What Is the Most Popular Basketball Shoe of All Time?
Answer: Air Jordans
Release date: Nov. 17, 1984
Made by Nike, multiple Air Jordan models have become top-selling basketball shoes. The Air Jordan 1 launched in 1984 and sold almost three million pairs the following year. At the time, that equated to $195 million in retail sales.
Air Jordans became somewhat of a cult classic. Their original black and red color scheme was unpopular with league officials, so Michael Jordan was fined $5,000 every time he wore the shoes. This made the shoes essentially unwearable during games, which only made them more popular.
Of all the Air Jordan models released, Jordan 1, Jordan 3 and Jordan 11 are the most popular. A pair of Jordan 1’s became the most expensive pair of shoes ever to be sold, going for a whopping $560,000 in 2020.
Jordan 3, released in 1988, was partly responsible for Michael Jordan signing a new contract with Nike. Prior to its release, Jordan reportedly was considering signing with Adidas when his contract was up. The Air Jordan 3, however, was made with soft leathers and a comfortable, mid-cut height that catered to a recent Jordan foot injury. The new design was a winner, and it convinced Jordan to renew his contract with Nike. The Jordan 3’s comfort is the main reason it’s arguably the most popular basketball shoe today.
The Jordan 11, released in 1995, also became popular. The unique style was marked by carbon fiber, a clear outsole and Cordura mesh, but the shoe was almost never released. Jordan was retired when it was designed, but he returned to wear it throughout one of his best seasons ever, when his team, the Chicago Bulls, won 72 games in 1995-96. A retro version of the shoe is now released every holiday season, averaging over a million pairs sold each December.
Fun fact: Air Jordans were also featured in the movie "Like Mike," which centered around a young basketball prodigy who hoped to play basketball with the help of a pair of magical basketball shoes, just like his hero Michael Jordan.
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