Every once in a while, an athlete emerges and dominates his or her sport. However, only a select few make such a serious impact that they transcend their game and become cultural icons. The first globally recognized NBA superstar Michael Jordan is one such athlete.
"There's Michael [Jordan], then there is the rest of us," Magic Johnson said of Jordan.
One of the most significant players who ever graced the hardwood, Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time or simply put the GOAT.
He is a six-time NBA Champion, six-time NBA Finals MVP, five-time NBA MVP, and three-time NBA All-Star MVP. He was selected to 14 NBA All-Star teams, 11 All-NBA teams, and nine NBA All-Defensive teams. He won the 1985 Rookie of the Year award, 1988 Defensive Player of the Year award, ten scoring titles (seven of which were consecutive), and three steals titles. He also retired with the highest scoring average of 30.1 points per game. To cap it all off, he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
Up to this day, his accomplishments shadow those who came after him.
“My motivation is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago,” LeBron James said in an interview after winning the 2016 NBA Championship.
However, his awards and accolades just form part of his legend. His unquenchable competitive nature, winning mindset, and the drive to always be the best are the qualities that elevate his game to the stratosphere.
“I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.” Michael was quoted as saying.
Michael's competitive spirit was nurtured when he was growing up in Wilmington, NC. As a child, he always played with his older brother Larry. His natural-born desire to outdo everyone, especially his older brother, developed his winning mentality. "What he does have is a competition problem. He was born with that ... the person he tries to outdo most of the time is himself," his father James once said.
He became more and more confident in his abilities once he started beating Larry, but it was challenged when he did not make Laney High School’s varsity basketball team during his sophomore year. "It was embarrassing not making that team," Michael told ESPN. "They posted the roster and it was there for a long, long time without my name on it. I remember being really mad, too, because there was a guy who made it that really wasn't as good as me."
With something to prove, Michael put in the work day after day. "He never wanted to lose in anything," Ruby Smith, a PE teacher at Laney said. "That was in-born into him. I normally get to school between 7 and 7:30. Michael would be at school before I would. Every time I'd come in and open these doors, I'd hear the basketball. Fall, wintertime, summertime. Most mornings I had to run Michael out of the gym." It also didn’t hurt that he grew from five-foot-nine to six-foot-three the following year.
Michael spread his wings during his junior year. At his first varsity game, he was very aggressive and scored 35 points. He finished the season averaging 24.8 points per game and was invited to attend Howard Garfinkel's Five-Star Basketball Camp. There, he impressed college scouts while playing against top high school players.
After just one season with his high school varsity team, Michael already proved to be a major college prospect. He was not interested in attending any other college other than UNC so even before starting his senior year; he signed with North Carolina.
During his senior year, Michael would lead his team to the number one state ranking. He averaged 26.8 points per game throughout the season and was selected to play for the McDonald’s All-American team.
After high school, Michael enrolled at the University of North Carolina and took up cultural geography. He quickly made an impact during his freshman year by scoring the winning basket in the 1982 NCAA Division I Championship game against Georgetown.
Michael would go on and be named as the NCAA College Player of the Year during his sophomore and junior years. He would also lead the US National Basketball team to Olympic gold during the summer of 1984.
Feeling that he was ready to make the leap, Michael declared for the NBA draft after his junior year and was picked third overall by the Chicago Bulls.
Even before his rookie campaign started, both players and coaches were sure that the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers would regret their picks. "All I can say is that the people in Chicago are in for a real treat," 1984-1985 NBA Scoring Champion Bernard King said.
With a fabulous first season in the league, Michael would soon redefine what it means to be a superstar. His dominating performances and unmistakable style would capture audiences around the world, and would eventually become the stuff of legend.
"There is no such thing as a perfect basketball player, and I don't believe there is only one greatest player either. Everyone plays in different eras. I built my talents on the shoulders of someone else's talent. I believe greatness is an evolutionary process that changes and evolves era to era. Without Julius Erving, David Thompson, Walter Davis, and Elgin Baylor there would never have been a Michael Jordan. I evolved from them." Michael wrote in his book For the Love of the Game: My Story.
Air Jordan: Michael Jordan Basketball Shoes Take Flight
More than 30 years have passed since Michael Jordan debuted his signature Air Jordan basketball shoes, and it has been 15 years since he finally hanged his high-tops. However, his presence is still strongly felt on and off the hardwood.
In the eyes of fans and players, Michael is a generational trendsetter who carries an unrivaled air of mystique. His reach goes well beyond the NBA, making him a global icon.
“I think that every generation really has their own thumbprint, but if you look at Michael’s influence you still see the shaved heads out there on the court—still see people playing with a great deal of flare,” Howard White, Jordan Brand Vice President, said in an interview. “I think that stamp obviously went beyond his culture and there is a thing that says ‘Like Michael Jordan’ or the ‘Michael Jordan of’ whether that it is in the NBA, NASCAR, hockey, they still compare people to Michael Jordan.”
Despite being an exceptionally gifted basketball player, hardly anyone predicted that Michael would become the icon that he is today. He was picked behind Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie during the 1984 NBA Draft, and his favored sneaker brands Adidas and Converse were also not very optimistic about partnering with him.
Even before playing a single game in the NBA, Michael’s agent David Falk envisioned something big for the young superstar. While negotiating with shoe companies, David pitched the idea of creating a new line of shoes around Michael, instead of him just wearing their sneakers.
Realizing the ingenuity of Falk’s vision,Nike made a special presentation to sell Michael Jordan basketball shoes and was able to sign the young star to a groundbreaking five-year $2.5 million contract with the potential to earn around $7 million during its course.
There was a caveat though, Michael had to accomplish at least one of three things, or else Nike had the option of ending the deal early. He had to win Rookie of the Year, average 20 points per game, or become an All-Star in his first three years.
During the 1984-1985 season, Air Jordan was born. Michael played every game in his rookie campaign. He averaged 28.2 points per game and was named the Rookie of the Year.
The Air Jordan I hit retailers in March 1985 and was sold at an unbelievable price of $65. It was the epitome of being cool. The black and red sneaker was said to have been banned by the NBA because it violated the league’s uniform policy.
Nike was said to have paid $5,000 every time Michael wore the shoes during a game. It was a small price to pay for one of the best marketing deals ever.
He detailed in his book For the Love of the Game the exact situation. "I kept wearing them," Jordan said, "and [Commissioner] David Stern started fining me."
These renegade Nike basketball shoes played in with Michael’s on-court bravado. By the end of 1985, Michael Jordan basketball shoes known as Air Jordans were flying off the shelves and raked in more than $100 million in earnings.
Michael goes on saying, "It would have cost millions of dollars to come up with a promotion that produced as much publicity as the league's ban did."
It’s stories like this coupled with heroic performances that make Michael’s legacy resonate with everyone, even people who have not seen him play. We are able to connect his signature shoes directly to his being.
Phil Knight, Sonny Vaccaro, Rob Strasser, Peter Moore, and David Falk, among others, ignited a sneaker revolution that would become as important as the game itself.
The Most Iconic Michael Jordan Basketball Shoes
In his storied NBA career, Michael Jordan has had several significant moments and games that are tied to his signature MJ shoes. Moments such as his first NBA title, the banned Air Jordans, and the Flu Game are forever talked about by players and fans alike.
Stylistic and flashy, Air Jordans epitomize Michael himself. His signature MJ shoes had turned the sneaker game on its axis when the first pair came out, and it remains as popular as ever.
“MJ will always be a staple on the NBA because guys care about how they look when they play and what shoes they wear on-court,” Jordan athlete Chris Paul says. “MJ had a flare and style about him when he played. For me personally, I remember MJ used to tell me about going down to the corner in front of the other team's bench so the other teams could look at his shoes, which is killer.”
With the addition of the Air Jordan XXXII, the Michael Jordan basketball shoes collection continues to grow. However, let us go back in time and take a look at the most iconic shoes Michael has worn and the stories that made them special.
Air Jordan I. “I can’t wear that shoe. Those are the devil’s colors.” Michael said after seeing his first signature sneaker. These MJ shoes marked the beginning of his larger-than-life career and the Michael Jordan basketball shoes collection. He was named the 1985 Rookie of the Year and carried his lowly Chicago Bulls to the playoffs while wearing these groundbreaking Air Jordan basketball shoes. The now infamous banned storyline also adds to Air Jordan 1’s unique appeal.
Air Jordan II. The last Jumpman-less Michael Jordan basketball shoes, the original Air Jordan 2s were made in Italy and featured faux lizard skin and a full-length Zoom Air sole. Michael would miss most of the 1985-1986 season because of a broken bone in his left foot. Upon his return the following year, he laced up the Air Jordan II and scored 3,041 points by the end of the season.
Air Jordan III. The Air Jordan 3 was the first pair of MJ shoes that were designed by Tinker Hatfield. The designer worked closely with Michael, making it the first Air Jordan to truly capture MJ’s personality. These shoes also debuted the Jumpman logo to commemorate Michael’s inspiring image of flight when he won the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest while wearing his Air Jordan III. The shoe’s most memorable features are its heel air unit and elephant skin print.
Air Jordan IV. During the first round of the 1989 NBA Playoffs, the Bulls and Cavs played it out for the fifth and final time to see who was going to advance to the next round. With less than five seconds left in regulation, Brad Sellers inbounded to an open Michael who dribbled towards the basket and then put up an eighteen-foot jumper over Craig Ehlo. He was able to make the shot and win the series for the Bulls while wearing his AJ IV. More famously known as “The Shot,” these classic MJ shoes feature ventilation netting, midfoot wings, and visible air cushioning.
Air Jordan V. The Air Jordan 5 is one of the most recognizable Michael Jordan basketball shoes ever made. Its design inspiration comes from the WWII Mustang fighter plane. While wearing these bad boys, Michael set a career-best 69 points against Cleveland before bringing home the scoring title during the 1989-1990 season. The shoe’s most notable features are its metallic tongue, lace lock technology, and clear outsole.
Air Jordan VI. The Air Jordan 6 is a pair of MJ shoes that is not celebrated because of its style, but because of what Michael achieved while wearing them. In the face of their long-standing rivals, the Bulls stayed strong and finally defeated the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. They advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time and took home the Championship by beating the Magic-Johnson-led Lakers in five games. Designed after his Porsche 911, these celebrated MJ shoes conveyed speed and class. It features a neoprene sleeve, rubber tongue, translucent rubber outsole, lace locks, and a visible air unit.
Air Jordan VII. Michael became a global sensation while wearing the AJ VII. He won his second NBA Championship, third MVP award, and sixth scoring title while wearing these basketball shoes. He also led the 1992 US Men’s Basketball Team, dubbed the Dream Team, to the Olympic gold. These Michael Jordan basketball shoes also started to distinguish his Air Jordan brand from Nike basketball. The Nike branding and visible air unit were omitted from the design. These MJ shoes boast Nike Huarache technology that would be passed down a decade later to Kobe Bryant’s signature line.
Air Jordan VIII. Released for the 1992-1993 season, these historic Michael Jordan basketball shoes were the last pair MJ donned before his first retirement. While wearing the Air Jordan 8, he led his Chicago Bulls to their third consecutive NBA Championship; making them only the third team in league history to achieve such a feat. Michael also became the first player ever to be recognized as the MVP in three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, solidifying his reputation as the NBA’s unbeatable. These revolutionary basketball shoes combined the iconic style of the Air Jordan with the strapped look of a cross trainer.
Air Jordan IX. After his first retirement, Michael went on to play minor league baseball to fulfill his late father’s dream. It was said that he wanted to wear something familiar on the field. Because of this, Hatfield transformed the AJ IX into the baseball cleats he used during his stint with the Birmingham Barons. These shoes are also featured on the feet of MJ’s statue outside the United Center.
Air Jordan X. The tenth installation of Michael’s signature shoe was designed while he was away from the game. Meant as a tribute, it listed his career accomplishments on the outsole. To everyone’s delight, he sent a fax on March 1995 with two words written on it: “I’m Back.” Boasting a much simpler design, these MJ shoes became an instant classic as it ushered in the return of His Airness. He proved that he was still a force to be reckoned with by dropping 55 points against the Knicks in his first game back at the Madison Square Garden.
Air Jordan XI. The Air Jordan 11 is probably the most famous Air Jordan of all time. Michael wore these MJ shoes during his full year back (1995-1996) with the Bulls. En route to his fourth Championship ring, he would become only the second player in NBA history to win all three major awards (regular season MVP, All-Star game MVP, and Finals MVP). He also wore the AJ XI in the animated classic Space Jam. These shoes feature a patent leather liner around the bottom and a translucent outsole.
Air Jordan XII. The Air Jordan 12 is more famously known as “The Flu shoe.” Despite suffering a 103-degree fever during game five of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael put on a superhuman performance to ultimately lead the Bulls to another Championship. He scored 38 points (including the game winner), grabbed seven boards, and dished out five assists against the Utah Jazz. Jordan Brand was also born in 1997, and the AJ XIIs were the first Michael Jordan basketball shoes released by the Nike subsidiary.
Air Jordan XIV. Michael achieved legendary status while wearing these Air Jordan basketball shoes. The original “last shot” shoe, he scored 45 points including the game-winning shot over Bryon Russell during game six of the 1998 NBA Finals while in the Air Jordan 14, clinching the series and winning his sixth and final NBA Championship. These shoes boast the most revolutionary technologies. Built for speed, the AJ XIV is a mid-top with dual Air Zoom units.
Air Jordan XXXIII. Jordan Brand continues to lead the sneaker game by taking a daring leap forward and totally abandoning convention. These Michael Jordan basketball shoes integrate visible technology with tasteful design and functionality. Inspired by flight utility, the Air Jordan 33 boasts the new FastFit technology that provides ultimate lockdown. A Zoom Air unit and reinforced FlightSpeed plate reduce the shoe’s overall weight and deliver the needed propulsion to take flight.
Flight Blueprint: The Visionaries Behind the Renowned MJ Shoes Collection
Michael Jordan knows exactly what he wants and needs from his shoes. So, creating his signature MJ shoes is no easy task. Aside from elevating his on-court performance, the shoes must also be stylish enough to be worn off-court.
Listed below are the creative minds who were up for the challenge and created what we now know as the Air Jordan collection.
Peter Moore. The man who started it all. An alumnus of the acclaimed Chouinard Art Institute, Peter Moore is the genius behind the first Air Jordan including the Wings logo. He served as Nike’s first global director before he left the brand for Adidas in 1987. He also created the Three Bars logo associated with Adidas Equipment.
Bruce Kilgore. From designing tennis courts to shoes, Bruce Kilgore is the artist behind the iconic Nike Air Force 1 and Air Jordan II. He finished Industrial and Product Design at the University of Bridgeport. Before designing shoes, he worked on a few different products. During his senior year, he designed tennis courts for a company named Richard J. Reilly. After graduating, he moved on and designed household appliances. After that, he moved to Detroit and worked for Chrysler. Then, an employment agency called and informed him of a job opening for a company named Blue Ribbon Sports. Ready for a change, he took the job and was tasked to work on track spikes. The result is the Zoom track spike series that Carl Lewis used in the 1984 Summer Olympics. Bruce would move on to work on the Air Basketball shoe, and Blue Ribbon Sports would eventually become Nike.
Tinker Hatfield. A product of the University of Oregon, Tinker Hatfield was an architect by trade. He was recruited by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman in 1981 to design buildings, office spaces, and storefronts. Four years later, he started designing athletic shoes. He took the lead in creating the Air Jordan III and would go on to develop most of the Air Jordan line. It was no secret that Michael was not happy with the direction of his signature line after Peter Moore left. By working closely with Michael during the AJ III’s design process, Tinker would ultimately save Nike from losing their most prominent endorser and would create the most admired shoes in history.
Wilson Smith III. An architect turned designer just like Hatfield, Wilson Smith III created the Air Jordan XVI and XVII. He is also a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Architecture. He joined Nike in 1983 and worked as Corporate Interior Designer. Three years later, he shifted to Product Design. He primarily worked on the concepts of Nike’s Basketballand Cross Training products.
Tate Kuerbis. After finishing Product Design at the Art Center College of Design, Tate Kuerbis joined Nike in 1995 and is now the Senior Footwear Designer of Jordan Brand. Aside from creating Air Jordans, he also worked on signature products for Derek Jeter, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, and Maria Sharapova.
D’Wayne Edwards. An aspiring designer whose dream started with a No. 2 pencil. D’Wayne Edwards was able to break into the footwear industry despite not attending college. At the age of 17, he beat professional and college students and won a design contest sponsored by Reebok. Two years later, he became the youngest footwear designer while working for L.A. Gear. At the young age of 23, he became L.A. Gear’s Head Designer. He fulfilled his lifelong dream when he joined Nike in 2000. In just his first year with the brand, he was able to create the best-selling boot in Nike’s history, the Goadome 2. He then became one of Nike’s youngest Design Directors at just 30 years old. In 2007, he achieved his ultimate dream of designing an Air Jordan. As the founder of Pensole Academy, he is giving back to aspiring designers by giving them the opportunity to study without having to pay tuition.
Jason Mayden. A former Jordan Brand Sr. Global Design Director, Jason Mayden spent 13 years with Nike before moving on and co-founding Super Heroic. He took up Industrial Design at the College of Creative studies and attended the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He contributed to the production of innovative performance products for athletes such as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Derek Jeter, and Michael Jordan.
Jordan DNA: The Mark of Excellence
Because of his illustrious career, Michael Jordan has become synonymous with the term “greatness.” His signature MJ shoes collection has taken a life of its own with the arrival of the Jumpman logo and remains one of the most significant brands worldwide.
"The Jordan III was the first shoe with the logo -- the Jumpman logo -- and that was my choice," Tinker Hatfield explains. "I put it right on the tongue, and I felt like, almost instantly at that point, that this mark was going to be important for a long, long time. Because I did feel it spoke to people on several different levels. It was Michael, but also it was a mark of excellence."
Since the AJ III, the Jumpman silhouette has appeared on every pair of Michael Jordan basketball shoes and has become the mark of innovation, performance, and style.
DJ Khaled, one of Jordan’s leading endorsers off-court, has this to say, “Jordan is one of my biggest inspirations. For me, he is the definition of greatness. His influence is generational. A brand you can trust forever, timeless. It represents winning and being the best period.”
But before the Jumpman arrived, a different logo was used on the first two Air Jordans. The Peter-Moore-illustrated Wings logo was featured as a salute to Michael’s ability to fly across the court and his freakishly-long wingspan.
The original ball-and-wings logo was sketched on a napkin. “On the flight home I noticed a youngster wearing a replica pair of pilot’s wings given to him by the airlines,” Moore recounts. “The design seemed to fit the idea of a guy who could fly.”
Flight Calendar: Freshest Michael Jordan Basketball Shoes for Sale
Traditionally, Michael Jordan fans have come to expect the retail release of the newest MJ shoes during the All-Star break.
When MJ was still playing, he would wear-test his latest signature Michael Jordan basketball shoes during the first half of the season. Fans would get a sneak preview but would have to hold their breath until the All-Star break to get their hands on the new MJ shoes.
It was a clever strategy since the general public would know exactly when the latest Michael Jordan sneakers for sale would be available.
In recent years, new MJ shoes are being released around a month before the start of the NBA season.
Affordable Michael Jordan Basketball Shoes for Sale
The hype for MJ shoes has recently died down since Nike and Jordan have oversaturated the market with new and retro releases. More and more Michael Jordan basketball shoes are being discounted and hitting outlet stores. However, Nike is set to correct this trend this 2018 by making Air Jordans exclusive again. Iconic styles will be more limited, as well as popular models such as the Air Jordan III, IV, VI, and XI.
Now is the perfect time to check out online retailers and outlet stores to see if you can still get an affordable pair of Michael Jordan basketball shoes.
Fast Facts About Michael Jordan
When was Michael Jordan born?
Michael was born on February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York. His full name is Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
Did Michael Jordan finish college?
A few years after being drafted, Michael would go back to school and earn his bachelor’s degree in geography.
Was Michael Jordan married?
Michael was married twice. His first wife was Juanita Vanoy and they have 3 children. They were divorced in 2006 and in 2013 he married Yvette Prieto. He and Yvette have twins.
What is Michael Jordan’s current net worth?
As of March 2018, Michael’s net worth is $1.65 billion. He’s the third richest african-american behind Oprah and Robert F. Smith.
When did Michael Jordan last play in the NBA?
Michael’s last game was against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 16, 2003. The Wizards lost 107-87 and he scored 15 points.
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Dimitrije Curcic has been playing basketball for over 22 years. Like Manu Ginobili, he’s a left-hander whose moves led him to a better career-shooting percentage than the Argentine himself. After playing professionally for 10 years, Dimitrije moved to coaching for two seasons before he became a basketball statistician for StatScore, and FanSided contributor for the San Antonio Spurs. Dimitrije loves to tell hoop stories through numbers and graphics and has been featured on Fansided, FiveThirtyEight, Eurohoops, and TalkBasket among the others.