Widely considered the best NBA player of all time, Michael Jordan is synonymous with success both on and off the court. His line of Air Jordan basketball shoes, launched in 1985, revolutionized the sportswear industry, and now with 35 colorway and retro variations, they are some of the most collectible, highly sought after, and in some cases, most wearable basketball shoes of all time.
In this article, we consider 7 of the very best Air Jordans in categories like the best Air Jordans ever, the best looking Air Jordans, and, of course, the best Air Jordans for basketball. It costs a lot to buy an original pair of some of these Jordans, or maybe you have a pair somewhere in your closet. Maybe instead, this list will bring back memories from the glory days of Chicago Bulls championship seasons.
Which Jordans did we like? Keep reading to find out.
|Overall Best: Air Jordan 6 Retro BG “Carmine”.|
With strong reinforcement around the heel and toe, we call the Air Jordan 6 without a doubt the best Air Jordans ever.
|Runner-Up: Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Shattered Backboard”.|
Patterned after the jersey Jordan wore in the “shattered backboard” 1985 exhibition game 1985, these shoes are also some of the best Jordans ever.
|Best Looking: Air Jordan 3 Retro “Red Cement”.|
A clear break from tradition at the time of their release, the Air Jordan 3 is now widely considered the best looking Air Jordan of all time.
|Best Looking Runner-Up: Air Jordan XII “Public School”.|
Designed alongside the Public School fashion brand, Jordan XIIs don’t just look great, they also perform well on the court.
|Best Selling: Air Jordan 1 “UNC”.|
The colorway of one of the best selling Air Jordans ever pays tribute to the legends alma mater, the University of North Carolina.
|Best for Basketball: Air Jordan 10 Retro BG “Double Nickel”.|
The first release of what’s called “the modern era,” Air Jordan 10s don’t just look great, they’re also great for basketball.
|Best Collectible: Jordan 12 Retro Reverse “Flu Game”.|
Commemorating Jordan’s immortal “flu game,” Air Jordan 12s are among the most collectible Jordans ever.
A Closer Look: Best Air Jordans of All Time
Agree or disagree, here’s what we liked about each Jordan in our ranking.
Best Air Jordans Ever: Air Jordan 6 Retro BG “Carmine”
Originally Released: 1991
With a leather sole and extra reinforcement in the heel and toe box, it could be said the Air Jordan 6 are the best Air Jordans ever. Combining a classic look with modern updates, the Carmine offers better cushioning — especially when compared to the 5 — and a swappable insole for comfort.
This makes them not just a fashion statement but a good choice for ballin’, known in particular for reducing stress on the feet, whether that’s on the court, or just going about your day. Though spendy, fans of the Carmine call them beautiful sneakers that fit great.
Best Air Jordans Runner-Up: Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Shattered Backboard”
Originally Released: 2015
Many Jordan styles were designed to commemorate the highest points in the iconic basketball player’s illustrious career. The next Jordans in our ranking are one such example, with an orange and black colorway patterned after the jersey Jordan wore during the ‘85 exhibition game in which he dunked the ball so hard it broke the backboard. Modeled after the original “Black Toe” AJ1 color block, this variation on the classic Jordan 1 is made from high-grade tumbled leather with a rubber sole.
Very limited edition when they first came out in 2015, these shoes are not only considered some of the best Air Jordans of all time, they’re some of the most sought-after designs in the history of the brand.
Best Looking Air Jordans: Air Jordan 3 Retro “Red Cement”
Originally Released: 2020
Although the look of the Jordan 3 was divisive at the time they were released, the “Red Cement” colorway is now considered by many to be the best looking Air Jordans of all time. The leather is a higher-quality than other Jordans are known for, according to experts, with a mid-top collar providing ankle support when actually playing, with excellent feel, and midfoot lockdown.
These shoes don’t just look great, based on feedback, they fit comfortably, with leather feeling soft to the touch. The midsoles do lack some cushioning, however. But for collectors, or those just interested in that classic Air Jordan style, the Air Jordan 3 “Red Cement” are without a doubt the best looking Air Jordans available.
Best Looking Air Jordans Runner-Up: Air Jordan XII “Public School”
Originally released: 1997
Another of the best looking Air Jordan’s of ever are the Air Jordan XIIs, also known as “Public School,” because they were designed in collaboration with the well-known street wear fashion brand of that same name. That team-up makes the shoes among the most wearable Jordans ever, both on and off the court. Originally released in 1996, what’s especially distinctive about these monochrome shoes is the Japanese-style Rising Sun stitching on the side panels. These were also the first Jordans ever released with Nike Zoom Air technology, with the “TWO 3” style on the tongue.
Otherwise, there’s a phylon midsole and a rubber outsole. There’s also a carbon fiber torsional shank, full-length Zoom Air cushioning, and some of the best traction offered from any of the retro Jordans. And although these Jordan’s are known to be great looking, they’re also some of the best Jordans for basketball of all time, based on feedback.
Best Selling Air Jordans: Air Jordan 1 “UNC”
Originally Released: 1985
From the moment they were first released in 1985, Air Jordans became collectible. One of the best selling and most collectible of all is the Air Jordan 1 “UNC,” designed with the colors of Jordan’s alma mater, the University of North Carolina. With mid-top ankle support, these shoes have a rubber outsole and modified herringbone traction.
What’s also notable, the Max Air 180 for added heel support, meaning these shoes aren’t just to be put on the shelf, you can also play ball in them. The classic Nike Air Logo is on the tongue, with the Air Jordan “Wings” logo also featured, and a clean heel. Once one of the best selling Air Jordans of all time, the Air Jordan 1 “UNC”s have been reissued and are now widely available.
Best Air Jordans for Basketball: Air Jordan 10 Retro BG “Double Nickel”
Originally Released: 2015
If you’re after a pair of Jordans to actually play basketball, we like the Air Jordan 10 “Double Nickel.” The 10s marked the beginning of the “modern era” for Air Jordans with a distinctly different look than what had come to be expected from the brand. Inspired by Jordan’s 55 point performance at Madison Square Garden in 1995 following a brief retirement to play baseball, these shoes are leather and synthetic with a rubber sole, and MJ’s “45” jersey number embossed high on the ankle.
Those who’ve worn the shoes noticed a little extra wiggle room in the heel, but that was easily addressed with an insole. Otherwise, these classic shoes are beautiful, with great fit. Fans especially like the Chicago Bulls inspired color scheme, as well as the white leather upper, black leather tongue, and red collar. To inspire you while you play, 10 of Jordan’s most notable career accomplishments are listed across the red and black striped outsole.
Best Collectible Air Jordan of All Time: Air Jordan 12 Retro Reverse “Flu Game”
Original Release: 2020
One of Jordan’s most legendary accomplishments on the court came in 1997. He scored 38 points in game 5 of the NBA finals, all while suffering symptoms of the flu and a 103 degree temperature. Inspired by the shoes Jordan wore in that game, are the Jordan 12s — commonly known as the “flu game” shoes — some of the most collectible Air Jordans of all time. With a flipped color scheme from the distinctive red and black colorway of the original Jordans, these Jordans have a foam midsole and a faux reptile overlay with a black finish, and stitched-suede upper.
Fans of the shoe comment on the carbon fiber shank plate, running almost the entire length of the shoe, and the phylon midsole topped by a zoom unit. Those who’ve worn the shoes say they feel a little looser than other Jordans, but on the plus side there’s very little break-in period.