Air Jordan Sneakers That Shocked the World

  • Air Jordan 1
    Air Jordan I

    The sneaker that started it all in 1984. When the first Air Jordan dropped, people didn’t know what to do, how to act, how to respond. It was so different and unique, and Jordan was so freakin’ charismatic that the shoe immediately drew rave reviews from virtually everyone. The original “Banned” colorway was the first bred colorway of many in the line, and was initially the sneaker that drew the most love (and hate from the league).

    Once the league banned the sneaker for a uniform violation — back then players weren’t rocking new PEs every single game — and Nike dropped the “Banned” commercial, it created an aura about the shoe. It was an exclusive product, in a way, even in the NBA.

    It was a perfect marketing storm, especially since all of this went down prior to the actual release. Jordan began rocking them in November; the stores got them in May. Many still consider this possibly the greatest Jordan sneaker ever.

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  • Air Jordan 3
    Air Jordan III

    The Air Jordan III had so much riding on it. Jordan was thinking about leaving Nike for a couple of different reasons, some of which had to do with his disappointing second signature sneaker and some of which had to do with the fact that he was probably still somewhat partial to adidas, his first love.

    The release of the III also marked a two-year gap since the line had put out a quality product. Jordan wore his first sneaker in both his first two seasons, missing most of his second with a foot injury. So by the time Tinker Hatfield and the III came around to save Jordan, he was already in his fourth season. But save the line it did.

    The Jordan III introduced visible Air, as well as adding a luxury element to the sneaker with its elephant print. This clean silhouette would go on to break barriers in just about every way — the commercials with Mars/Spike, and the celebrated Black/Cement colorway that’s now considered one of the best shoes of all time — but even in the beginning people knew it was special. Jordan must’ve too, because he never wavered from Nike again.

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  • Air Jordan XI
    Air Jordan XI

    Ah, you know we couldn’t make this list without including the XI. Seriously, if you’re my age, grew up in my generation…shoot, even if you didn’t, you can’t overlook this sneaker as one of the best ever. It’s so special that I’m convinced the only hate it ever gets comes from hypebeasts trying to be different.

    The XI basically introduced the sneaker industry to patent leather — thanks Tinker — and because of its unique look, it immediately became a favorite of even casual fans. You could wear it formally. You could hoop in it. You could…fight Looney Tunes in it? That’s what Jordan did in Space Jam, and the subsequent colorway, as well as the original releases, are all considered among the greatest Air Jordans ever.

    This was the sneaker that set the tone for Jordan’s entire last run with Chicago.

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  • Air Jordan XX8
    Air Jordan XX8

    This is the sneaker that put Michael Jordan’s signature line back on the map. Over the previous few years, while letting Dwyane Wade take over and ditching the numbers on the sneakers to go with years, the line lost some of its luster. It wasn’t innovating like it used to. It definitely wasn’t setting any trends anymore. A few thought it was inevitable — Jordan was retired and a new generation no longer cared.

    How little we knew.

    All the Air Jordan line needed was a kick on the backside and it got it in the form of Flight Plate and a mesh upper that included a zipper. Shrouded, the shoe looked like something straight off the runway. That’s actually what JB was going for, too. High fashion. Military boots.

    When images of this one first dropped, no matter whether the world liked it or not, they definitely had an opinion.

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  • Air Jordan XX9
    Air Jordan XX9

    This year’s model caused quite a stir when Jordan unveiled it, thanks to an improved approach and a gameplan centered around blitzing the media. But as far as the actual shoe, between the woven upper-based version and the wild elephant print, it felt like Jordan was hitting with both the past AND the future.

    After that, we learned quickly about the tech — the Flight Web for lockdown, the woven upper for breathability, the improved Flight Plate for cushioning — that separates it from the competition.

    With the “Riverwalk” colorway releasing this month at Champs Sports, the XX9 is definitely a game-changer.

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  • Air Jordan 1
  • Air Jordan 3
  • Air Jordan XI
  • Air Jordan XX8
  • Air Jordan XX9

Let me make one prediction before we get started: The Air Jordan line is older than I am and yet I can already guarantee that next year’s sneaker release will make this list of five. The 30th edition of the greatest signature sneaker line ever, for the best player ever? It’s going to be very, very big. Especially since we’re talking 2015 and sneakerheads in this day and age are like a species on their own.

Just look at this year’s launch of the Air Jordan XX9. We had an actual unveiling for the media, then events in both New York and Los Angeles. We had two different variations of the same shoe, which created a lot of questions and a lot of interested consumers sitting there, saying, “Wait. Those are two different shoes!?” (Hint: Sort of.)

The sneaker, thanks to its unique approach with a clean, woven upper. And that amazing (MONSTER!) Jumpman, sure to dominate anyone’s eyes, is just as breathtaking. It made its mark rather quickly. Within hours, social media was abuzz, the sneaker industry aflame.

Now some of that definitely has to do with the present day environment. It’s hard to compare the sneaker culture of even a decade ago to right now, let alone 20 or 30 years ago. You could release a new shoe with big kiddie velcro straps and it’d generate a response. But you gotta give respect where it’s due. The XX9 came. It saw. It conquered. In a day.

Champs Sports will have the latest colorway of the XX9 that’s releasing later this month. Dubbed “Riverwalk,” this one includes a fusion pink and teal color that has it shining purple, and it’ll surely be one of the best sneakers of the season. To get you ready for the takeover, we’re breaking down five Air Jordan Sneakers That Shocked the World upon their release.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney