Air Jordan 1

What started it all and changed everything.

The Air Jordan 1, known simply as the Nike Air Jordan when it originally released, first hit stores in 1985 kicking off the greatest legacy in sneakers and forever changing the business of footwear.

With the third pick in the first round of the 1984 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls selected Michael Jordan who would later become known as the greatest to ever play the game.  Before landing in the NBA, Michael Jordan had a resume of accomplishments that no one had ever accomplished.  While at the University of North Carolina, Michael Jordan led the Tarheels to an NCAA Championship and helped Team USA achieve Gold in the 1984 Olympic Games.


While MJ was a lock for an early selection in the NBA Draft following his career at UNC, what shoes he would wear in the NBA was not a sure thing.  Jordan played in Converse while at North Carolina and while on Team USA in the Olympics. Prior to the Games, Jordan wore a pair of New Balance basketball shoes in a LIFE magazine photoshoot where he first made the Jumpman pose. 

Air Jordan 1 "Chicago" White/Varsity Red-Black
Air Jordan 1 "Banned" Black/Varsity Red-WhiteAir Jordan 1 Banned
Air Jordan 1 "Black Toe" White/Black-Varsity Red
Air Jordan 1 "Royal" Black/Varsity Royal-White
Air Jordan 1 "UNC" White/Dark Powder BlueAir Jordan 1 UNC

In the summer of 1984, a young Michael Jordan heavily favored Adidas as a brand to sign with, but at the urging of his mother Deloris Jordan, he took a last-minute meeting with Nike where they showed him a video with a variety of Air Jordan clothing and shoes. Brands offered deals to wear their shoes, but Nike was willing to build something much bigger around Jordan himself.

Famed industry consultant and deal maker Sonny Vaccaro worked with Nike and convinced them to create a Jordan line named after the signature player that was a level above any signature shoe had ever been done.  Michael Jordan liked the concept and inked with the then only 12 year old Oregon based brand.

In October of 1984, Jordan played in his first NBA preseason game wearing the Nike Air Ship that was primarily black and red in color. The shoes went against the NBA’s current uniform policy that stated the shoes must be primarily white or black and align with the rest of the players on the team. Michael continued to play in the shoes during the preseason but switched to a White/Red colorway of the Nike Air Ship shortly after. Leading up to the NBA All-Star Game, Michael Jordan started wearing the Air Jordan 1 in the “Chicago” colorway that was primarily white-based, but pulled out the Black/Red Air Jordan 1 for the 1985 NBA Slam Dunk Contest which caught the league’s attention again.

Due to this infraction, the league banned Jordan from wearing the shoes and wrote a letter to Nike in February of 1985, nearly four months after. Nike took advantage of the situation and used the letter to start a brilliant ad campaign around the ‘banned’ shoe. The original shoe to be banned was not the Air Jordan 1, but Nike had the 30-second spots telling people around the country that the NBA couldn’t keep them away from you.

The Air Jordan 1 made its retail debut at the end of March of 1985 with a price tag of $64.99. While that may seem relatively cheap today, it was one of the highest-priced basketball shoes on the market then. It was designed by Peter C. Moore and was combined from elements of other Nike shoes. The side heel panel featured the iconic Air Jordan ‘Wings’ logo. Nike’s initial goals of selling 100,000 pairs in the first year were far eclipsed by May of 1985 when the brand projected to sell upwards of four million pairs of shoes accounting for sales of 55 million. 

With Jordan’s dominating on-court performances, his impressive display at All-Star weekend in which he wore both the White/Black/Red “Chicago” and Black/Red Jordan 1, and the heavy attention Nike’s ads were bringing to the shoes, the Air Jordan line was already cementing its place in sneaker lore.

Beyond the hype and controversy, Michael Jordan exceeded expectations out of the gate in his rookie season earning a spot on the All-Star team, finished third in scoring (28.2 ppg), brought the Chicago Bulls back to the NBA Playoffs, and took home the Rookie of the Year award.

As stated earlier, the Air Jordan 1 was first released in 1985 as the first signature shoe for Michael Jordan but was brought back as a retro first in 1994 after his first retirement from the NBA.  Michael wore the Air Jordan 1 in his rookie and injury-shortened second season as well as in his final game at Madison Square Garden as a Chicago Bull in 1998.

Retro Air Jordan 1 History

When Michael Jordan unexpectedly stepped away from the NBA and the game of basketball in 1993, Nike decided to reissue or retro prior models of the Air Jordan line in addition to creating the new flagship model.

In 1995 Nike retroed the Air Jordan 1 for the first time in the “Chicago” and Black/Red colorways with a price tag of $80. But the idea of ‘retro’ shoes had yet to catch on with most teenagers opting for new models with modern technology. This led to the shoes sitting on sales racks across the country for prices as low as $9.99.

Times changed quite a bit when the Air Jordan 1 saw its second retro release in 2001 in the Black/Red and Black/Royal colorways.  The shoes sold through at retail quite well and resold relatively quickly on eBay and other sites for more than retail price.

The Air Jordan 1 has been released as a retro hundreds of times – literally.  Between the highs, mids, and lows, there are literally hundreds of iterations and colorways we have seen of the retro Air Jordan 1.

Today, the Air Jordan 1 high retro is one of the most sought after retro Jordans when brought in original colorways.

Air Jordan 1 release dates

The Air Jordan 1 retro is one of the most sought after retro Air Jordans to release.  At Nice Kicks we have a dedicated release dates page for all sneakers, but if you are in the hunt just for retro Air Jordans or just Air Jordan 1s, check out the Jordan release dates section for the latest news and release dates for upcoming retro Air Jordan shoes.

Michael Jordan wearing the Air Jordan 1

There are many great moments in sports history, but few compare to those moments captured of Michael Jordan wearing his very first signature shoe. Below is a link to a feature of Michael Jordan wearing the Air Jordan 1s.

Michael Jordan wearing the Air Jordan 1

Air Jordan 1 Commercials & Videos

The Air Jordan 1 was Nike’s first shoe for Michael Jordan. To kick things off, the brand put together a string of great and iconic commercials that promoted the Nike Air Jordan (now known as the Air Jordan 1). Below is a link to a feature of all the commercials and related videos of the Air Jordan 1.

Air Jordan 1 Commercials and Videos

Air Jordan 1 News