Sneakers, Sports Memorabilia & Modern Collectibles

Inspiration Behind the Air Jordan Sneaker Line

By Oliver Vonderahe
Shop a curated selection of Nike Air Jordans , including original 1985 Jordans, Jordan retros, and other rare and coveted Nike Jordans, at our online Sneaker Shop.

History Behind the Nike Air Jordan

Nike Air Jordans are the very foundation of sneakerhead culture: credited with kickstarting modern collecting as we know it, today no other shoes are more essential. And of course, no player is more iconic than the Jordan Brand’s namesake, Michael Jordan himself. In 1984, Nike signed Jordan—then, an up-and-coming basketball rookie—to an unprecedented $500,000 a year endorsement deal. With his impressive skills on the court, and dynamic personality off of it, Jordan was the ideal source of inspiration.

In 1985, the Air Jordan 1 debuted to whirlwind success. Designed by Peter Moore, the shoe encapsulated Jordan’s boundary-breaking talent, innovation, performance and style. In fact, the shoe was so popular that Nike continued to make new Air Jordans each season—each taking fresh inspiration from Jordan’s dazzling achievements. The tradition has continued beyond Jordan’s retirement, and Nike is currently on the Air Jordan 37. Throughout, Air Jordans have always represented the pinnacle of sneaker design. Ahead, discover our 5 of our favorite Nike Air Jordan sneakers for men, available for immediate purchase.

Nike Air Jordan 1 High OG Chicago

One of the most coveted grails of all time, the original Air Jordan 1 Chicago is a true icon. In 1984, Nike signed the brilliant young hoops star Michael Jordan to an unprecedented shoe and apparel contract, and in 1985, the first Peter Moore-designed Nike Air Jordans hit the market. These vintage 1985 Chicago Jordans are dressed in the iconic red, white and black Chicago Air Jordan 1 colorway—perhaps the most recognizable for Michael, as well as the Nike brand. The Michael Jordan 1985 shoes are also, unsurprisingly, among the most exclusive and expensive Air Jordans.

Nike Air Jordan 3 Retro White Cement 88 Dunk Contest

The Air Jordan 3, designed by Tinker Hatfield, is credited with keeping Michael Jordan at Nike after the original Air Jordan designer Peter Moore left the company. These 2013 retro Jordan 3s throw it back to 1988—the year of the AJ3’s original release—to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s famous free-throw line dunk. An online-only release, the Jordan 3 sneakers dropped at 3:51 CST, the exact time that MJ won the Slam Dunk contest. They were the first Jordan 3 design since the 1994 retro Jordan 3 to ditch the Jumpman at the heel in favor of original Nike Air branding. The classic Jordan 3 is dressed in the white cement colorway, with a white leather upper and gray elephant print overlays at the toe and heel.

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro Eminem Carhartt

1989 saw the debut of the Air Jordan 4—the second Jordan model from legendary designer Tinker Hatfield. An exclusive rendition of the classic silhouette, this retro Jordan 4 sneaker dropped in 2015 as a collab with Eminem and iconic workwear brand Carhartt. Originally gifted only to the rapper’s friends and family, an additional 10 pairs of Jordan 4s were created to sell at an auction benefiting the Marshall Mathers Foundation. These highly coveted Jordan 4 sneakers feature uppers in black Carhartt canvas, with chrome eyelets. Eminem’s trademark hockey mask and backwards “E” logo adorn the heels.

Nike Air Jordan 5 Retro Florida PE

For the Air Jordan 5, Tinker Hatfield took his cues from the cartoonish shark teeth on the WWII-era P-51 Mustang fighter jet. Part of the Air Jordan 5 Player Exclusives lineup, these retro Jordan 5 sneakers were designed for a highly select group of college programs. These striking Jordan 5 retros were launched strictly for Florida Gators players, staff, and select family and friends. Dressed in the school’s signature vibrant blue and orange, the retro Jordan 5s feature the University’s Gator mascot embroidered on the tongue. Only 300 pairs were ever produced, making them highly coveted on the resale market.

Nike Air Jordan 12 Gerald Wallace Bobcats PE

The Air Jordan 12—the first Air Jordan to feature Zoom Air—was etched into sneaker history after Michael Jordan wore the Black/Varsity Red during the iconic “Flu Game” of the 1997 NBA finals. This Jordan 12 retro from 2009 was released as a player exclusive for Gerald Wallace, then a member of the Charlotte Bobcats. Uppers in navy tumbled leather, with signature Jordan 12 stitch detailing, sit atop a white mudguard, midsole and outsole. Orange accents, including “23” at the back heel, Jumpman and “Two Three” branding on the tongue, and “GW3” at the lateral heels add pops of contrast to the Jordan 12 men’s shoes.

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