Michael Jordan’s 11 Greatest Moments in the Air Jordan 11

  • Switch back to 23

    Jordan’s debut of the Concord XI during the 1995 Playoffs didn’t go so hot. Wearing them for the first time during Game 1 of Chicago’s second-round series versus Orlando, despite a fine inflicted by the NBA and a pleading by Tinker Hatfield and the Nike designers to hold off wearing them, Jordan donned the classic shoe and proceeded to make two costly turnovers in the closing minute of a close loss.

    Afterward, Orlando’s Nick Anderson made a costly mistake, saying, “Number 23, he could just blow right by you. Number 45, he revs up, but doesn’t really take off.”

    The following game, MJ arrived at the arena to find two different jersey options in his locker. The rest is history.

    Despite yet ANOTHER league fine of $25,000, the GOAT laced up the old 2-3 and went out and dominated in the Concord XI, tying the series with a masterful 38-point, 7-rebound, and 8-stock (blocks plus steals) performance on 57 percent shooting.

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  • The debut of the "Space Jam" XI

    A fun fact that most people — even some passionate sneakerheads — might not know: Jordan actually played in THREE different sneakers in this series. During the first two games in Orlando, he rocked the Concord XI, drawing a $5,000 fine for each game. Then in Game 3, Jordan did the unthinkable: He wore a pair of Penny Hardaway‘s sneakers, the Nike Air Flight One. Why? No one really knows the truth. But we do know that in Game 4, MJ debuted the now-classic “Space Jam” XI.

    Jordan didn’t shoot well that night, but the Bulls won, he dunked on Shaq, and he put together an all-around line worthy of some love: 26 points, seven rebounds, and four steals.

    Five years later, when the “Space Jam” Jordans came out on a Wednesday, it led to complete chaos and, in turn, Jordan Brand decided it was best from that point on to release retros on Saturdays instead.

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  • Vancouver comeback

    During the Grizzlies’ initial season in the NBA, they were so bad that their best player was point guard Greg Anthony. Despite that, when they hosted the 11-2 Bulls early in the 1995-96 season, they jumped out to a lead with six minutes to go.

    Wearing the Concords, in the Bulls’ epic all-black jerseys that debuted for the first time in this season, Jordan lit up Vancouver for 19 points over the final six minutes, allowing Chicago to narrowly escape what would’ve been their worst loss of the season.

    “Michael just said ‘Oh that’s enough I can’t let this happen’ and…” teammate Bill Wennington recalls.

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  • Duel with Jerry Stackhouse

    Before Philly hosted Chicago on Jan. 13, 1996, Sixers guard Jerry Stackhouse, once known as the “next” Jordan, had been quoted in the papers saying he had been tearing up Mike in offseason one-on-one games. So what happened? Jordan taught the young fella a lesson, dropping 48 points in just three quarters while holding Stack to 13.

    Two nights later, MJ added 46 more against Washington, meaning that in two games he combined for 94 points…on only 59 shots.

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  • Nike commercial

    This probably wasn’t one of Jordan’s best commercials ever, but it’s definitely memorable. Wearing the Concord XI in this ad, Jordan dunks on a mountaintop of a basketball hoop before watching the ball make the long fall down and realizing, too late, that he has no way to get down. It’s a perfect way to look at Jordan’s unending will and determination to win and helped signify Mike’s journey to reach the pinnacle of the NBA again after retiring for 17 months and coming back as a lesser player.

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  • The All-Star Game

    Taking the court in San Antonio in the “Columbia” XI, an all-white edition that he never again wore in an NBA game, Jordan not only showed he was all the way back as a player, he also won the MVP. (Even if Shaq was probably robbed.)

    The game’s most memorable moment? Probably when Jordan pulled down Penny’s pants during pregame introductions.

    This sneaker is back this weekend at Champs Sports with a new name — the “Legend Blue” XI — and there isn’t a sneakerhead in the world who wants to miss this one.


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  • Another "Next Jordan" showdown

    Later on that spring, MJ hit the Pistons for 53 points on just 28 shots, effectively putting to bed any comparisons between himself and Detroit’s talented swingman, Grant Hill. This was actually Jordan’s best game of that entire regular season as he also added 11 boards and six steals.

    Hill at least had the smarts to not rile up MJ the way Stack did, but Jordan still felt slighted regardless.

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  • 70 wins

    In April, Chicago beat the Bucks in Milwaukee, setting an NBA record in the process with their 70th win of the season. Jordan actually had one of his worst games of the season, and the Bulls struggled against a terrible team, but none of that really matters when you’re setting a record in the process. This team’s 72-10 record in ’95-96 will probably never be broken, at least within the current NBA scheduling and format.

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  • 45 points to sweep Orlando

    This game marked the closing of a chapter in Michael Jordan’s career.

    After getting embarrassed by Orlando in the playoffs the previous season, Jordan waited all year to get his revenge, and when he finally had a chance to go up against the Magic, it was a straight-up bloodbath. The Bulls smoked the young Magic, sweeping them, and in Shaq’s final game with the team, Jordan dropped 45 points to close them out and advance to the Finals.

    Wearing the “Bred” XI, Jordan hit the Magic with a barrage of turnaround and post-up jumpers, and this was the nail in the coffin for Orlando’s supposed future “dynasty.” O’Neal left, Hardaway got hurt, and this team would never again challenge for a title. The Bulls? They were just warming up.

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  • Father's Day championship

    Jordan’s worst Finals performance ever came in 1996 against Gary Payton and Seattle. Yet despite that, he still won the MVP and, fittingly, won the title on Father’s Day.

    The murder of James Jordan was one of the key factors that drove Jordan away from the NBA in the fall of 1993 and for the player to go on his baseball odyssey, eventually come back to climb the mountain again, and then finally reach it on Father’s Day is almost too storybook to be true. Sometimes it feels like Jordan’s entire career was scripted.

    As a young kid, this was probably my first truly vivid memory of Michael Jordan, complete with the “Bred” XI, my favorite sneaker ever, on his feet.

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  • Space Jam

    You’ve seen the movie. You know about the sneakers. There’s not much else to be said. Up until the film’s release in November of 1996, the “Space Jam” Jordans had only been seen during the Bulls’ 1995 Playoff loss to the Magic. They quickly became stuff legends are made of.

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The Air Jordan XI is in the conversation with the greatest sneakers ever made. It was revolutionary. It was different. It was versatile. And without designer Tinker Hatfield‘s vision, we probably would’ve never gotten it.

Hatfield originally designed this sneaker while Michael Jordan was away playing baseball, continuing the man’s basketball legacy even when no one believed the GOAT would ever lace up his sneakers on the hardwood again. Once Mike laced up the ’96 samples, before even getting the okay from Nike and Tinker, the feeding frenzy was on. People saw the clean look, the mesh upper, and most importantly they saw the iconic patent leather, a characteristic that completely revolutionized the sneaker industry.

But part of what made the shoe’s legacy so incredible wasn’t just the patent leather or the fact that that it was inspired by a lawn mower — no, it really was. A big part of it was what Michael Jordan did in them.

This weekend at Champs Sports, we’ll see the release of the “Legend Blue” Air Jordan XI, a colorway that can trace its roots back to the 1996 NBA All-Star Game. Because it hasn’t been seen in over a decade, this has become one of the most anticipated sneaker releases of the entire year and any sneakerhead would be a fool to miss it.

To get you prepared for the drop, and to help the young fellas out there who need a little schooling, here are Michael Jordan’s 11 Greatest Moments in the Air Jordan 11.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney

image via Jordan Brand