Top 40 of the Best Jordans of All Time
Air Jordan has an easy claim to the biggest name in sneakers. They’re a status symbol and have maintained popularity pretty consistently for over three decades. 30 years is a long time and out of the many releases there are high and low points. Here are 40 of the best Jordans of all time.
Air Jordan Retro XI Space Jam
These first popped up in the ’95 NBA playoffs but didn’t gain a lot of traction after the Bulls were knocked out. Their appearance in ‘Space Jam’ the following year brought back the hype and when they finally released in 2000, everyone wanted a pair. They’ve stayed pretty consistently in style for 17 years now, enduring through a bunch of trends and styles.
Air Jordan 1 White/Black/red
After the heavy fines imposed on MJ for the first pair of Jordans not being court legal, Nike changed the Red and Black to Red, black and white. The white kept the NBA happy but also didn’t lose out on being the most visible kicks on the court.
Air Jordan XI Concord
The Jordan 11 has an interesting story behind it. Coming at the time when MJ seemed to be giving up on his career in basketball, the project was almost scrapped. Only for Tinker Hatfield continuing to design the sneaker despite what his bosses said, we never would have had the 11 and likely many more sneakers after it.
Air Jordan VI Infrared
The kicks that brought Jordan his first NBA championship win, the Infrared would have been important for that alone. They were far from a one trick pony though. The release saw the Jordan 6 silhouette come together in a way that led the future of Jordans going into the 90s.
Air Jordan III White/Cement
Back in ’88 sneakers were a pretty specific part of fashion. That was until kicks like the Air Jordan III came along. Materially it was pretty close to luxury footwear with soft leather dominating the upper. That helped elevate how people looked at sneakers and along with the Air Jordan II, created a new generation of sneakerheads.
Air Jordan retro IV UNDFTD
Taking its inspiration from a well designed flight jacket look, the Retro IV is one of the best Jordans of all time, not only out of the retro releases. Coming out initially through a raffle, it brought a lot more hype with fans trying to get them for their style and exclusivity. The velcro tongue patch added an interesting element to an already sick pair of sneakers.
Air Jordan XI Black/Red
There’s probably no more iconic pair of Jordans relating to MJs career. The ’96 release saw them come out right when Mike was at the top of his game with the Bulls. Whether you were a Bulls fan or just a sneakerhead, the Black/Red was the pinnacle back then and remains popular today.
Air Jordan III Black/Cement
Back in ’88 things weren’t looking great for Nike. Michael Jordan was on the verge of leaving and many of their other athletes were already gone. As usual back then, Tinker Hatfield pulled their asses out of the fire. His design kept MJ on board and gave them enough breathing room by being popular with Mike himself as well as fans. Some elements of the build look a bit old school now but that’s by no means a bad thing. It manages to keep the soul it had when it first released without looking outdated today.
Air Jordan 1 Black/Red
It’s hard to imagine now, given the relationship between Nike and Michael Jordan but the two weren’t always set to go for each other. Jordan initially wanted to go with Adidas but some major promises from Nike got him to back the brand. The deal included his own line of sneakers and royalties on every pair. It was a deal Jordan couldn’t turn down and one that paid off big time for Nike. Jordan brought them attention on the court and it all started with the Black and Read Jordan 1s.
Air Jordan IV Black/Cement
There aren’t a lot of basketball moments more iconic than Michael Jordan shooting over Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo and spiritually starting a huge streak for the Bulls. He did it in a pair of IV Black/Cements and locked them in as a must have pair of kicks and some of the best Jordans of all time.
Air Jordan Retro III Mocha
One case where things went better for Nike the second time around, the retro Mocha made up for the lack of popularity of the original. The first release saw barely any play with fans.. Whoever was behind the 2001 Retro release saw something that others didn’t however. Slight changes to the upper and gum sole gave enough of a change to get fans back on board.
Air Jordan VII Cardinal
The ’92 release of the Cardinal was a clean addition to the usually flashy VII silhouette. Where the Bordeaux and others in the same line are all about drawing attention, the Cardinal got it without asking. The distinct white with black, red and gold detailing took its inspiration from the Huarache but made it something that was Jordan through and through.
Air Jordan XIII White/Red
The Jordan XIII silhouette was one of the most futuristic looking sneakers to come out in the 90s. Out of the XIII releases, the White/Red probably did it best. Learning from the ‘True Red’ release which took the red a bit too seriously, the 1998 release saw huge interest in the XIII.
Air Jordan Retro IV Black Cat
The story goes that Tinker Hatfield worked on the original ”Black Cat’ without knowing that that was Michael Jordan’s nickname. As unlikely as the story is, it spawned a great pair of kicks so it gets a pass. The 2006 Retro release updated the old favorite and made it one that is still popular now, even if it’s almost old enough to get its own retro rerelease.
Air Jordan Retro 1 Boston Celtics
Can a sneaker be sarcastic? The Boston Celtic was made to commemorate Jordan’s record setting 63 point game against Boston Celtics in ’86. The Celtics still won and took home the championship that year, the record setting game saved the Bulls from embarrassment though. Hence the sneakerworthiness. The dominant white made it a perfect throwback to the second edition Jordan 1s and the green replacing the red made for a great colorway.
Air Jordan XI Low Snake
The 2001 Low Snake release didn’t make a lot of impact with fans. This was less to do with the quality and more fans not being able to accept the changes. Over time opinions changed and sneakerheads recognized what they were missing out. Commercial failure has meant the Low Snake hasn’t seen a lot of imitators but time heals all wounds and its earned its dues as one of the best Jordans.
Air Jordan VI White/Maroon Retro (2015)
The White/Maroon took a while to get a Retro release but it paid off when it did. The 2015 release brought some slight but much appreciated differences to the original release. The sole loses its yellow in favor of white. The white upper takes more of a cream that balances against the maroon better. The retro release came late like the attention on the original release. It was a bit of a sleeper favorite as people started seeing it around and got on board with the look, finally building up enough attention to see a retro release.
Air Jordan 1 Black/Royal
There was something about the Black/Royal that made it stand out even when all the best Jordans of the time were black and red. The Black Royal was something different and it let you know it.
Air Jordan XI Columbia
MJ first donned the Columbia in 1996. It did a decent job of separating his work before his brief retirement to what came after. The black and red were gone, the anti establishment colorways were gone. Jordan was going to hit the top of his game and these were the kicks he’d do it in.
Air Jordan III Fire Red
In ’88 black, white and red where the basis for most Jordans but the Jordan III managed to do something different with them. Being lower than a lot of other kicks meant they already took on a different shape. The breakdown of white, red and black elephant print made them even more different.
Air Jordan Retro XI Cool Grey
Some of the best Jordans in recent years have been grey editions of various releases. That started with the Retro XI Cool Grey which brought attention to how toning down could be the best way to go with your kicks. Despite the toning down, Nike managed to pull a lot of difference out of a few different grey colors.
Air Jordan 1 Black Toe
The rarity of the original Black Toe made it a highly sought after release, the popularity didn’t fall off when the retro release came out and it’s not hard to see why. The epitome of what Jordans meant back in the day, it has remained one of the best Jordans of all time.
Air Jordan VII Hare
There aren’t a lot of sneakerheads in the animal kingdom. That didn’t stop Bugs Bunny sporting a pair of Jordan 7s in Space Jam. The film came out 4 years after the sneakers but saw a sudden surge in popularity for the kicks. They weren’t exactly slept on before the film but afterwards they saw more attention than ever.
Air Jordan II White/Red/Black
This sneaker was the earliest indication that Nike were looking to push Jordans into more than just another sneaker brand. Taking as much from dress shoes as from sneakers it wasn’t something we’d seen before and have rarely seen since. Even when we do see it, it’s rarely executed this well. The Jordan II dialed it back after this and most other releases on the silhouette are more traditionally sneaker style.
Air Jordan Retro V Toro Bravo
Releasing alongside a black pair, the red suede got all the love. Not that the black pair were bad by any means but the red was clearly one of the best Jordans right out of the gate. Cutting through the red with strong, angular black elements made it a distinctive sneaker that everyone wanted.
Air Jordan XII Taxi
There aren’t a lot of sneakers that look as high end as the Taxi. These are the kind of kicks the Pope would wear if he wore sneakers. The black and white are deceptively simple with an offsetting gold lace loops being an understated element.
Air Jordan XIV Last Shot
The Last Shot is another pair of Jordans with an interesting backstory. Jordan took these kicks out on the court well before they were due to be revealed, leaving fans wondering what they were and Nike presumably losing their shit. It paid off with everyone wanting to find out where they could cop the sneakers and the hype just got bigger until they finally released. The design wasn’t something we’d seen from Nike at the time, even the badge looked more reminiscent of the Ferrari logo than the traditional Jumpman.
Air Jordan IV Military Blue
Along with the Black/Royal Jordan 1s, the Military Blue stands as one of the best blue pairs of Air Jordans from the early days. Blue and white with a few touches of grey and mess sections on the uppers made for a well constructed pair of kicks that everyone wanted. The design is not as simple as it seems at first glance and fans picked up on that, putting the Military Blue to the top of their lists.
Air Jordan VII Bordeaux
Looking completely different to anything else coming out in 1992, the Bordeaux was one of Nike’s most interesting releases back then. If this released today it would guaranteed look as future focused as Kohna releases and other space aged kicks. Neoprene construction made it fundamentally different to other kicks. The color palette wasn’t something you ever saw on sneakers, even without counting the patterned tongue.
Air Jordan XIII White/Black/Red
Out of all the well received releases on the XIII silhouette, this could easily be the favorite for sneakerheads. The black base dominated by white made a strong statement that few other kicks at the time had made. This is the original ‘black cat’ style sneaker and one that has stood the test of time ever since.
Air Jordan Retro V Tokyo
The Tokyo release was a Japan exclusive that had all the hallmarks of a classic. Limited release, for a tournament no less, visually distinctive and with a color palette you just can’t imitate. Difficult to track down in Japan and almost impossible anywhere else, they’ve become a mythical release and one of the best Jordans released anywhere.
Air Jordan Retro III Doernbecher
A product of Nike’s yearly collaboration with Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, this release was a surprising success story. Designed by a patient who seemingly knew exactly what sneakerheads needed, the patterning on the red parts of the upper were an inspired choice. A relatively simple release on the III silhouette, it was made interesting by a great balance of color against a translucent sole, topped by the patterning.
Air Jordan Retro V Green Bean
Goofy name aside, the Green Bean was a release that built up steam for a while after its release. It’s easy to talk about the most hype Jordans but releases like this showed how much could be done with a few details against a pretty mellow sneaker.
Air Jordan Retro II Melo
Made for its namesake Carmelo Anthony, this pair looked drastically different to most Jordans and for a good reason. Repping Anthony’s Denver Nuggets colors, it stood out from the rest of the Jordans line up. The blue detailing across the white upper with a little bit of yellow didn’t sell itself too hard but made an impact.
Air Jordan XIII Flint
The use of nylon and suede in addition to leather made the Flint into a new turn on the Air Jordan XIII. The Black, Navy and white colorway was an inspired choice and made the best use of the texturing of the nylon mesh and dimpling.
Air Jordan X Bulls Over Broadway
Whoever was behind the naming of these sneakers took their job seriously. The Bulls Over Broadway commemorate MJ’s win against the Knicks on their home ground. It’s hard to think of a more aggressive colorway for this release. It’s also hard to think that the red speckling on the sole isn’t intended to look like blood.
Air Jordan Future Dark Chocolate
At first glance it’s more Italian-man-on-a-vespa than sneaker but the Dark Chocolate Future brought something we don’t often see from Jordans. A pair of sneakers made with casual wear over court wear in mind, it showed what could be done with sneakers. It certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone but fans tend to think of it as one of the best Jordans to come out for the innovation alone.
Air Jordan XIX Black Mamba
Looking more like a fencing mask than a sneaker, the Black Mamba is a no nonsense sneaker. It seems all business with every element hidden behind the glossy mesh, seemingly to keep its inner workings a secret. Space age ninja kicks or what the bad guys would wear in a 70s kids sports movie, they made an impact.
Air Jordan VI Champagne Metallic Green
Green and Gold and shinier than pretty much any pair of kicks on the market. The gold specking on the outsole bubbled like champagne and the gold of the tongue completed the champagne bottle foil look. In the last few years, sneakers have become pretty decadent but this is the high point.
Air Jordan X Chicago
The Chicago seems like a bit of a religious relic. It came out right when Jordan dropped out of the game and became a badge worn by people who hoped he would return. His return was down to a lot of reasons and none of them were related to the Chicago but sports fans are a superstitious bunch and the Chicago became a pretty revered pair.