11 Things You Didn’t Know About the Air Jordan 11

  • Michael/Flickr Creative Commons

    1. Their Design Was Based On a Lawn Mower

    Legendary sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield was behind many of Michael Jordan’s signature shoes that have become classics over time. The inspiration for the XI? A push mower. Hatfield revealed back in 2008 that the ruggedness and effectiveness of a lawnmower helped inspire the groundbreaking design.

    image via Michael/Flickr Creative Commons

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  • Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    2. They Were Samples When Jordan First Wore Them

    When Jordan debuted the now-famous Concord colorway in 1995, they were a long way from being mass-produced. Months before their mass release, Jordan wore a sample pair in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

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  • Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    3. MJ Was Fined For His Initial Debut of the “Concord” Colorway

    About that big debut–Jordan didn’t exactly follow the rules with his on-court premiere of the Concords. Dress code dictated that teammates were supposed to wear shoes with the same primary colorways, and with his teammates in primarily black shoes, MJ caught heat to the tune of $5,000.

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  • Sneaker release lines

    Soletron/Flickr Creative Commons

    4. They’re The Reason For Saturday Release Dates

    If you’re waking up bright and early on Saturday to cop the newest XIs, chances are you can thank the 2000 Space Jam retros for the current release schedule. When kids around the country skipped school to try to cop retros on Wednesday, December 13, they helped change the sneaker game forever.

    image via Soletron/Flickr Creative Commons

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  • Air Jordan 11 Low Infrared

    Jordan Brand

    5. It Helped Popularize The Use Of Patent Leather

    At the time of their release, patent leather was far from a sneaker staple, but its use in the XI’s design ushered in a new era of sneaker manufacturing. The shine helps it stand out to passersby, but the improved function of the lighter, less stretch-prone material helped it gain traction and carry on as a design element.

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    6. Some of The 2000 Retros Had a Misprinted Label

    Authenticity is pivotal in picking up the newest pair of J’s, but buyers in 2000 might have felt they got conned if they got a particular box. During their 2000 retro release window, a run of the XIs shipped in misprinted boxes, spelling out “AIR JORDNA 11”. It may have been a bummer at the time, but the lucky buyers got a special piece of sneaker history.

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    7. There’s An Urban Legend About Their Appearance At The Grammys

    While no photo evidence exists online–get on it, Internet–the XIs are famous for an appearance they made on the feet of R&B group Boyz II Men. The quartet (allegedly) showed up to the Grammy awards with XIs on their feet to complement their tuxedos. The moment was so impactful that Shawn Stockman claims MJ himself gave them props for helping push the sneaker to another level–now we just need some evidence that it happened.

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    Jordan Brand

    8. Jordan Wore the “Columbia” Colorway Only Once

    Rarity will always drive interest in the sneaker world, and Jordan certainly reinforced that idea with his use of the Columbia colorway on-court. He wore this version of the XIs just one time, during the 1996 All-Star Game. They say if you look good, you feel good, and it held true that night–he took home All-Star MVP honors.

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  • 9. Their “Banned” Status Sped Up Production On a Black Pair

    When the NBA cracked down on Jordan for wearing the mostly-white Concords and violating dress code, Nike worked quickly to get him a suitable pair to wear in the ’95 East Semis vs. the Magic. Before they were available, Jordan was forced to wear a pair of Penny Hardaway Air Flight Ones in Game 3–the only time he wore another player’s sneaker in his career.

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    10. The “Space Jam” Colorway Has Featured Three Different Phrases On The Tongue

    Having originally released with the phrase “JUMPMAN JORDAN” on the inside of the tongue, Jordan Brand played with some different designs upon the first retro release. While the first samples conveyed the colorway name–“SPACE JAM”–JB eventually decided on “JUMPMAN JAM” for mass production. Later releases went back to the original design.

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  • Michael Jordan
    11. Jordan’s Initial Sample Pair Had The “Wrong” Number On Them

    As detailed in his autobiography For Love of the Game, Jordan wore 45 upon his return to the NBA as part of a tribute to his slain father. Knowing this, Hatfield designed the initial sample with the number he thought MJ would be wearing going forward. One problem–after an offhand comment from Magic guard Nick Anderson, Jordan decided to return to his iconic No. 23. As relayed by Ahmad Rashad above, MJ was forced to take the court with mismatched numbers.

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  • Sneaker release lines
  • Air Jordan 11 Low Infrared
  • Air Jordan 11 "Bred"
  • Air Jordan 11 "Concord"
  • Air Jordan 11
  • Air Jordan 11 "Space Jam"
  • Michael Jordan

The sneaker collecting game is as much about variety as it is about rare pairs, but there are few shoes as coveted as the Air Jordan XI. While many pairs go in and out of style between their release periods, the XI continues to capture the attention of aficionados every time they’re brought back to the marketplace.

Few shoes are spoken of with the same reverence as the shoe heavily connected to the movie Space Jam. His Airness might have adorned them while he was costarring alongside Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, but their success was never tied to their connection to cartoon icons. They’re an iconic shoe for many reasons, from their trend-bucking design to their use on-court.

If you’re in search of a pair of your own, you’ll be happy to know that the Air Jordan XI IE Low will be available at Champs Sports this Saturday, and we can help you get hooked up. The XIs might not make you play like Michael Jordan in his prime, but they can certainly have you feeling your best. XIs are famous for their crossover use, providing use as both casual wear and a business-wear alternative.

You probably know a lot about them already–it’s hard to avoid the legend if you hang around sneakerheads–but the mythology of the sneaker goes so much deeper than the surface. The next time they come up in conversation with your friends, or you think about picking up a pair, you’ll be armed with a few extra tidbits–like these 11 Things You Didn’t Know About the Air Jordan 11.

Follow Kyle on Twitter at @kyleneubeck