I have an internal struggle when it comes to lists about the top X-amount of Air Jordans from ::insert time range here:: because they generally are written during the time period they are suppose to be ranking the sneakers. How can a true best sneakers of the year list be published in October? How do “best Jordans ever” lists exist if Jordan Brand is still releasing sneakers? Either way I click through and read them like everyone else and rarely chime in since I don’t want to come off like a sneaker elitist in the comment section. With all that said, I wanted to recount the greatest 23 pairs of Air Jordans to drop in the last decade and do it objectively; which I believe I somewhat achieved.
While there are a good amount of footwear enthusiasts around that stay loyal to original Air Jordan colorways released while MJ was in the prime of his game, how can anyone deny some great sneakers just because they aren’t in Chicago Bulls colors? To me, it is just close minded to not appreciate a pair of sneakers because they aren’t in a Black/Red color combination. Keep in mind that Michael Jordan was on an NBA team during this time and actually played in fan-favorites like the ‘Cool Grey’ XI and ‘True Blue’ III.
Here I countdown 23 pairs of Air Jordans from the numbered series that released between the years 2000 and 2010; purposely leaving off the list pairs that never made it too mass production like the more obscure Friends & Family pairs, and Player Exclusives since that is just not fair. Also left off this list are sneakers that originally released before 2000 that were re-released during the Aughts. I like OG pairs just like the next sneaker Air Jordan fan but that was then and this is now; lets celebrate pairs that might never get a Retro instead of the Cement pairs that will make their way to stores again eight years from now.
Unlike other sites that I know dread the comment section of lists like this, feedback is more than encouraged along with pleas for colorways & models not included. Agree? Disagree? Let us know!
One of the LS releases of 2005, this was the last Jordan V to drop that year. To some other footwear enthusiasts I call these the Maroon 5s…you know like the band? Nevermind.
The ‘DTRT’ Jordan IIIs get their colorway from the poster of Spike Lee’s movie from 1989 with the same name. This was one of the last LS, or Lifestyle, releases that Jordan Brand held which were only sold in stores with “Urban Accounts” with Foot Action stores being the most popular.
Even though the pair from the Countdown Package was not an OG colorway from the initial Air Jordan XX release from 2005, the murdered out theme works very well on this sneaker. Paired with the ‘Black Cement’ Jordan III, this sneaker was overlooked for the more celebrated pair making it possible for people to pick these up for a less than half of what the $310 sneaker package sold for in stores.
When choosing between the two versions of the Air Jordan XIV for this sneaker, the pair with the smooth upper was tapped instead of the edition with the perforated holes & lines. Not to be confused with the Jordan XIV that released in 2011 with Light Graphite as the main upper color, the combination of the grey color with Chartreuse made for one of the freshest Air Jordan XIV Retro pair ever.
This simple colorway couldn’t help but be compared to the ‘Oreo’ Jordan VI that released in the same year, those in the know were aware that the Jordan VI ‘Motorsports’ was a lot harder to come by. This premium release featured tumbled leather on the upper and a smoked-out translucent rubber on the outsole. It is rumored that the release number is somewhere around 5000 pairs worldwide.
A sneaker that didn’t see immediate popularity, the ‘For Love Of The Game’ Jordan IX released alongside the Air Jordan Alpha 1, Air Jordan Pre Game XT, and the Air Jordan 2010 Outdoor version. What kills me is if these were labeled as a Pantone, (which is a Air Jordan set with an almost identical color blocking) they would have sold out within the first hour of release everywhere. The “sky blue J’s that looked like they stomped a Smurf” were co-signed by Fabolous in a rap, but still wasn’t enough to demand they hype other less-limited releases from 2010 drew, go figure.
2002 was a big release year of the Air Jordan IX, amongst the better ones was the ‘French Blue’ pair. Certain colors have been used throughout Jordan Brand history and the French Blue color is one of them, showing up on about a dozen sneakers since this one so homage has to be paid to one of the originals. When these dropped, they retailed for $125; ahh distant memories.
In 2003, this Jordan XII was only available thru the Jordan Flight Club program online for $200 and came as part of a set with a hat and sweatshirt; it wasn’t until the 2009 re-release where you could’ve bought these from your local sports footwear store.
During his time with the Washington Wizards, Michael Jordan laced these up giving Air Jordan fans the same type of thrill that of seeing MJ debut a never-before-seen sneaker. The most noticeable difference between the pair from 2001 and 2010 was the compound used to make the translucent sole; the most recent pair has a blue tinted sole that prevents the color from changing to yellow overtime.
When first released the ‘Altitude” Jordan XIII had an entire leather upper, but in 2011 when a Jordan XIII with the same colorway dropped, the mesh overlay with a layer of reflective 3M (same construction as the original Flint XIII) was added.
Instead of the durabuck material regularly seen on Air Jordan IXs, patent leather was used but durabuck replaces the usual leather upper. In case you missed out on a pair of ‘Cool Grey’ IXs in ’02 and ’08, these are dropping later on this month.
The amount of these that hit store shelves were very scarce as only 23 pairs released at 23 stores in the US. This was before the Twitter RSVP system was established and around the time the “sneaker campout” was already a mainstream thing.
2001 was the actual year the Jordan XVI was released, and is recognized by many as the “last real Air Jordan” of the numbered series due to the lack of popularity the sneakers that came afterwards had. Featuring high-quality leather and a removable shroud, the idea behind the Air Jordan XVI was without the shroud this shoe was ready for the basketball court while with it on it was something that could be seen in a boardroom. This sneaker also payed homage to previous Air Jordan features like the mid cut of the Jordan III, mesh of the Jordan V, and patent leather of the Jordan XI.
The more popular pair from the Air Jordan V – ‘Raging Bull’ package, this suede Jordan V has even the most OG Jordan loyalists ready to give out a pass. This ‘Raging Bull Suede’ Vs went on to become one of the most bootlegged Air Jordans of 2009.
Around the time the ‘Grey Toe’ Jordan XIIIs released, these are most known for Jason Kidd wearing them during his time with the New Jersey Nets.
A relatively underrated release, the ‘Oreo’ Jordan VI featured a simple white-and-black colorway with a speckled sole which would make this release right at home in 2012. It wasn’t uncommon to find these with a sale tag later on in the year, but just think of how many non-OG colorways share that share this same story and end up going for triple the retail price just a few short years later.
Even though I already mentioned not including Friends & Family sneakers, these are too dope to leave off of this list. With a release of only 72 pairs, unless you had a mean connect at Jordan Brand you had to partake in a raffle for these.
Ray Allen was the first to lace up this now grail-status pair of Jordan VIs. They re-released for the first time earlier in 2012 with a minute color swap that only these familiar with this pair noticed. Didn’t stop anyone from picking them up though, and why should it?
Taking the iconic elephant print and covering the majority of the upper in it, the ‘Flip’ Jordan III was an instant favorite with both older Air Jordan enthusiasts and those new to the game.
Released as part of the ‘Raging Bull’ Jordan V package with another pair of Jordan Vs constructed from a red suede upper, this pair features a reflective 3M upper. Even though many people who were lucky enough to score this package focused on the other pair, these cannot be denied.
The ‘Chrome’ Jordan VIII has a very simple color blocking of an otherwise busy-looking sneaker. The ‘Chrome’ nickname comes from the grey colorway seen on the midsole print, as well as the metallic accents on the ends of the straps.
One of the few non-classic colorways that was immediately accepted upon release, the ‘Flint’ Jordan VII put together the popular combination of Flint Grey and Varsity Purple.
The ‘Cool Grey’ Jordan IV was apart one of the few official Retro+ releases as labeled on the box. These IVs haven’t hit store shelves a second time yet, but as a proud owner I hope that day isn’t for a very long time. If ever.