- Joined Apr 7, 2002
The Air Jordan II represented a progression from the Air Jordan I in the same way that the Lamborghini Murcielago represents a progression from the Volkswagen Beetle. Made in Italy of polyurethane and lizard-embossed leather, the Air Jordan II was infinitely sleeker and lighter than its instantly obsolete predecessor. The Air Jordan ball-and-wings logo moved from the ankle to the tongue, and the Nike Swoosh moved off the shoe completely. It was such a departure that Sports Illustrated even did a sidebar on it (headlined, if I remember correctly, Leapin Lizards).
It was also more expensive, retailing for $100almost double the original Jordans $65 price tag. But it was worth it. There was the Italian construction, for one thing, and the sleek, exotic look, which went equally well with shorts or dress pants. And then there was Jordan himself, who won his first Slam Dunk title in a pair of white, black and red hightops.
It would get better.
Sunday, January 28, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/01/jordan-iii/
By 1987, the relationship between Michael Jordan and Nike was anything but perfect. Jordan had wanted to sign with another brand so Nike turned to a young designer named Tinker Hatfield to work on the III. Hatfield had initially joined the company as a corporate architect, but had by then made a huge splash in footwear with the Air Max and Air Revolution projects. He had a different approach to design, one that involved the athlete more than ever before.
The III, a mid-cut shoe with elephant print accents and Visible Air in the heel (and a new logoa silhouette of Jordan dunking that became known as the Jumpman), was the first Hatfield/Jordan collaboration. It saved Nikes relationship with Jordan. And, perhaps in appreciation, Jordan won another dunk contest. And the Defensive Player of the Year. And the MVP.
Monday, January 29, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/01/jordan-iv-2/
It was hard to see the III go. But as the Air Jordan division continued to grow, it became apparent that a new shoe (along with a new Spike Lee commercial) would be dropping every year.
The IV wasnt all that exciting from a design perspective. In essence, it was just a more complex version of the III, sharing its predecessors mid-cut silhouette and Visible Air cushioning, and adding plastic wings and mesh inserts and complex fan-shaped lace loops. The elephant print of the III was replaced by a spatter-finish plastic. Very 80s.
But what the IV is known for best is what it did on the court. They called it The Shot. It happened in Cleveland, in the playoffs, in the waning moments of Game 5, the Bulls trailing. Jordan caught the ball at the top of the key, elevated over Cavaliers defender Craig Ehlo and buried the game-winner at the buzzer. The Bulls moved on.
And the IVs found immortality.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/01/jordan-v-3/
By 1990 everything was clicking for Jordan and his teammateswith the Bulls, and with Nike. The shoe that Hatfield came up with was different than anything that had been tried before: it featured a reflective 3M tongue, a partially-clear outsole and a flame design on the midsole inspired by the P-51 Mustang, a World War II fighter plane. They also came with lacelocks designed with clear plastic wings, the first extra to come with a pair of Jordans since the original Jordans extra laces.
The shoe was out thereHatfield had to try extra-hard to get it through Nike corporatebut it worked. It was a futuristic shoe for a futuristic time. Unfortunately, Isiah Thomas and the Pistons made sure that Jordan and the Bulls wouldnt have the ultimate success until the future, but it was coming. Very soon.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/01/air-jordan-vi/
The Air Jordan VI was to the V what the IV was to the IIIthe return of the same basic silhouette with a bunch of added-on plastic and rubber. The strip of leather across the toe disappearednot to return until the Xand the 3M tongue sadly disappeared. The VI may have the distinction of being the easiest Air Jordan to put on, thanks to its rubber loop on the heel and complementary finger holes in the tongue. The clear outsole rubber remained, just with more of a zig-zag pattern, and circular holes for traction rather than the Vs traditional herringbone.
But once again, what happened in the VIs was more important than the shoes themselves. The Bulls finally toppled the Pistonssweeping them in the Conference Finals and finishing them off with a 20-point win in Detroit. They went on to beat the Lakers in a somewhat anti-climactic Finals, and the legend grew.
Thursday, February 1, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-vii/
Nike VP of Creative Design Tinker Hatfield may be best known for his work with the Air Jordan, but hes responsible for so much more. Air Max? His. The entire concept of cross-training? Yes. He also came up with something called Huarache, a line (a cross-trainer, a runner and a basketball shoe) of minimalistic ultra-lightweight sneakers.
The reason I bring this up now is that the Air Jordan VII was imbued with Huarache DNA (they came out around the same time). The sleekest and most slimmed-down Air Jordan yet, the VII shared the Huaraches minimalist upper and lack of a Visible Air bubble (the first Air Jordan to not have Visible Air since the II).
And while the VII might be best remembered for its ad campaign (featuring a certain wascally wabbit), it should be remembered as the most successful on-court shoe Michael Jordan ever wore. Another NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal with the Dream Team. The lightweight shoe was a heavyweight on the court.
Friday, February 2, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-viii/
If the Air Jordan VII represented a shift toward minimalism, the VIII came all the way back in the opposite direction. Laces covered by crisscrossing Velcro straps, tongue adorned with what looked like a latch-hook Jumpman patch, the Jordan VIII was the sneaker equivalent of a 59 Cadillac. If the intent of the VII was to demonstrate that less is more, this seemed to imply that no, more was more. And the more more there was, the better. The commercials once again went the Warner Brothers route, this time featuring Marvin the Martian and his cohorts. A preview of Space Jam to come.
The shoe itself was a bit heavy, a bit prone to overheating. But it didnt seem to bother Jordan himself much. He won yet another NBA championshiphis thirdand yet another NBA scoring title. Business as usual.
Or so we all thought.
Saturday, February 3, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-ix/
The announcement came on October 6, 1993: Michael Jordan, the greatest player in the game, was retiring from the NBA at the age of 30. The NBA would go on, of courseas would Air Jordan.
The Air Jordan IX, of course, was fully designed and ready to go by the time Jordan announced his retirementit actually released in stores in November of 1993. And it was a vast improvement over its predecessor. The straps disappeared and the IX was lighter and cooler, featuring wide-spread lace loops and a mostly mesh tongue. The outsole was inscribed with words and phrases in various languages, emphasizing Jordans global appeal.
And since MJ wasnt in the League anymore, the IX was the first Air Jordan to be worn by other NBA athletes in their own teams colorwaysmost notably Latrell Sprewell of the Golden State Warriors. Jordan wore them, too, of courseonly his were cleated.
Sunday, February 4, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-x/
Also consider that the Air Jordan X was the first Jordan to be released in the colors of NBA teams other than the Bulls. There was a Chicago colorway, of course, but also Orlando, Seattle, New York and Sacramento. These were worn, respectively, by Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill, Hubert Davis and Mitch Richmond. Harold Miner of the Miami Heatalso known as Baby Jordanwore the Chicago colorway, as did Scottie Pippen.
But then Michael did come back, of course, on March 18, 1995, wearing the Xs for the final 17 games of the 94-95 regular season. Welcome back.
Monday, February 5, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xi/
If the Air Jordan line as a whole represents sports luxury, the Air Jordan XI is the individual shoe that represents that ideal best. And to think, it almost never existed at all. According to designer Tinker Hatfield, Nike tried to dissuade him from designing the shoe at all, expecting Jordan to stay retired. Even Jordan himself thought he was done. But Tinker kept going, because he had his own ideas: I really wanted this shoe to be the greatest basketball shoe ever because it was really gonna be this triumphant return sort of thing.
Correct on both counts. The Jordan XI was a stripped-down speed machine, radically different from everything that had come before. But Jordans fame and Hatfields track record were enough to get anything through. It used futuristic materialsa carbon fiber spring plate, ballistic mesh upper, clear outsoles, Zoom Air cushioning, and most notably, shiny patent leather. This was the masterstrokenot only did it provide a distinctive dress-shoe look, but its virtually stretch-proof, making the shoe stronger without adding weight. As for the triumphant return: Anyone else win 70 games?
Tuesday, February 6, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xii/
If there is any constant in the 20-plus year history of the Air Jordan, its that whatever swings one way usually comes back the other. And after the radical design of the XI, Hatfield and Jordan came back with a more traditional look for the XII. It shared many of the XIs technological advancesthe carbon spring plate and the Zoom cushioningbut traded the mesh-and-patent upper for good ol fashioned full-grain leather.
The tradeoff was that the XII wasnt as fast-looking as the XIbut the support it provided was even great enough for Bulls centers Luc Longley and Bill Wennington, who wore it (along with Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc and Ron Harper) for parts of the 96-97 season. Different shoe, same results for Jordan and his teammates, though. Championship number five, this time over the Utah Jazz.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xiii/
Once again, though: different shoe, same result. Another championship, finishing off the repeat threepeat, once again against the Utah Jazz. He ended it, as proper, with the last shot to end all last shots. (But what were those on his feet?)
Thursday, February 8, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xiv/
The shoes Michael Jordan was wearing when he took his last shot in the NBAum, OK, his last shot as a Bullwere the Air Jordan XIVs. Normally they would have never been unveiled that early, but Jordan knew he would be retiring this time, and he (and Nike) thought it would be a good idea to get the next shoe out there. Especially on his feet.
You cant fault the logic, because it worked out better than anyone could have possibly hoped, but even if MJ had never worn the XIVs in an NBA game, it would still be an all-time classic sneaker. Modeled after Jordans Ferrari 550 Maranello, the XIV was a sleek roadster of a shoe (the lowest mid yet) with swoopy lines, silvery mesh-backed air vents and a Ferrari-like Jumpman shield.
Since Michael Jordan wasnt on NBA floors for the lockout-shortened 1999 season, it was up to others to carry the on-court legacy. Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, among others.
Friday, February 9, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xv/
Im not entirely sure of the dates, but the Air Jordan XV may very well have been the first Air Jordan to be entirely designed with the knowledge that Michael Jordan was retired from the NBA, never to return again. (Well, to the best of anyones knowledge.) It was also the final Air Jordan to be designed by Tinker Hatfield. (Well, to the best of anyones knowledge.)
Whatever the case, it sure was different. Taking cues from the supersonic X-15 fighter plane (the Kevlar mesh upper and the first all-black stealth colorway) as well as Prada Sport shoes (the black upper and the red stripe up the back of the heel), the Jordan XV managed to be subtle and distinctive at the same time. It was cut higher than the XIV (and a bit clunkier) and the tongue (which wasnt even a separate part) stuck out in a peak up frontnot unlike MJs own tongue.
Jordan himself never wore the XV in an NBA game. Instead it was up to guys like Ray Allen, Derek Anderson and Reggie Miller to carry the standard as best they could.
Saturday, February 10, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xvi/
Shrouds serve more than one purpose. They can hide the true form of something. Or they can give cause to mourn. The shroud covering the Air Jordan XVI did both. Designed by Wilson Smith, the Air Jordan XVI was a lightweight, high-tech basketball weapon in disguise. Like the Air Jordan XI, it made use of patent leather, giving it a formal look as well as a stretch-proof toe. The upper was mostly lightweight mesh, the Airsole visible once again (for the first time since the VI).
But it was the removeable leather shroud that separated the XVI from all Jordans that came before. It fastened with magnetic snaps over the upper, providing a more formal lookbut no real performance benefits. Well, unless you count an extra place to have a name and number embroidered as a benefit. The idea was that it was something like a warmup suitsomething to tear away before game time, exposing the all-business side underneath. Still, a lot of players elected to play with the shroud still on.
Once again, those players didnt include Michael Jordan. Instead it was a new crop of guys like Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson, along with old friends Reggie Miller, Mitch Richmond and Michael Finley.
Sunday, February 11, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xvii/
Every year, the design of the new Air Jordan is a closely guarded secret. At least its supposed to be. Of course it always winds up leaking onto the internet before its ready (and Im sure many of you saw the XX2 months ago), but thats not the point. The packaging for the Air Jordan XVII seemed to play off of this.
The temptation here is to go into a Jim Mora/Allen Iverson rant. The box? Were talking about the box? The greatest basketball shoe in the world andthe box? But this was a box like no other sneaker box that came before it: A faux-aluminum briefcase containing the shoes as well as a CD-ROM explaining some of the design details. Given the price tagan unprecedented $200perhaps it should have come with a handcuff to attach it to the buyers wrist.
The shoe itself was a bit underwhelming, given the elaborate presentation. A semi-visible airbag, multiple lacing patterns, and a set of superfluous click-on lace covers that were more often than not left off. Then again, Michael himself returned to play in them, so who are we to judge?
Monday, February 12, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xviii/
Tuesday, February 13, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xix/
After hiding the laces on the previous three Air Jordan models, the intent when designing the Air Jordan XIX was to eliminate them completely. The designers who populate the top-secret Nike Innovations Kitchen (Tinker Hatfield and Eric Avar among them) tried new materials in new ways, did everything they could with the available technologybut, in the end, laces won out. They may be archaic, but they still work the best.
What was intended to be the laces replacement became a mere covera new form of lightweight plastic mesh (at least in sneaker design) that expanded and compressed, but didnt stretch. A Velcro strap held the cover in place. Instead of regular shoelaces, the XIX used extremely thin laces together with plastic lacelocks. So at least there was no need to tie them. The usual performance enhancers remainedZoom Air, a carbon composite springplate. True lacelessness, however, would have to wait.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xx/
There was never any question of whether the Air Jordan XX was going to be big. It was just a question of HOW big. Word had escaped early that Tinker Hatfield himself would be coming back to do the design, and with Jordan himself retired again (this time presumably for good), it was a safe bet that the Air Jordan XX would celebrate the entirety of MJs career.
OK, maybe thats just hindsight. Because thats exactly what the Air Jordan XX did. While it was still at its heart a high-performance basketball shoe (broad forefoot strap, floating ankle leash strap, new pod-based Air system), it was the skin that got everyone talking.
Utilizing a new lasering technique, Hatfield had the forefoot strap (and, on some models, the entire upper) tattooed with images, words and numbers that paid homage to Jordans life in the game. It was Hatfields gift to Jordanand, in a way, Jordans gift to us.
Thursday, February 15, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xxi/
As stated earlier, Michael Jordan is into cars. And he likes to travel fast. On four wheelsand on two. Hed dabbled in motorcycles before his retirement, but after he left the game for good they became his primary passion. Jordan sponsored a motorcycle racing team and did more than just put up money. You probably had a better chance of seeing him at a motorcycle race than you did seeing him at an NBA game.
The Air Jordan XXI, while still performing at the highest level on the basketball court, reflected that love. Higher-cut than any recent Air Jordan, the XXI finally did away with lace covers, Velcro closures and all other extras (although, admittedly, the Air Jordan XXI SE did have a lace cover). What it resembled most was a racing bootespecially in its limited-edition red suede colorwaywith an exposed carbon fiber shank plate and a mix of other high-end materials. All business.
Friday, February 16, 2007 slamonline.com/online/2007/02/air-jordan-xx2/
Seeking inspiration, footwear designer DWayne Edwards found it in the F22 Raptor, Lockheed-Martins state-of-the-art stealth fighter. The thought was that Jordan himself exhibited stealth characteristics when he was playingand he must have agreed, because he even started referring to himself as Stealth during the design process.
The completed shoe, which drops this coming SaturdayAll-Star Saturday and MJs 44th birthdaycertainly has a lot of ties to the fighter jet that inspired it. Sleek and smooth, it says state-of-the-art attack from its 3M camo heel to its skeletal titanium-plated shank plate and all points between. The tradition of Air Jordan is alive and well.