No player has a more photogenic history than Michael Jordan. Since his college days as a North Carolina Tarheel, we’ve seen Michael Jordan photos showing “His Airness” gracefully soar through the air time after time defining a generation.
He defined what cool was. He defined what we wanted to be. He defined what was cool. He defined the brands that were cool. He defined what people were cool by who he associated with. His baggy oversized suits may not be in style today but that saying, “There will never be another” will never be truer than when said about Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
In 1985 Michael made us all want to be able to dribble between our legs and knock down a step-back jumper in
Larry Bird’s our neighbor’s face. In 1988, he made us wish we could fly the way he did from the free throw line at the Slam Dunk Contest against Dominique Wilkins our younger brother. In 1991, we were switching from right hand handed dunk to a left-handed layup against Magic Johnson the girl we had a crush on.
By 1994, we had seen Michael Jordan do so much on the court that baseball seemed like a completely feasible change of direction for the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball. That’s how good he was. It wasn’t a matter of if he could play, it was just a matter of him getting used to the game, making it to the big leagues, and winning there, too.
After the short detour, he returned to basketball and captured three more consecutive NBA titles. In all honesty, in the late 90s, if Michael Jordan said he ate nothing but dirt-filled burritos, most of the world — myself included — would have started the diet that same day. Athletes and average dudes wanted to wear his shoes, rappers wanted to be him and women wanted to be on him. The term “swag” may not have been popular back then but as Jay-Z said it so eloquently on The Black Album in 2003, “Check out my swag yo, I walk like a ballplayer,” the entire world at the time was trying to have swag like Mike.
As our memories are reinvigorated by the release of The Last Dance, we decided that words weren’t really enough to explain his importance (that will come in a book down the road 🤞). He’s the reason sneaker sites exist and the reason most of us even care about “sneaker history” at all. So rather than ramble more than I already have, take a look at some of our favorite photos of Michael Jordan wearing the sneakers he made famous. Thank you, Mr. Jordan.
Enjoy these iconic Michael Jordan photos…
MJ wearing the Converse Fast Break Mid on the USA Basketball Team in 1984.
The famous “Free Throw Line” dunk back in 1988.
“The Shot” over Craig Ehlo to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989.
Large fries for small fries. See what they did there? McDonald’s one of Michael Jordan’s many endorsement deals. In case you didn’t know the name Michael Jordan, they clear it up for you. He’s a basketball superstar.
Michael Jordan dunks against over Chris Mills of the Knicks wearing the Air Jordan 1, which he wore to commemorate his final game at Madison Square Garden. (Larry Johnson and Dennis Rodman seen in the background.)
A different angle of the “Free Throw Line” dunk from the 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Michael Jordan wearing the Nike Air Alpha Force.
Read more about it here: Michael Jordan’s Non Signature Sneakers
Michael Jordan in the Air Jordan XVII (17) “Lightning”
Michael Jordan wearing the Air Jordan 6 Infrared against the Philadelphia 76ers. (Hersey Hawkins seen in the background.)
A photo from the Sports Illustrated cover shoot with Water Iooss Jr. in 1987. Michael is wearing the Nike Court Force Low.
Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley in the 1993 NBA Finals. MJ is wearing the Air Jordan 8 and Sir Charles is wearing the Nike Air Force Max.
Coca-Cola Classic. Can’t beat the feeling. Or those original Nike Air Jordan IIIs.
MJ versus Charles Barkley, 1991. Jordan in the Infrared 6 and Barkley in the Air Force V.
Michael Jordan wearing the Air Jordan 11 “Concords” and the classic pinstriped Chicago Bulls jersey.
MJ in the Air Jordan III “White Cement” circa 1988.
One of the many Slam Magazine covers MJ was featured on. This one is from 1998.
Michael Jordan wearing the Nike Air Force V Low for a cover shoot with Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley.
MJ wearing the Air Jordan 9 cleat batting for the Chicago White Sox.
Michael Jordan and Nomar Garciaparra playing baseball in the Arizona Fall League.
MJ against Patrick Ewing in college.
Slam Dunk Contest, 1987, wearing the Air Jordan II.
MJ wearing “Carmines” against the Denver Nuggets in 1991.
“The Last Shot” that turned out to be the final shot of Jordan’s second retirement.
Michael Jordan’s last NBA All Star Game wearing the Jordan 18. Can you name the other players and shoes in the picture?
Michael Jordan in the “Fire Red” Nike Air Jordan III.
MJ versus Kobe Bryant. Joran in the AJ17, Kobe in the AJ7 “Lakers” PE.
Michael Jordan flying over the globe, circa 1991. Imagine not having photoshop and doing this back then?
MJ and the Bulls against the Suns in 1993.
Michael Jordan playing mini golf in the “Black Toe” Nike Air Jordan 1.
Michael Jordan defends the late Len Bias. Bias is wearing the Nike Air Force 1. MJ is in the Converse Pro Leather.
MJ in the Nike Air Ship White/Red.
By 2016 standards, MJ might not be the flyest dressed but back in the day, we all wanted to be like Mike. Even when he was wearing the Nike Air Force 2.
MJ wearing the Air Jordan 1/Air Jordan 2 hybrid, now known as the Air Jordan 1.5.
Michael Jordan and Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon, wearing AJ 3s.
Michael Jordan wearing the #12 jersey.
Michael Jordan showing off his Nike Air Jordans on David Letterman.
MJ wearing the Jordan 7 Olympics, 1992.
Michael Jordan wearing the Space Jam Jordan 11, which came as a surprise to Tinker Hatfield and Nike at the time.
MJ wearing Penny Hardaway’s Nike Air Flight One. Shaquille O’Neal in the Reebok Shaq Attaq 4 in the background.
MJ wearing the Jordan “Wings” logo on his shirt and the Black Toe AJ1 over his shoulder.
MJ versus AI. Jordan wearing the Air Jordan 12. Iverson in the Reebok Question.
MJ’s infamous Flu Game. Scottie Pippen wearing his “Zoom” cushioned Nike Air Pippen 1. Cameraman wearing the released version of the Air Pippen 1.
The iconic photo that was later used for the “Come Fly With Me” VHS.
You better eat your Wheaties. Man, a Flight Club calendar and cereal? These were the good old days and one of the only time we saw MJ wearing Grape Jordan 5s.
Remember collecting basketball cards? Beckett Magazine was everything back in the day.
Michael Jordan wearing the #45 jersey and Jordan X.
MJ in the Concord Air Jordan 11.
MJ wearing Converse back in college at Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
MJ in the “Black Toe” ones and Nike jumpsuit with the Chicago Skyline behind him.
Jumpman. Jumpman. Jumpman.
Apparently it wasn’t easy for MJ to be America’s Biggest Sports Hero. Air Jordan 7s but peep the socks on these kids. Fire.
Magic Johnson wearing his signature line made by Converse, against MJ in the black tongue Jordan V.
Pre-season, 1984. MJ wearing the Black/Red/White Nike Air Ship, which would later become banned by the NBA.
MJ wearing the Playoff Jordan 11 against Detlef Schrempf and the Sonics.
MJ wearing the Air Jordan 14 for his “last game” against the Utah Jazz.
MJ walks off the court for the final time as a Washington Wizard wearing the Air Jordan 18.
Thank you to the incredible photographers like Theo Westenberger, Walter Iooss Jr., Neil Leifer, Manny Milan, Andy Hayt, John Biever, Heinz Kluetmeier, Lane Stewart and the many others that captured these and other incredible photos of Michael Jordan to help preserve our memories.
Nick Engvall is a sneaker enthusiast with over 15 years of experience in the footwear business. He has written for publications such as Complex, Sole Collector, and Sneaker News, helped companies like Eastbay, Finish Line, Foot Locker, StockX, and Stadium Goods better connect with their consumers, has an addiction to burritos and Sour Patch Kids, and owns way too many shoes for his own good.
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