The Air Jordan X (10) was the first shoe of the series that released without MJ himself officially approving the final design. That is why there are technically two versions of the sneaker, a story for another day. With Jordan focusing on his baseball career with the Double-A Birmingham Barons, most people figured that he would not be returning to basketball anytime soon. That is except for one particularly stubborn man, Nike and Jordan designer Tinker Hatfield. As most people in Nike were writing Air Jordans off, Nike Europe didn’t order any Air Jordan 10’s, Tinker secretly worked on the next Jordan sneaker.
Keeping with the forward-thinking and ambitious direction of the brand, Tinker knew that he had to pull out all the stops for when MJ returned. To begin with the sneaker’s original inspiration was a convertible car; cloth top, shiny body, rubber on the bottom. But the major influence of the Air Jordan XI (11)’s design came from a normal push lawnmower. With an upper that was rugged but shiny and a bottom that was all business. Working with premium nylon you would find in high-end backpack, Tinker sourced a unique patent leather that was both robust and didn’t stretch, but still stayed shiny. Also a notable addition to the Air Jordan line came with the usage of a carbon fiber plate to add stability for the wearer. This advancement in design would make a huge difference not only to MJ’s game but change basketball sneakers as well.
Tinker had a feeling that Jordan would be back eventually, but on March 18th, 1995 when Michael Jordan announced to the world, “I’m back”, he wasn’t as ready as he had hoped. Knowing that MJ wanted a shiny sneaker it was no surprise that he was happy with the design. And being told that it was the first sneaker that would last him longer then one basketball game meant he needed them yesterday. MJ said he wanted to wear them in the playoffs, which started in late April. But still in the early wear test stages of the design process it was a struggle for Nike to create enough for the Bull’s playoff run.
Officially MJ wore the Air Jordan XI (11) on court for the first time on May 7th, 1995 also while wearing the number 45 for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the young and brash Orlando Magic. He would actually wear them for game two as well when he changed back to 23. But the NBA wasn’t happy with MJ not following the league’s strict uniform policy and in game 3 he wore Penny Hardaway’s Air Flight one with the Penny logo cut off the heel. But MJ loved the Jordan 11 so much that he had a league-approved colorway ready for game 4, now known as the Space Jams, even though the movie was not made yet. The sneaker was given national attention during that game when NBA commentator Ahmad Rashad surprised the world with a up-close and personal look of the sneakers right before tip-off.
MJ wouldn’t win a championship that year in the Concords but the shoes were a hit before ever being released. Jordan loved the White and Black combination so much that he predicted to Tinker that someone would wear the sneakers with a tuxedo. In early 1996, after the sneakers were released in to the world, while wearing the sneakers on court still, R&B group Boyz II Men wore them with their tuxedos during the 1996 American Music Awards. MJ would continue to wear the “Concords” until the All-Star Game and finish off the record-setting season rocking Black/Red version of the Air Jordan XI to win his fourth championship in ’96.
Consistently named as one of the top 5 sneakers of all time by many people, how do you feel about the return of the Air Jordan XI (11) “Concords” ?