Introduction to Air Jordan
Michael Jordan isn't the first professional athlete to endorse a signature sneaker—but the story of "His Airness" and the Air Jordan line is arguably the most captivating in both the sports and footwear arenas.
Air Jordans are much more than shoes to be worn on the basketball court—the line has become ingrained in all avenues of pop culture, from art and fashion to music and film. This universal obsession with the Air Jordan didn't come about by chance. Michael Jordan's talent and passion for winning, paired with Nike’s innovative technologies and storytelling genius, have culminated in the pinnacle of signature sneaker lines.
History of the Air Jordan
The partnership began in 1985 when rookie Michael Jordan inked a deal with the Swoosh for a reported $2.5 million over five years, plus royalties. By today's standards, the transaction doesn't seem like much. But back then, it was colossal—and Nike was banking big on the kid out of North Carolina.
Nike was still in its adolescence as a footwear brand, but it had a new technology that would be the catalyst for its success in basketball and performance footwear at large: Air. Nike Air technology consists of pressurized air inside a tough yet flexible membrane. The technology provides lower-impact, spring-like cushioning to the wearer's movement—whether it be a runner's stride or, in MJ's case, his jump.
Designed for a player who regularly took flight on the court, the Air name was the perfect fit, and Air Jordan was born.
The Air Jordan's in Film, TV and Hip Hop
Even if you've never owned a pair of Air Jordans, you've seen them everywhere. Air Jordans have been front and center for some of the more memorable moments in pop culture.
Early on in Jordan's career, director Spike Lee embraced the sneakers by wearing a pair of Air Jordan 1s in the 1986 film, She's Gotta Have It, as Mars Blackmon—a character who would later be featured in numerous ad campaigns and even on some Jordan shoes.
Iconic scenes from other Spike Lee films highlighted that Air Jordans were distinct and should be coveted—including a character called "Buggin' Out" getting his brand new White/Cement Air Jordan 4s scuffed in the 1989 film, Do the Right Thing, and Jake Shuttlesworth buying a pair of Air Jordan 13s in 1998's He Got Game.
Other notable moments include Will Smith wearing the Air Jordan 5 in the pilot episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Michael Jordan sending Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck to pick up his lucky gym shorts and a pair of Air Jordan 9s in the classic Space Jam. Who can forget the iconic scene where Michael takes on the Monstars in black Air Jordan 11s that would later be dubbed Space Jam 11s?
Rap is as competitive as basketball, and everyone wants to be at the top of their craft. Michael Jordan's name has been referenced countless times in hip hop as the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Ice Cube, Lil Wayne, Fabolous and Drake have compared their lyrical prowess to MJ's talent on the court.
Signature Air Jordan Models
Whether you've been collecting Air Jordans since 1985 or you're starting to build a lineup now, it's essential you know all the signature models and when they were originally released. Each shoe tells the story of where Jordan was at during his stellar career.
Air Jordan's Impact on Sports
In the words of Mars Blackmon: "Money, it's gotta be da shoes!"
Jordan’s legacy as the greatest basketball player ever is undeniable: 6-time NBA champion and Finals MVP; 5-time NBA MVP; 14-time NBA All-Star; 10-time scoring champion; and 2-time Slam Dunk Contest winner. The shoes factor into this success—Michael played nearly his entire career in Air Jordans.
It could be debated whether the shoes made a difference in Mike's abilities—but there’s no question that his game directly relates to the desirability, collectability and value of Air Jordans. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Steph Curry and many other greats have signature sneaker lines. Their lofty aim is to reach the same level of success, impact and longevity the Air Jordan line has achieved.
Before "All-Star" themed releases became a significant part of NBA's All-Star Weekend, it was routine for Michael Jordan to debut new sneakers during the event.
The Top 10 Most Popular Air Jordan Sneakers sold on eBay
Air Jordan Sneakers - Bred 11
Air Jordan Sneakers - Royal 1
Air Jordan Sneakers - Cement 4
Air Jordan Sneakers - Space Jam 11
Air Jordan Sneakers - Bred 1
Air Jordan Sneakers - Bordeaux 7
Air Jordan Sneakers - Chicago 1
Air Jordan Sneakers - Black Toe 1
Air Jordan Sneakers - Infrared 6
Air Jordan Sneakers - Concord 11
Air Jordan Collectability
Michael Jordan last played in the NBA in 2003, and it's been even longer since he played as a Chicago Bull. But that hasn't stopped the Jordan Brand from continuing the story of Michael Jordan's legacy.
New Air Jordans have been inspired by everything from teams MJ defeated in the playoffs to his iconic slam dunk from the free-throw line to the cigars and champagne he enjoyed after each championship win. The brand has also made it a point to collaborate with new artists and designers to bring new energy to the Air Jordan line.
Whether you're a fan of the classic colorways Jordan wore on court or newer limited-edition collabs, there are plenty of highly collectible pairs.
Air Jordan Price and Resale Value
Today, adult size Air Jordans typically retail for $170-$250 (packs and certain limited releases could be more), but their value can go up significantly if they’re collectable or rare enough. One of the best releases of 2020, the Off-White x Air Jordan 5s, retailed for $225, but costs upwards of $700 today. If other Off-White collaborations are any indication of value, they will continue to appreciate.
Off-White “Chicago” 1s retailed for $190 in 2017 but can fetch close to $5,000 today.
When Air Jordans go from just being cool sneakers to true pieces of sports memorabilia, prices increase exponentially. For example, a pair of game-worn and double-signed “Chicago” Air Jordan 1s from 1985 recently listed on eBay for $50,000.
While sneakers that expensive are usually 1 of 1 and not priced for the average consumer, many of the most popular Air Jordan models are reasonably obtainable on the resale market.