The Nike Air Ship: A Twisted History

When Michael Jordan first set foot on the NBA court for his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls, he didn’t lace up his famous Air Jordans, but the Air Ship. For as long as can be remembered, the Air Jordan 1 has been the storied sneaker that was banned by the NBA during Michael Jordan’s first season in the NBA. At least according to Nike and Jordan Brand’s marketing efforts. We’re here to tell you it wasn’t the Air Jordan 1, it was another Nike basketball shoe that deserves the credit for rocking the boat.

Listen to our ‘History Lesson’ Podcast Episode on the Nike Air Ship on iTunesSpotify, or SoundCloud

The original Air Ship was first released in 1984, long before the sneaker culture had become mainstream. The original colorways, as seen in the catalog scan below, we’re just like every other Nike basketball shoe at the time, very basic.


In 2014 on the 30th Anniversary of the Air Ship, Jordan Brand tweeted “One small step for MJ. One giant leap for the game.” with a photo of MJ’s feet in the Air Ship. This was the first time that the brand had publicly acknowledged Michael Jordan wearing the Nike Air Ship. Up until this point, the only reference to the sneaker MJ wore during his first NBA game, came from those of eager to make sure the story we had been told about the “banned” Air Jordans, was the truth.

In 2016, @MJO23DAN started a petition for the Nike Air Ship to be re-released. Almost 1,900 people signed the petition in hopes to see the Nike Air Ship return as a retro product.


To be continued…


If you enjoyed this article, check out the History of the Air Jordan 1 and History of the Air Jordan 2.