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Air Jordan Sneaker Guide: 1-23

mj slam dunk contest sneaker history

There is no sneaker brand or line that surpasses the cultural impact of the Air Jordan franchise. The first 23 Air Jordan sneakers hold a prestigious spot in the mythos of sneakers. Every Jordan has a story and an inseparable link to Michael Jordan’s iconic career.

Learn more about the first 23 Air Jordan sneakers below using our Air Jordan Sneaker Guide: 1-23:

Air Jordan I

Release Date: 1985

The Air Jordan 1 was designed by Peter Moore. The release was tied to Michael Jordan’s rookie season in the NBA. The design of the Jordan 1 was simple and consistent with the other basketball shoes of the era. The 1 lacked the sophisticated technology that the Jordan Brand would be known for with later installments. Nike was dedicated to giving Michael Jordan his own shoe and brand to grow with. That commitment is clear when you view the shoe’s distinctive logo. Moore designed a wings symbol, a precursor to the Jumpman logo, which was placed on the upper ankle of the shoe. The Air Jordan 1 is the 1 that started it all.

aj1 lost and found

Air Jordan II

Release Date: 1986

Michael Jordan took his game to new levels while wearing the II. Jordan averaged 37 points a game and won his first scoring title in the shoe. MJ also took home his very first dunk contest trophy while wearing the II. Nike viewed the II as a more sophisticated model than the I. It was made to be stylish, and to appeal to consumers beyond the court. Nike wanted the Air Jordan II to be different than the I. One difference that shocked consumers was the price tag. The II had a retail price of $100. In 1986, $100 for a pair of sneakers was mind blowing. The II was designed by Peter Moore & Bruce Kilgore.

aj2 chicago

Air Jordan III

Release Date: 1988

The Air Jordan III was originally available for a retail price of $100.00. The III introduced beloved elements to the franchise and it helped to shape what the Jordan Brand is today. The 3 was the first Air Jordan shoe designed by Tinker Hatfield. The marketing of the Air Jordan III was revolutionary. The first Jordan commercial featuring Mars Blackmon debuted in 1988. Mars Blackmon was of course played by Spike Lee. Lee is one of the most celebrated film directors of all time and his contributions to the Air Jordan franchise are massive. MJ won his second dunk contest in the III. The III also introduced the iconic elephant print.

aj3 white cement

Air Jordan IV

Release Date: 1989

The IV was the second straight shoe designed by Tinker Hatfield. It was not a huge departure from the 3 when it comes to design, but it made additions that make it one of the more beloved in the series. The Jumpman logo had the word “Flight” added right below it. It introduced nubuck materials to the sneaker world. There were mesh components for increased breathability and it had multiple areas that featured plastic. MJ hit “The Shot” in the IV. Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing featured the shoe in a memorable scene and helped the Jordan Brand transcend the game of basketball. Sneaker aficionados consider the IV to be a classic.

aj4 military black

Air Jordan V

Release Date: 1990

The great Tinker Hatfield designed the V. The sneaker is considered another classic on the resume of Tinker. You can make the argument that the V was the biggest departure for the line at that time. There are similarities that the Air Jordan 1-4 share. The V featured a much higher cut than the previous two models. A World War II plane inspired the look. The V was a huge stylistic departure for the series. By 1990 the Air Jordan line of sneakers were considered luxury basketball shoes. A status the brand still holds today. Michael scored a career high 69 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the V.


Air Jordan VI

Release Date: 1991

The legendary Tinker Hatfield designed the Air Jordan VI. Michael Jordan won his first championship in the VI. The late Virgil Abloh, who is one of the most important designers and icons in the world, mentioned in the past that the 6 is his favorite Air Jordan shoe. The ultimate sign of the 6’s relevance is the number of collaborations it has received over the years. The Air Jordan 6 “Doernbecher” is one of the most memorable collaborations in the shoe’s history. The Air Jordan 6 Doernbecher was dedicated to beating childhood cancer. The look of the VI was based on a German sportscar.


Air Jordan VII

Release Date: 1992

By 1992, Michael Jordan had won his first NBA championship, and he was quickly becoming the GOAT of basketball. Designer Tinker Hatfield took inspiration from African tribal artwork for the VII. African art inspiration was present on the upper of the shoe, the multicolored tongue print, and the outsole. The VII gave MJ a new ad partner, Bugs Bunny. The 7’s ad campaign, which included animation, was one of the most unforgettable ones for Jordan Brand. MJ wore the VII when he played for the historic Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics. The Chicago Bulls repeated as NBA champions in 1992.


Air Jordan VIII

Release Date: 1993

The VIII marked the end of an era for Jordan Brand. It was the final Air Jordan sneaker to come out before MJ’s first retirement in 1993. The VIII dropped after Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had won back to back championships. The VIII would be on the feet of MJ when he took on the Phoenix Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals and won his third straight title. The VIII was designed by the one and only Tinker Hatfield. The VIII does not get as much fanfare as other low numbered Air Jordan sneakers. The VIII would be the final shoe MJ would wear before his first retirement.


Air Jordan IX

Release Date: 1993

On October 6, 1993, Michael Jordan shocked everyone when he announced his retirement. Even more shockingly, MJ left the NBA to pursue his dream of becoming a baseball player. His departure from the NBA brought up a ton of questions, with one of the biggest being what would happen to the Air Jordan franchise? The IX proved that the line could live on without its signature star playing basketball. Tinker Hatfield once again served as designer for the 9. MJ never wore the 9 on the basketball court when it released. But the sneaker was still embraced by his fans. The 9 could of the been the last Air Jordan, but the work of Hatfield, and the relevancy of Jordan, allowed the franchise to live on.


Air Jordan X

Release Date: 1994

Michael Jordan was in the middle of his baseball career when the X was being crafted. The 10 would be on Jordan’s feet when he returned to the game of basketball in 1995. The 10 has a unique story in Jordan Brand’s history. MJ’s baseball career was short. Eventually he would return to the basketball court and once again dominate the league. Michael Jordan talked to Tinker Hatfield at the beginning stages of development for the X. The talks were not as in depth as they were when Jordan was playing basketball. Tinker Hatfield was mostly on his own when it came to the design of the X. The X was crafted as a tribute to Michael Jordan’s career.


Air Jordan XI

Release Date: 1995

The 11 is one of the most innovative sneakers of all time. The use of patent leather made it a standout. Designer Tinker Hatfield looked at premium fashion and luxury as a blueprint for the XI. Michael Jordan pursued a career as a baseball player until he decided to return to the NBA in 1995. During MJ’s first full season back in the league, 1995-1996, MJ laced up the XI. The profile of the 11 was boosted by MJ wearing the Concord colorway during the Chicago Bulls historic 72-10 season. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won the NBA Championship in 1996. MJ also wore the 11 in the hit film, Space Jam.


Air Jordan XII

Release Date: 1996

The simplicity of the 12, and the sleek Tinker Hatfield design, has allowed them to endure for decades now. The XII originally retailed for $140. Five different color ways were produced. The XII had a Zoom Air Unit, which was a first for a Jordan sneaker. It has a modified herringbone pattern for improved traction and an improved carbon fiber shank plate. The 12 is one of the most durable Air Jordan shoes ever made. Michael Jordan brought home his 5 ring in 1997. MJ also played in the XII during the legendary “Flu Game.”


Air Jordan XIII

Release Date: 1997

Michael Jordan played the game of basketball like a panther in the mind of Tinker Hatfield. MJ’s close friends also referred to him as the “Black Cat.” Jordan would read his opponents and then strike like a panther. The cat and panther inspiration are a big part of the 13’s design. The XIII is the last shoe MJ wore for a complete season with the Chicago Bulls. He would wear the 14 briefly in the NBA Finals and would later return to play for the Washington Wizards, but the 13 was the last shoe he would lace up for a season with the Bulls. In many ways, the 13 represents the end of an era.


Air Jordan XIV

Release Date: 1998

The XIV was the last model Michael Jordan wore on the court for the Bulls. The XIV made its debut in 1998. It was designed by Tinker Hatfield. The 14 was almost never worn by MJ on the court. Tinker gave Jordan an early prototype of the XIV, but he asked MJ not to wear it. Jordan loved the 14 so much, and being MJ, Tinker’s request was ignored. The GOAT would wear the 14 during the 1998 Finals. He would bring home his final championship trophy in the shoe. “The Last Shot” was made by MJ in the XIV. Being on the feet of MJ, when he made that iconic shot, has made the XIV a piece of history.


Air Jordan XV

Release Date: 1999

After The Last Shot, Michael Jordan again decided to retire from the game of basketball. The Air Jordan franchise would continue, despite MJ seemingly leaving basketball for good. The Air Jordan XV was once again designed by the greatest sneaker creator of all time, Tinker Hatfield. The 15 could be the biggest risk stylistically Tinker Hatfield ever took with the line. The Air Jordan XV is not one of the more beloved Jordan styles. It is not constantly being brought back as a retro. Tinker would take a break from working with Jordan Brand after the release of the 15.


Air Jordan XVI

Release Date: 2001

The XVI was the first Air Jordan shoe in a long time to not be designed by Tinker Hatfield. The 16 represented a new chapter of MJ’s life and career. When the 16 released Jordan was settling into his role as President and part owner of the Washington Wizards. The Air Jordan 16 originally had a retail price of $160. Wilson Smith III had the unenviable task of replacing the legend, Hatfield, as the 16’s designer. Tinker was stepping away from Jordan Brand for the first time in over a decade. Smith took MJ’s current role in the front office for the Washington Wizards and used it to motivate the look of the XVI.


Air Jordan XVII

Release Date: 2002

When MJ returned from retirement (for the second time) to play for the Washington Wizards, he stunned the world. This proved to be MJ’s final come back, and the 17 was one of the last shoes he played in. The elegant style of the XVII has made it one of the most popular later Air Jordan models. Wilson Smith III was the designer of the XVII. Smith used Jazz as inspiration. Jordan was an improviser, with his aerial moves and ability to adapt to the defense. Jazz is all about inventiveness and sophistication. These were things that MJ possessed in abundance. The 17 came in a metal case, like a case a jazz musician would carry on the road.


Air Jordan XVIII

Release Date: 2003

On April 16, 2003, Michael Jordan played his final game in the NBA. The shoes on his feet when he took his last bow was the Air Jordan XVIII. Michael Jordan’s career features many retirements and comebacks. But his 2003 retirement seems like it is going to stick. It is hard to believe, but Jordan’s final retirement took place when he was a member of the Washington Wizards. The XVIII looked to things that have inspired Air Jordan models in the past. Italian design and sports cars were inspirations for the XVIII. Michael Jordan’s time in Washington is not remembered all that fondly, but it is still an important piece of MJ’s legacy.


Air Jordan XIX

Release Date: 2004

When the XIX released Michael Jordan was retired. His Airness would never wear the XIX on the court. Even though MJ never wore the 19, the model was created with his personal specifications in mind. His style of play was a part of the shoe’s development. The 19 would have to set the standards for what would come next for Jordan Brand. The model would have to rely on the next generation of basketball players to take the brand into the future. The 19 was modeled after a poisonous African snake. Tate Kuerbis designed the XIX. The 19 featured a tech-flex upper and zoom air cushioning.


Air Jordan XX

Release Date: 20005

The XX was a unique release from Jordan Brand. It featured elements never seen on an Air Jordan previously. Tinker Hatfield designed the XX. Hatfield had not worked on the previous four models when he returned. It was more than fitting that Tinker would come back for the 20 anniversary of the Air Jordan line. Tinker created an innovative and distinctive Air Jordan with the XX. Speed has always been a source of inspiration for Hatfield and Michael Jordan. MJ was not only lightening quick on the court, but he is obsessed with speed. When the 20 was being planned, MJ had become interested in motorcycle racing. Tinker used that interest, and took elements from motorcycles, for the 20.


Air Jordan XXI

Release Date: 2006

The XXI had a straightforward design, especially compared to other Air Jordan models. Jordan Brand selected D’Wayne Edwards to design the 21. Even though the design seemed uncomplicated, it featured high tech materials and luxurious construction. The 21 originally released in four different colorways and for a retail price of $175.00. A lot of the later models of the Air Jordan franchise do not get much recognition, largely because MJ did not wear them on the court. But the Air Jordan XXI is one of the more underrated models. The XXI was one of the most comfortable and lightest Air Jordan sneakers.


Air Jordan XXII

Release Date: 2007

The XXII was worn on the court by Jordan Brand athletes like Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton. A F-22 Raptor Strike Fighter inspired the 22. The F-22 was a fast and sleek stealth jet. D’Wayne Edwards, the designer of the 22, saw similarities between Michael Jordan and the F-22. The quickness and aggressiveness of MJ’s game made it an obvious comparison in the mind of Edwards. The Air Jordan 22 retailed for $175. The marketing of the 22 pushed current basketball stars. Since Mike was retired, Jordan Brand used the 22 as an inspirational tool for his younger fans.


Air Jordan XXIII

Release Date: 2008

For most of his illustrious career, Michael Jordan wore the number 23. In 2008, the 23rd year installment of the Air Jordan line released. Because of the significance of the number, this was obviously an important model for Jordan Brand. It was the last numbered Air Jordan to release until the XX8 in 2013. Tinker Hatfield and Michael Jordan once again joined forces for the XXIII. Mark Smith also worked on the design of the 23. Tinker and MJ set out to do something epic with the shoe. Intense research and innovation went into the development of the model. The number 23 is the most iconic number in the history of sports.

2008 Air Jordan 23 OG Low 'Dark Charcoal'

You can find Jordan Brand products at Shoe Palace retail locations and on