All-Star Weekend is always relatively entertaining in comparison to similar festivities in other sports, but it used to represent all that was cool in the world. At least it did to me when I was between the ages of 8 and 21, because of Michael Jordan.
As a Lakers fan I always held Magic Johnson in the highest of possible esteems, but Jordan was just cooler. Best player, best dunk ever in the Dunk Contest (Jordan’s “lean” dunk can never be surpassed, even if Dwight Howard shows up on Saturday dressed as Catwoman) and maybe the most important, the best shoes.
Everyone else in the NBA was wearing Converse Weapons, standard Nikes or even New Balances (James Worthy) or Spot-Bilts (not sure who was wearing Spot-Bilts, but they always seemed to be worn by the guy staring up at MJ or Magic in all of their Sports Illustrated posters). Jordan was rocking the Air Jordans of course, which might have been why Dominique Wilkins and his less exciting Reeboks got robbed in the 1988 Dunk Contest (well, that and the fact All-Star Weekend was in Chicago).
In memory of all the great Jordans seen through past All-Star Weekends (and because it seems impossible over the past few years to find a pair of new Jordans that aren’t garish), here’s a BASG Top 10 list of the best Air Jordans of all time. And yes, I know absolutely nobody in the world will agree with this list. That’s the beauty of Air Jordans.
10. Air Jordan I
I know this is the first pair of Jordans and most people would rank them higher, but the only thing unique about these shoes is the color scheme. Otherwise they’re just a normal pair of Nike hi-tops from the mid-1980’s.
9. Air Jordan VII
Possibly the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever worn, and special points for being the first pair of Jordans my Dad would actually buy for me. One of the reasons he bought them was because he liked the colorful West African-inspired tongue, which actually was the worst-looking part of the shoe. Any shoe with the inner neoprene sock-boot (like the Air Huaraches) is guaranteed to be comfortable, and these may have been the lightest Jordans of all time.
8. Air Jordan XXI
The only edition from the last five years to make the cut, the 21’s are clean-looking, extremely well cushioned and free of any of weird criss-cross straps or artwork that have hampered other recent models. The style may be too simple to stand the test of time, but it’s actually a good basketball shoe. That has to count for something, right?
7. Air Jordan II
The first Jordans without a Swoosh. That alone earns a spot on this list, along with the fact Jordan won the 1987 Dunk Contest in these (including the epic leaning one-handed windmill).
6. Air Jordan XI
Definitely not the best Jordans in terms of performance (due to the patent leather), but they look great in every color. Definitely more of a kickin’ it shoe than an actual basketball shoe.
5. Air Jordan IX
Now here’s the edition that took the inner bootie and put it together with a phenomenal looking shoe. Super easy to tie tightly, well-cushioned and the added bonus of all the foreign languages on the outsole. Of course, if you actually played in these shoes the words would vanish within a week or two, but we all know 90% of Air Jordans never see a basketball court.
4. Air Jordan IV
They looked pretty crazy back when they came out, with the plastic piece on the upper and in the back, along with that “cement” color that was unlike anything ever seen on a shoe. In retrospect, the only thing holding these shoes back from being the best Jordans of all time was the mesh, which could look kind of wrinkly. Still, the Air Flight ’89-influenced midsole remains one of my favorites.
3. Air Jordan XIV
The only shoe to actually facilitate gang warfare. The Nortenos plaster “XIV” everywhere since “N” is the 14th letter of the alphabet, and the first versions of these Jordans had “XIV” printed on the inside of the tongue. Regardless, the looks were sublime, the Zoom Air was cushy and the XIV’s were the shoes Mike himself was wearing when he (pushed off and) hit that shot in the NBA Finals off Byron Russell.
2. Air Jordan V
The plastic lace-toggles, the prominent No. 23 near the heel, the flames on the side and the reflective tongue. If you had these AND a Starter parka at the same time, you were officially a junior high pimp. The only way to get more girls was if you won a fight against the toughest kid in school, unless the kid you beat up was wearing Jordan V’s. Then everyone would hate you.
1. Air Jordan III
The first Jordans with visible air. Pretty much a mid-top version of the Air Revolution, which nearly caused a fight between my friend Carp and myself. See, we were on the same basketball team in sixth grade, and he had the Jordans while I played in Revolutions. We had never met each other but both of us thought we were sporting the best kicks on the team. Now we’re still friends, so I guess it’s time to finally admit…ahem…Carp had the better shoes.
Tomorrow: Part II: The worst looking Air Jordans of all time.