Sneakers, Sports Memorabilia & Modern Collectibles

9 Nike Air Jordans Every Sneakerhead Needs

By Zoë Vanderweide
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The Nike Air Jordan line, which debuted in 1985, is the very foundation of sneakerhead culture. Two of our favorites, the Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 4, are undoubtedly among the most sought-after models. Sotheby’s Streetwear and Modern Collectibles team specializes in selecting the best of the best: exciting collabs, exclusive releases and other covetable deadstock Jordans that live up to the hype. Read on to discover our favorite styles to buy now, from Off-White Nike Air Jordan 1 Highs to ultra-rare Eminem Nike Air Jordan 4s.

Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro Banned 2011

1. Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro Banned

In 2011, Nike released the Nike Air Jordan 1 Banned High, celebrating the infamous black and red sneakers that the NBA “threw out of the game” in 1985. Dressed in the iconic ‘Bred’ colorway of the OG Nike Air Jordan 1 High, the Banned Air Jordan 1s are embellished with details that allude to the silhouette’s storied history. Xs on the heels and interior linings pay homage to the ‘Banned’ nickname, while the interior tongues read “Imagine If…?” The Banned Jordans also include commemorative insoles, featuring the date of the legendary ban. The Banned Nike Air Jordan 1 is also notable for reintroducing the original “Nike Air” branding on the exterior tongue tag. Released exclusively at Nike Factory stores, all 2011 Banned Nike Air Jordans are B-Grade stamped.

Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High Pass the Torch

2. Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High Pass The Torch

The Nike Air Jordan 1 Pass the Torch pays tribute to 2014 NBA Final MVP and San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard. Dressed in a chrome silver and white leather upper, the Kawhi Leonard Jordan 1 also features accents of black on the Swoosh, shoelaces and collar. The Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High silhouette sits atop a white midsole and blue translucent outsole. Unique details distinguish the Air Jordan 1 Pass the Torch. Leonard’s “Claw” logo hits the left tongue, while 16 tally marks at the heel represent the number of games won by the Spurs to receive the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Kawhi Leonard Jordan 1s are finished with custom gold “2014” deubrés.

Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High x OFF-WHITE White NRG

3. Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High x OFF-WHITE White NRG

A collab between Nike Air Jordan and Virgil Abloh’s design brand Off-White, the Europe-exclusive Jordan 1 Off White NRG exemplifies Abloh’s unparalleled creative talent. His reinterpretation of the classic Nike Air Jordan 1 High silhouette is at once innovative and unique, yet strikingly familiar. Abloh’s design trademarks are present throughout the Jordan 1 Off White NRG. Intentional zip-ties, exposed foam and sans-serif branding inside Abloh’s signature quotation marks add a playful touch to the Off White Air Jordans. Highlighting the intentionality behind each element in the deadstock Jordans, visible stitching and a deconstructed floating Swoosh also convey a carefully handmade quality. The rarest of three Off White Air Jordan colorways, the White NRG is dressed in white leather and mesh, with blue and orange accents throughout. The release came hot off the heels of Abloh’s sought-after red, white and black Jordan 1 Off White Chicago, the first Jordan sneaker of 2017’s now-iconic “The Ten” collab. The NRG was followed up with a third deconstructed take on the Nike Air Jordan 1 high, the blue and white Jordan 1 Off White UNC.

Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro XQ 2013

4. Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro XQ 2013

Among the rarest Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High colorways, the China-exclusive 2013 Air Jordan 1 XQ is a follow-up to the 2007 release of the Air Jordan 1 Mid XQ. This sought-after high-top iteration of the ‘Xi-Qing’ dropped as part of Nike’s ‘Ignite Shanghai’ collection. Like the original Air Jordan 1 Mid XQ, this Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High is dressed in patterned white leather with panels of laser-etched black leather and star embossed red leather overlays. Gold stitching, laces, Swooshes and Air Jordan branding complete the look. The 2013 Air Jordan 1 XQ uniquely features “Nike Air” tongue branding and a translucent outsole with gold speckling. The coveted Air Jordan 1 XQ colorway is reportedly slated for a third release in 2022, further cementing its iconic status.

Nike Air Jordan 1 Mid Palais 23

5. Nike Air Jordan 1 Mid Palais 23

The AJ1, created by Peter Moore, is one of the most iconic designs in streetwear and basketball. An instant classic since its commercial release in 1985, the historic silhouette is celebrated in this commemorative Jordan Anniversary edition from 2015. One of 23 pairs honoring Jordan Brand’s 30th Anniversary, this Jordan 1 Retro Mid dropped exclusively at Nike’s Palais 23 event, held at the Palais de Tokyo. Dressed in all-black premium leather, the Jordan Anniversary Nike Air Jordan 1 Mid features laser-etched symbols inspired by the event’s host city of Paris. An embossed Wings logo at the ankle and Jumpman at the heel finishes the black-on-black Jordan 1 Retro Mid.

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro LS Lightning

6. Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro LS Lightning

Released in 2006 alongside the “Thunder”, the Air Jordan 4 Lightning is an eye-catching take on the Tinker Hatfield-designed Nike Jordan 4 silhouette. The classic design – Hatfield’s second Air Jordan – stands out for its distinctive triangular support wings and visible Air unit. Featuring a Tour Yellow nubuck upper, with accents of gray on the side panel mesh and outsole, the racing-inspired Jordan 4 Retro Lightning colorway takes its cues from the seasonal colors of MJ’s Michael Jordan Motorsports team. Jordan branding on the tongue and heel of the sought-after Nike Jordan 4 Lightning finishes the look.

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro KAWS

7. Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro KAWS

The KAWS Nike Jordan 4 Retro marks the first collaboration between Jordan Brand and legendary street artist KAWS, aka Brian Donnelly. The 2017 release was so hotly anticipated that it nearly started a riot—a London raffle for the Air Jordan 4 KAWS had to be shut down by police. Featuring uppers and midsoles dressed in premium gray suede, the KAWS Nike collab definitely lives up to the hype: KAWS’ distinctive Mickey Mouse-inspired glove graphics adorn the insoles, outsoles and uppers, along with his signature ‘XX’ on the heel tabs of the Nike Jordan 4 KAWS sneakers.

Nike Air Jordan IV Retro Eminem x Carhartt

8. Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro Eminem x Carhartt

The Nike Jordan 4 Eminem x Carhartt collab dropped in 2015, when rapper Eminem and iconic workwear brand Carhartt teamed up with the Jordan brand to create this ultra-exclusive pair of Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro sneakers. Originally gifted to the rapper’s friends and family, an additional 10 pairs of the Nike Air Jordan 4 Retros were created to sell at an eBay auction to benefit the Marshall Mathers Foundation. The auction of Jordan 4 Eminem Carhartt shoes ultimately raised $227,000 and supported the Michigan State University Community Music School’s efforts to provide enrollment to local students. The highly coveted Air Jordan 4 Eminem x Carhartt collab shoes feature uppers in black Carhartt canvas, with chrome eyelets. Eminem’s trademark hockey mask and backwards “E” logo adorn the heels of the Nike Jordan 4 Eminem Carhartt sneakers.

Nike Air Jordan 4 OFF-WHITE Sail

9. Nike Air Jordan 4 OFF-WHITE Sail

A strikingly elegant pair of Nike Air Jordan 4s, it’s no exaggeration to say that these sneakers belong in a museum. A collaboration between Virgil Abloh’s Off-White design label and Nike, the Off White Jordan 4 Sail made its debut in an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The show, titled Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech”, made history as the first museum survey dedicated to the genre-bending artist and designer. A tonal take on the classic silhouette, the Nike Jordan 4 Off White Sail features a deconstructed leather build, accented with semi-transparent TPU on the eyelets, wings and heel panel. Abloh’s signature flourishes, including a zip tie and “AIR” printed on the lateral side, complete the Off White Jordan 4 Sail.

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