Ranking Every Air Jordan From 1 to 33
From worst to first.
It about time we did one of these.
Typically, these lists surface around the time a fresh new Jordan signature silhouette hits the market, but frankly, I was a little busy. Plus, I’m rarely sold on the brand-new Jordan silhouette when it releases. But with killer colorway after killer colorway, like the Red Black and Gold that surfaced yesterday to Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack edition, I’m finding myself falling in love with the 33 more every day.
There’s always a lot to consider in these lists. Some have been around for much longer than others. Jordan’s Bulls-era sneakers obviously have more legacy attached. Some I haven’t hooped in before. Are we judging it on hospitability or on aesthetic? Are we considering the impact on the court or off it?
Then there’s personal preference. I’ve lived through 30 of the 33 silhouettes. I’ve hooped in almost all of these and I’ve owned at least one of every pair.
It’s hard, I know. So please, don’t get butt-hurt if I leave your favorite Air Jordan out of the top 5. It’s subjective. I even consider the list to be fluid. As my tastes and experiences change, so will the list. That’s the best part about writing an opinion piece, it’s always open for change.
That being said, I’ve now had some time to absorb and appreciate the new Air Jordan 33 silhouette, so now is as good as any time to rank all 33 Jordan signature sneakers from worst to first:
33. Air Jordan 2010
I feel like I’m talking into the drive-thru speaker box here. I can’t help but look at these and burst out my go-to Chick-fil-a order. These are clearly the worst.
32. Air Jordan 2012
Two years on from the Worst Jordan signature ever, Jordan Brand had a shot at redeeming themselves. It didn’t go so well. Way too much going on right here.
31. Air Jordan 2009
The late 00’s early 10’s was no good for any kind of fashion. Exhibit A.
The performance was good, though. Real good.
30. Air Jordan 2011
Look, I definitely appreciate the personalization abilities of 2011. It came with two different cushioning systems and leather that could change colors with hand-buffing. The versatility was meant to be reminiscent of Jordan’s on-court play. But the look? Egh. It’s just the period. Designs were damn ugly.
29. Air Jordan 22
The concept is really cool on the 22. Inspired by the F22 Raptor fighter jet and pulling through some strong WC3 vibes was enough to pull this out of the depths of the list.
28. Air Jordan 15
Somewhere between an anvil and Ridley Scott’s Alien, these are one hell of an ugly shoe. Hell, even Tinker said that these were his worst-ever design. But hooping in these growing up was lit.
27. Air Jordan 19
Apart from the recently retro’d Flint and their Pantone Sample, I just can’t get around these. Perhaps its the medieval chain suit looking tongues. And if you have wide feet, forget these.
26. Air Jordan 20
Tinker Hatfields return to the Jordan Series was, for me, a little disappointing. On paper, the historical laser-etched concept and tech are standouts, it’s just a shame the design — like most from the era — didn’t stand the test of time.
25. Air Jordan 2
The disrespect, I know. The OG was crafted beautifully in Italy, with amazing comfort and tech for the time, but they came out looking like South Floria Shuffleboard specials. A lot of effort went into this from designer Bruce Kilgore. But if you’re the designer of the Air Force 1, it’s a tough task to live up to such perfection.
24. Air Jordan 21
Often slept on, the Jordan 21’s Bentley Continental GT Coupe inspo is something else. There are a few great colorways, and an even better Ray Allen “Sonics” PE, but there’s not enough to pull this higher up the list.
23. Air Jordan 30
Hoopers will sure that these are a great sneaker to ball in. Super lightweight, comfortable AF and loaded with tech. And even though the performance was at the forefront of its design, the genius that is Tinker Hatfield still managed to incorporate argyle weaves in it’s upper, as a nod to Mike’s Alma Mater UNC. I can’t wait for the retros in the years to come!
22. Air Jordan 28
Another court-friendly sneaker, the Air Jordan 28 really changed the game for Jordan Brand. They managed to go fully-fledged on tech AND aesthetic appeal. The carbon fiber and Zoom Air to reduce the need for foam and a full-length zippered shroud made from material sourced from Switzerland continued the history of Air Jordan personalization.
21. Air Jordan 18
They may draw resemblance to Kobe’s Adidas 1, but it’s Jordan Brand, so there’s a story here. With a mix of Italian fashion design and car racing inspiration, these shoes were delivered with a towel, a brush and a driver’s manual. There’s enough uniqueness here to prevent these from sliding down the list.
20. Air Jordan 17
My most vivid memory of the Jordan 17 is MJ’s All-Star outing, where he donned the Jordan 17 Low (and blew a wide-open dunk) But that didn’t discourage me from believing that these could still make me fly. In an era of DADA Spinners, this was one of the only sneaker designs from the early 2000s that held it’s clout to this day. Kudos, designer Wilson Smith.
19. Air Jordan 23
The detail was the driver of the XX3. A hand-stitched upper provided a refined design, while MJ’s thumbprint on the inside of the tongue—the print design also helped mold the outsole—was a detail many wearers enjoyed touching each time they slipped on the shoe.
18. Air Jordan 16
Jordan went to the front office and his signature sneaker needed to exhibit that corporate side with a removable shroud—the first use of that design in the line—in leather. The shoe features patent leather and full-grain leather, a strong tie to past Air Jordan sneakers and a distinctive executive look that moves the 16th shoe into rarefied air.
17. Air Jordan 14
We get it. Mike loves Ferraris. The only problem with these is that we didn’t get to see enough of them. Im sure had Mike gone on for another full season (and another Chip) these would hold much more clout.
16. Air Jordan 31
The Air Jordan 31 paid homage to the most iconic sneaker int he signature series and with respect to both today’s elite performance needs and the OG, it was done with exceptional taste. An incredible effort with mind-blowing performance.
15. Air Jordan 10
To go this minimal in the mid-90s just shows that Tinker was well ahead of his time. I still prefer the OG toe cap, but unfortunately, Mike didn’t. These are still great to hoop in, just ask Kemba Walker.
14. Air Jordan 9
Considering these were never won by Michael on the court, they hold significant historical weight. For starters, these shoes are featured on the Jordan statue outside the United Center. They feature in Space Jam. Even cooler was the fact that, although retired from the game of Basketball, JB kept the signature sneaker line going, transitioning into cleats for Mike’s foray to the batter’s box. For all of these reasons and more, they sit at #14.
13. Air Jordan 33
Look, it’s probably way too early to make this call, but I’m going to roll with it. Lucky number 13 never did anyone in, right?
Jordan’s boldest design since the 28, the all-new Jordan 33 is making serious waves already. Tech is again at the forefront, with the sneaker introducing FastFit, that gets rids of laces and creates ultimate lockdown, all while paying tasteful homage to the AirJordan 3 on its 30th anniversary.
12. Air Jordan 32
If you played hoops last year, you had to have these. I’m a bigger fan of the Low for on the court, but the mids we’re just as nice. And like the previous pair on this list, it pays homage to the 30th-anniversary sneaker of that year, the Air Jordan 2. And they did a pretty damn good job remastering a sneaker that nobody really loves.
11. Air Jordan 7
When I think of Air Jordans, I think of the Raptor 7. The outsole was so wild, it’s all I wanted as a kid. It’s Neoprene bootie was something I’d never seen in a basketball sneaker before, but that wasn’t what made these so successful. It was a cartoon critter: Bugs Bunny. The crafty hare’s adverts took the sneaker from hoops fanatics to the mainstream. The rest is history.
10. Air Jordan 29
Undoubtedly the best performance Air Jordan in recent history, the Air Jordan 29 gave us Flightweave, a special one-piece weave material from Italy designed for lightweight strength that served as the precursor to Nike’s Flyweave. The tougher-than-knit weave had dual functionality; the performance element and the ability for the brand to print graphics over the entire upper, leading to insane colorways like the pictured “Photo Reel”
9. Air Jordan 13
Inspired by Mike’s cat-like on-court abilities, the Air Jordan 13 really kicked off Jordan Brand’s storytelling, something that’s inspired releases and marketing for decades to come.
Plus, any sneaker Mike wins a championship in is a certified classic.
8. Air Jordan 8
You cannot get any more 90s than this. Even the ads featured Bugs Bunny. And although the shoes were big, heavy and lacked any real performance tech, the design remains iconic.
7. Air Jordan 6
Speaking of significance, the Air Jordan 6 was MJ’s first Championship sneaker. That in itself is iconic enough. Because of that, the silhouette has become one of the most popular retros in the modern era. Back in 91, It had a tough time compared to the three sneakers preceding it, but in 2018, it’s still considered one of the best options from Jordan Brand’s signature catalog.
6. Air Jordan 12
Probably the second-best performance sneaker of Mike’s Bulls era, the Jordan 12 utilized Zoom Air’s fiber pressurized unit for the first time. It was hella comfortable to ball in, that’s for sure.
Jordan’s Flu Game and 1997 Championship only added to the sneaker’s legacy, and it’s aesthetic appeal has enabled the transition from court to fashion with no resistance.
The Jordan 11 ticks all the boxes; design, technology, and significance.
5. Air Jordan 5
The Jordan 5 is the Chris Bosh of the most powerful “Big Three” sneaker run in basketball history (we’re talking the Jordan 3/4/5). 3M tongues, asymmetrical collars, translucent outsoles AND visible Air Units made this sneaker one of the hottest things we’d ever seen.
4. Air Jordan 4
If the 5 was Bosh, these are Dwayne Wade.
Tinker didn’t hold back on his follow up of the game-changing Air Jordan 3. His second effort, the Jordan 4, introduced mesh, plastic wings and nubuck leather for the first time in a hoops sneaker. Add to that plastic heel tabs, visible Air and a proper 5/8 cut, there was too much cool shit on this sneaker for it not to be a success.
3. Air Jordan 3
This sneaker saved Jordan Brand.
That is not an overstatement.
Without Tinker’s brilliance, Mike would have migrated to adidas. Understandably, Mike was wowed when he first saw the Jordan 3 (we were, too). Hatfield mixed tumbled leather with faux elephant skin print while dropping the profile to a mid-top, as per Jordan’s request.
But the market simply had to have the first-ever basketball sneaker with visible Air. THAT was the shit.
2. Air Jordan 11
Tinker made them shine, Mike made them fly, You made them iconic. The etchings on the modern box inserts couldn’t be more fitting.
Patent leather hit a basketball sneaker for the first time, as did the introduction of carbon fiber in the support shanks. It is still the best performance retro of the Bulls era. The Jordan 11 is outstanding in every way. It’s design, impeccable, it’s performance for the period was elite and it’s popularity was exponentially driven by it’s appearance in Space Jam.
The market ate it up then, and still do today.
1. Air Jordan 1
Air Jordans changed the whole dynamic, leveraging such a niche product to the masses via an extremely talented and equally marketable athlete. It was also pure chance that it was birthed around the same time as peak-level sports endorsements, which in itself was bigger than the Air Jordan 1.
It kicked off the still-strong Air Jordan signature series and is the most profitable Jordan Retro to date. Phil Knight’s chance on the young athlete paid off big time, but it wasn’t just the one event that makes this so special. This is the pillar of the entire Jordan series. Without a starting point, there wouldn’t be an anchor point to tie the championships, the MVPs and the man to. All of what happened during Mike’s life both during and post-career, adds even more weight to the importance of this sneaker.
It’s importance in the entire Air Jordan range — a range that is almost single-handedly responsible for modern-day sneaker culture — is the reason why this holds such strong influence.
We could go on and on about the Air Jordan 1, but more importantly, it means something different to each and every one of you. And that’s why it tops the list.