In the Meteoric Rise of the Jordan Brand

In the Meteoric Rise of the Jordan Brand
Courtesy of Sotheby’s 

Air Jordans: A Brief History

An unprecedented endorsement contract of $500,000 a year was signed by Nike with up-and-coming basketball rookie Michael Jordan in 1984. With Jordan's impressive skills on the court and dynamic personality off the court, the brand was looking to expand its basketball market presence. When MJ wore the infamous black and red Nike Air Ships that the NBA "threw out of the game," he became synonymous with boundary-breaking talent. The Jordan brand reached new heights in 1985 when the first shoe was released.

Nike Air Jordan 1, the first Jordan shoe, launched modern sneaker collecting as we know it today. Nike continued to produce new Air Jordan models each season because it was so popular. Jordan's legacy continues with the Air Jordan 37, Nike's latest shoe. The Air Jordan brand has always been synonymous with quality, craftsmanship, materials, innovation, performance, and style when it comes to sneaker design. Taking a closer look at 5 of Jordan's most popular models. 

Now is the time to shop for the 5 best Jordans of all time

Nike Air Jordan 1

Courtesy of Sotheby’s 

Michael Jordan's AJ1 shoe was the first in his groundbreaking signature line, and it paved the way for many coveted player collaborations. A grail for sneaker collectors worldwide, the OG High is perhaps the most pivotal sneaker in history. In 1985, Peter Moore's Jordans debuted with a sleek silhouette, signature Wings branding, and revolutionary air cushioning technology. Air Jordans quickly became a must-have for sneaker collectors and basketball fans alike when Michael Jordan wore them on the court. Featuring red, white and black leather premium materials, the Nike Air Jordan 1 OG High 1985 "Chicago" honors Jordan's pioneering legacy with the Chicago Bulls.

Nike Air Jordan 3

Courtesy of Sotheby’s 

Almost losing its biggest hoops star with Peter Moore's departure in 1987, Nike turned to revolutionary designer Tinker Hatfield for help. Hatfield's Air Jordan 3 is credited with keeping MJ at Nike. Hatfield worked closely with Jordan to design an innovative, lightweight shoe of historical significance. A mid-cut basketball shoe featuring an exposed heel unit, the AJ3 was the first Jordan shoe to feature 'Visible Air'. A distinctive elephant print accent accents the model, as well as the iconic Jumpman logo on the tongue.

There have been many collaborations and special editions based on the Air Jordan 3 design since its release in 1988. Thanks to Hiroshi Fujiwara's design label, Fragment Design, one of our favorites, the Nike Air Jordan 3 Retro Fragment, gets a sleek, minimalist treatment. Fujiwara, who is considered the father of the Ura-Harajuku fashion scene in Japan, adds black leather overlays embossed with the Fragment lightning bolt logo to the white tumbled leather AJ3s.

Nike Air Jordan 4

Courtesy of Sotheby’s 

In 1989, Hatfield's second Air Jordan model, the Air Jordan 4, was released in four OG colorways. With its triangular support wings and breathable over-molded mesh panels, this Air Jordan shoe combines striking aesthetics with performance-enhancing features. With its eye-catching design and standout moments on and off the court, the AJ4 quickly became one of the most popular Jordans. Its Airness famously hit "The Shot" over Craig Ehlo wearing Air Jordan 4s, and it appears in Spike Lee's seminal 1989 film Do the Right Thing.

The Air Jordan 4 has inspired many innovative collaborations thanks to its perennial popularity. It marked Jordan Brand's first collaboration with legendary street artist KAWS, aka Brian Donnelly, and was among the most talked about sneakers of the year. As a result of the high anticipation for the 2017 release, the police had to shut down a London raffle to prevent a riot. With their distinctive Mickey Mouse glove graphics adorning the insoles, outsoles, and uppers, and Donnelly's signature 'XX' on the heel tabs, KAWS Jordans live up to their hype.

Nike Air Jordan 5

Courtesy of Sotheby’s 

A P-51 Mustang fighter jet, an American-made plane used by Allied forces during World War II, inspired Tinker Hatfield's Air Jordan 5. Air Jordan 5's aggressive Mustang silhouette is inspired by Jordan's dominant on-court style, while its shark-tooth midsole echoes “The Shark,” a version of the P-51 adorned with cartoonish shark teeth. This Jordan Brand sneaker also represents a number of design firsts: the first Jordan shoe to feature a clear outsole, as well as the first to feature reflective 3M material on the tongue and molded ankle collars.

With this Nike Air Jordan 5 Retro SE Oregon, the classic design gains a new element of Nike history: the company is founded by former Ducks track and field athletes Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman, and Hatfield is also a former Duck. On the midsoles, the Jordan shoes feature yellow shark tooth detailing with black eyelets, tongues, and mesh.

Nike Air Jordan 11

Courtesy of Sotheby’s 

In addition to being the favorite sneaker of MJ himself, the Air Jordan 11 has a wealth of history. During MJ's legendary 72-10 Bulls season in 1995, the iconic Jordan shoes made NBA history. This basketball shoe was unlike anything ever seen before. It had a ballistic mesh upper surrounded by a shiny patent leather mudguard. Jordan's performance on the court wasn't the only thing that made it stand out. The sneaker became an instant pop culture phenomenon after Jordan wore it in the 1996 movie Space Jam, and it remains one of the most popular Jordans to this day.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Air Jordan 11, Nike created this Air Jordan 11 Retro Jubilee. Patent leather and ballistic mesh uppers are complemented by a metallic silver Jumpman and Jordan's number 23 on the heel. The tongue and sole of the shoe are also adorned with a Jumpman logo and silver "JORDAN" lettering.

Welcome to the New Rich. Rich Report is a Global Media Company, Focusing on Business, Investing, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Luxury Lifestyle, and Education.