Air Jordan Line Ranked 2020
- by Nick Demaria
- November 18, 2020
Nike’s Air Jordan line is known as the definitive sneaker collection when you’re looking for comfort, sportiness, and style. Air Jordans redefined the fields of sports and fashion marketing and created sneaker culture as it exists today. They also revitalized Nike, which was struggling when it signed with Michael Jordan in 1984. In the following decades, Air Jordans have consistently caught our attention with their unique designs and their variety – each model has its own individual design.
How do we even begin to rank these kicks? We decided that it’s time to try. In honor of the release of the Air Jordan 35 this year, we have ranked each of the remaining Air Jordan models based on design, on-court performance, and popularity. They range from groundbreaking to downright bizarre.
#34 Air Jordan XV
This is quite possibly the strangest Air Jordan on this list. It was inspired by the X-15 fighter jet, but it looks like it belongs on a spaceship instead. With a blocky, anvil-like shape, this shoe, released for the 1998-1999 season, is more evocative of postmodern architecture than fashionable footwear. Maybe they were just a bit ahead of their time for 90’s style.
#33 Air Jordan XIX
We are not really sure what is going on with this shoe. It seems to be going for modern simplicity, but the wide shape makes it look more like a clunky boot than a basketball sneaker – and the mesh cover looks somewhat out of place. The Air Jordan 19 does function well as a basketball sneaker; it has great support and stays secure. But if you’re looking for style as well as substance, the 19 simply does not deliver.
#32 Air Jordan 2012
The official marketing copy of this shoe states that the Air Jordan 2012 drew design inspiration from “some of basketball’s ancestors.” We will take this statement at face value because the 2012’s design looks like it was cobbled together from pieces of several different past jordans. With two different sleeves and three different interchangeable midsoles, this shoe is a bit too complex to be desirable unless you are looking for a more retro vibe.
#31 Air Jordan XX2
The Air Jordan 22’s great fault is that it is one digit off from XX3 – i.e. 23, Michael Jordan’s jersey number – which was projected to be a monumental model. As a result, the XX2 was likely overlooked a bit in the design department; it’s a relatively unimpressive composition. It was influenced by the F22 Raptor, with some detailing to evoke the speed of a fighter jet.
#30 Air Jordan 2010
This shoe’s shape is perfectly fine, if generic, but what sets the 2010 model so low on this list is its detailing. The huge hole in the side is an unusual design choice, to say the least.
#29 Air Jordan 2009
While it does get points for functionality, when it comes to appearance, the 2009 misses the mark. Drawing its inspiration from “fencing” and “defense,” the 2009’s design features a “glass-blown” texture that did not see that much success with fans.
#28 Air Jordan 2011
There is a general trend among the Jordans of the 2010 decade: while exemplary when it came to performance, they suffered from the fashion sense of the time when it came to design. The 2011’s focus was on versatility: it came with two different cushioning, and the leather changed colors with hand-buffing. While not the most aesthetically pleasing of the Jordans, they receive an honorable mention for practicality and comfort.
#27 Air Jordan XVI
The Air Jordan 16 is known for one thing and one thing only: the removable spats that annoyed so many wearers. The shroud added a unique look and functioned as a thermal protector, but many customers who purchased the Jordan 16 complained that it fell off far too easily to be functional. Luckily, the sneakers do look good without the shroud.
#26 Air Jordan XX
The fan reception for this shoe was lackluster at best. As a 20th anniversary edition, it left a lot to be desired; it featured a floating ankle strap and laser etching along the sides. The cushioning in the midsole was ahead of its time, but it was not enough to prevent a dull response to the Jordan 20.
#25 Air Jordan XXI
The Air Jordan 21 is inspired by Michael Jordan’s love of cars. It aims for a sleek Italian style but comes across as visually underwhelming. While comfortable and reasonably stylish, they look more like a racing shoe than a basketball shoe.
#24 Air Jordan XXX
This shoe is similar in style to the XX9; it was designed to call back to the past while celebrating the future, so its aesthetic is futuristic. However, it leaves something to be desired in terms of performance.
#23 Air Jordan XX9
This is the lightest Air Jordan ever. The uppers are entirely woven, making it a lightweight and comfortable option. The uppers also feature screen-printed graphics that essentially hit or miss; some designs look great and others don’t.
#22 Air Jordan XVIII
This shoe is noteworthy because it was the last shoe of Jordan’s playing career; he wore them to close out his career in Washington, D.C. They are tasteful if a bit undramatic, and have aged quite well.
#21 Air Jordan XVII
This shoe received mixed reviews when it was launched; its clean-lined look and high level of performance were not enough to entirely redeem it from its price tag, which was a record-breaking (for the time) $200. Despite its lukewarm reception, the Air Jordan 17 has aged reasonably well as a fashion item.
#20 Air Jordan XXXIV
The most recent model at the time of this writing, the Jordan 34 has already made a name for itself as one of the best on-field shoes on this list. While not the most aesthetically pleasing of sneakers, its focus is on performance: it’s extremely lightweight and offers plenty of support.
#19 Air Jordan XX8
While well-rated in terms of performance, the XX8 is extremely polarizing in terms of aesthetics. Fans either loved them or hated them, but there is no denying that they are well-constructed and extremely functional.
#18 Air Jordan XXXIII
The first-ever laceless Air Jordan, the 33 features FastFit technology with a tightening and release system. Its design is a clear statement of innovation; with influences from the iconic AJ III, the carbon-reinforced FlightSpeed Plate and Zoom Air Unit reduce weight while producing excellent propulsion.
#17 Air Jordan XXXI
The Air Jordan 31 draws its inspiration from the legendary first installment of the Air Jordan series, the I. It brings back the Nike Swoosh and combines it with the Jordan Jumpman and Wings logo for the very first time. Its light performance makes it a great pair of sneakers: it was even worn by several members of Team USA at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro!
#16 Air Jordan XXXII
This is one of the more recent shoes in the line but has already cemented itself as a contemporary classic. It draws inspiration from the II but improves on its design and adds FlightSpeed technology to improve its performance. A unique “banned” colorway is featured to coincide with the 21st anniversary of the time the NBA banned the original Air Jordan I red and black colorway.
#15 Air Jordan XIV
With a sleek, speedy design inspired by Ferrari, the Air Jordan 14 is known as the shoe Jordan wore in his final game for the Chicago Bulls in the 1998 NBA Finals.
#14 Air Jordan II
The Air Jordan 2 is considered quite underrated among sneakerheads, probably because it gets overshadowed by the I and the III. But there are several important strides the II took: it attempted to bridge the worlds of sportswear and high fashion by minimizing the Nike branding by removing the Swoosh logo, by improving the cushioning from the I, and using luxurious materials. The Air Jordan II helped solidify the Jordan line as an icon in the world of shoes.
#13 Air Jordan IX
For a pair of shoes that was never worn on the court, the Air Jordan 9 still manages to be iconic. It was the first pair of shoes released during Jordan’s baseball-playing hiatus from basketball, and its appearance reflects that: the IX’s design is modeled after a baseball cleat to mark his transition between sports.
#12 Air Jordan 10
It’s easy to overlook the Jordan 10, most likely because of poor timing. It was released during Jordan’s stint as a baseball player; the X was intended as a tribute to his basketball years, with a list of his career highlights engraved down the soles. They quickly became obsolete when Jordan returned to the basketball court. While it’s not the most exciting shoe on this list, the X did help pave the way for the more popular XI and XII models.
#11 Air Jordan VIII
These shoes could rank highly on any list for sheer nostalgia. Air Jordan 8’s are possibly the Air Jordans that best exemplifies the style of the 1990s, which is far from a bad thing. They did see some division in terms of performance: the advanced ankle support and heavier weight weren’t popular with everybody – but they are still popular today.
#10 Air Jordan XIII
Inspired by the black panther, this shoe was worn often during Jordan’s 1997-1998 season, making it iconic in its own right. Its sole emulates the look of a panther’s paw and features a hologram on the back that lit up in the dark. The Air Jordan 13 was more than its look; it featured a carbon fiber plate and Zoom Air to make them as lightweight as possible.
#9 Air Jordan XII
Considered one of the most durable Jordans of all time in terms of durability and wear and tear. Jordan 12 is the signature shoe jordan wore during his 96-97 championship run in which he won his fifth championship ring.
#8 Air Jordan VII
The Air Jordan 7 was the first Air Jordan to feature the Air Huarache technology, which conformed better to the user’s foot and made them a great fit. It had the looks, the function, and the legacy factor to perform well – Jordan wore a pair of VII shoes during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, during the legendary “Dream Team” run.
#7 Air Jordan VI
Jordan wore these shoes when he won his first NBA Championship in 1991 against the Lakers. He was named the NBA Finals MVP for his efforts, which immediately put the VI into legendary status. They got even more exposure when featured in the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson.
#6 Air Jordan XII
Considered one of the best, most durable pairs of on-court Jordans ever made, the Air Jordan 12 added performance improvements and adjustments to the style to set itself apart. Jordan wore these during the infamous “Flu Game” and during the 1997 NBA Championships, which further solidified their success.
#5 Air Jordan V
The Air Jordan 5 is one of the most definitive pairs of sneakers in the entire collection. It carried over some elements from previous models, like the plastic mesh on the quarter and the mix of materials, then supercharged them with bold new additions like a translucent sole and a clear rubber tongue.
#4 Air Jordan IV
As the first Jordan to get a global release, the Air Jordan 4 needed to be a showstopper, and it definitely delivered. It introduced mesh, nubuck leather, and plastic wings for the first time in a basketball sneaker. Available in four color styles, the IV was a study in innovation.
#3 Air Jordan XI
You might know the 11 as the sneaker that Jordan wore in Space Jam, cementing it in the imaginations of an entire generation. Not only did it look amazing, it was made of a lightweight and less stretchy material, allowing the foot to be held snugly in place. This shoe is one of the most enduring models in the Air Jordan brand; it was so popular upon its release that it inspired actual riots outside of malls across the country.
#2 Air Jordan III
This was the first Air Jordan sneaker to feature the iconic Jumpman logo. It’s also the shoe that saved the brand; Michael Jordan was on the cusp of leaving Nike for Adidas when everything came together in the III. Its design feels retro, futuristic, and totally timeless all at once, and the mixture of faux leather with elephant print remains an innovative style.
#1 Air Jordan I
To date, the Air Jordan 1 is still the most profitable of the retro Jordans. Part of that is due to its timeless design; the Jordan I defined the line and is the shoe that most of us think of when we hear “Air Jordans.” Not only is the style iconic, but the shoe was also incredibly well-made – they’re so durable that you could still wear a pair from 1985 without a problem.