releasing during one of Jordan’s basketball hiatuses and being designed by someone other than Hatfield, the XVI is still one of the more beloved Jordans to make it to market in the “Post-Bulls” era. Released in 2001, the shoe debuted on Jordan’s birthday and was released in four colourways. The designer, Wilson Smith, used important elements from previous Jordans while also looking at futuristic and unorthodox ideas to create the final look.

The now-iconic shroud was inspired by Jordan’s transition from player to executive. With the shroud on, it resembles a classy dress shoe. With the shroud off, the shoe transforms into a design strictly for performance. At the time, the Air Jordan XVI proved that even with Tinker out of the picture, the Jordan line could continue just as strong.

air jordan XVI

19. Air Jordan XX1

The XX1 is undeservedly slept on. Known for its red suede construction, this 2006 shoe was designed to be “simple and clean” by designer D’Wayne Edwards. Like other Jordans, this version was inspired by a sports car: the Bentley Continental GT. You can see comes through within the XX1’s mesh paneling on the midsole that mimics the signature grill of the ultra-luxurious sports car.

The XX1’s also has a secret. To help thwart counterfeiting, the White/Varsity Red/Metallic Silver launch colourway features a mysterious message that appears under blacklight on the medial ankle. With a special decoding system, certain letters are rearranged to spell “authentic”.

air jordan XX1

20. Air Jordan XXXV DNA

This is the newest model on the list, with it being released in 2021, but we have a feeling this shoe will make quite the splash. One of the wildest looking Air Jordans yet, this model still reflects its 90’s predecessor — along with an eclipse plate. Do you remember that iconic tongue and collar on the Air Jordan V? The XXXV pays homage to this 1990’s feature.

As the brand continues to improve its technology, this latest model is no different. Mixing lightweight materials with old-school suede and leather, this shoe is ready to go on the court straight from the box. With its continued use of Zoom Air cushioning in the heel, it’s comfortable, new, and ready to go.

air jordan XXXVDNA

A Brief History Of Air Jordans

The Air Jordan franchise is the fertile soil in which the roots of the sneakerhead movement took hold. This was the birthplace of collector culture and the shoe that cemented the place of the ‘pro model’ trainer in sportswear. Today, the Jordan ‘Jumpman’ logo is every bit as iconic as Nike‘s Swoosh or Adidas’ Trefoil.

Michael Jordan

Logic would dictate that the brand’s story began with Michael Jordan’s first pro model: 1985’s Air Jordan I. However, it was actually a different shoe that paved the way for the hype, the Nike Air Ship, a mysterious precursor to the first official Jordan sneaker and one for which myths and legends abound.

The story goes that, in the mid-1980s, Michael Jordan was being fined $5,000 per game for wearing a certain pair of black and red basketball shoes. These unconventionally coloured kicks broke the NBA’s ‘uniform of uniformity’ rule and so then-commissioner David Stern “threw them out of the game”. Legend has it that MJ continued to wear the sneakers anyway, with Nike picking up the bill.

It’s often mistakenly understood that this shoe was the black and red – or ‘bred’, as they’re known by collectors – Air Jordan I. In fact, it was the Air Ship. Still, the error certainly didn’t harm Nike‘s sales. The Air Jordan I was a runaway success and the first sneaker in a 33-year chain of annual releases – each one just as sought-after as the last.

Air Jordans on FeetAir Jordan V

Buzz around sneaker releases is nothing new these days, but before Air Jordan came along, it was. This is a brand that didn’t fuel the hype so much as actively create it. As a result, the best Jordans were and are some of the most coveted sneakers on the face of the Earth – something which has, in the past, led to problems. And we’re not just talking about the long queues on drop day.

At times, Jordans have been known to whip up kick-hungry crooks into such a frenzy that people have lost their lives over pairs. A 2015 documentary estimated that over 1,000 people die every year as a result of fatal muggings for sneakers, and Air Jordan has been repeatedly pointed to, by news media, law enforcement and NBA stars alike, as the brand at the centre of the madness.

The Air Jordan Sneakers Design

It’s hard to state the impact the Jordan brand has had on sportswear. A lot of the shoe’s success can be attributed to the fact they were created for a purpose. In the same vein as military clothing or diving watches, which served a function first and foremost, Air Jordans were, and are, created for performance on the basketball court.

Design came a close second place behind function though, and the early Jordans have a distinctive look, which today, screams nineties. There was always a luxurious element too – shoes were often made from suede and tumbled leather with robust rubber soles that appealed to casual wearers.

Many of the early designs are truly timeless. The Jordan III, for example, was first introduced in 1988, over 30 years ago, but it still looks decidedly modern today.

Air Jordans on FeetAir Jordan I

Some have accused the Jordan brand of watering itself down over the years, and this is true to some extent. There are numerous, cheaper styles available that take inspiration from original Air Jordan models, but lack the performance, overall appeal and rarity. Jordan’s line of clothing essentially makes it a fashion brand, but all the shoes with ‘Air’ and numerals in the name are the ones to take note of.

The Release Model

The best Air Jordans have always been highly sought after and, thanks to carefully timed, limited-run releases, they still are. Every year the brand will turn to its archives and re-release old models in new and ‘OG’ colourways. The latter nearly always sell out, and values can soar when sneakers are re-sold on sites like eBay and StockX.

Take the Jordan IV Retro ‘White Cement’ released in 2016 at £165. Today, the lowest asking price on StockX is £265. Collaborations are often more extreme. The recently released Jordan VI Retro ‘Travis Scott’ retailed at £180 is still sold out on the Nike SNKRs app and website. At the time of writing, you can pick up a pair for no less than £647 on StockX. So, if you want to make some easy money, queue up and then re-sell online.

FAQs About Jordan Sneakers for Men

So now that you have this best-of list, we wanted to share a few more fun facts with you:

Where is the best place to buy Jordans?

While you can’t go wrong with the Nike website – specifically the SNKRs section – if you aren’t quick (or just plain lucky), you won’t usually snag the latest releases. That’s where reselling websites, like StockX and eBay, come in handy despite the inflated costs.

If you can’t strike any luck with these options, other websites that host a variety of Air Jordans include Flight Club, Stadium Goods, The Sole Collector App, Sole Supremacy, GOAT, and more.

What are the top-selling Jordans of all time?

According to eBay, one of the top-selling Jordans is the Air Jordan Bred 11.

What is the most popular Jordan right now?

While it’s hard to say, these Air Jordans are making quite the stir right now: Trophy Room x Air Jordan 1 High, Travis Scott x Air Jordan 6 British Khahi, Air Jordan 5 Raging Bull and Air Jordan 1 High University Blue.

What is the rarest Jordan?

The Air Jordan 12 “PSNY” Regional Pack would be the rarest Jordan out there thanks to their geographic exclusivity. The regional Air Jordan 12s in Wheat, Bordeaux, and Olive rank as the rarest of all.

So whether you’re into one of the latest collaborations or strictly want something off the top 20 list, there is an Air Jordan for every sneakerhead out there.

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