2016 Highlight Reel: Jordan Brand
The fulltime siren has sounded, signalling the end of another year for the kings of the court. In 2016, Jordan Brand buffed their star players, welcomed some new members to the team, expanded their women’s roster and brought back an OG powerhouse. They took the tour on the road, set their sights on glory and played pick-up with some of the most unlikely of teammates. It was an impressive year for the brand the Jumpman built, so we took it courtside to compile a play-by-play of all the action.
A year of Jordan releases is made on the strength of its retro releases and 2016 was a godsend for many collectors. The Air Jordan 1 led the pack in 2016, receiving more retro love in 2016 than almost any year that has preceded it. In addition to coveted colourways like the ‘Breds’ and ‘Black Toes’, Jordan Brand also revived a number of lesser-known OG ’85 Air Jordan 1 make-ups – many for the very first time. These included the ‘Storm Blue’ and ‘Metallic Red’, as well as the ‘Metallic Navy’ in both high and low cuts. Another obscure retro to rear its head in 2016 was the Air Jordan Sky High, an experimental low-cost fusion of Nike and Jumpman branding, that returned in OG canvas construction for the very first time.
The ‘Space Jam’ Air Jordan 11s were the most hyped Jordan retro of 2016, hitting stores for only the third time since they made their debut on the silver screen. This year’s retro switched out the typical ‘23′ branding for PE ‘45’ branding on the heel and featured enough minor changes to make Jordan heads want to keep both pairs in their collections. Other significant retro releases for the year included the Air Jordan 3 ‘True Blue’, Air Jordan 5 ‘Black Metallic’ and Air Jordan 9 OG, all of which returned with coveted Nike Air branding.
The Air Jordan 16 is Back
One of the most significant retro releases of 2016 goes to the return of the Air Jordan 16. Having first hit shelves in 2001, in the midst of Jordan’s second retirement, the shrouded silhouette had only ever been revived once since its introduction – retroed along with the entire Air Jordan line-up for 2008’s Countdown Pack collection. Before returning in OG colours, the Air Jordan 16 was first treated to a double dose of exclusive collaboration in The Sunshine State – first at the hands of Trophy Room with a monochromatic ‘French Blue’ rendition, followed by a South Beach make-up from SoleFly to coincide with Art Basel. The year was capped off by the release of the Air Jordan 16 in the OG ‘Midnight Navy’ colourway. We can expect more colourways of the Wilson Smith-designed sneaker to no doubt follow in 2017.
The Pinnacle collection continued to pick up steam in 2016. Having debuted with a slew of Air Jordan 1 High ‘Pinnacle’ releases in 2015, the line spread the deluxe treatment to the Air Jordan 4 and Air Jordan 6, as well as the Air Jordan 1 Low silhouette. The Air Jordan 4 was the silhouette most favoured by the Pinnacle line in 2016, receiving a black crocodile-embossed leather release in April, followed by a ‘Snakeskin’ release in May, quilted ‘Obsidian’ make-up in September and finally, a tonal ‘Ginger’ make-up in late October. The Air Jordan 1 Low also went Pinnacle in late October, ditching the model’s iconic Nike Swoosh for a sleek ‘Metallic Silver’ creation, as did the Air Jordan 6, which opted for ‘Metallic Gold’. The Air Jordan Pinnacle line is set to continue into 2017, with new models like the Air Jordan 5 and Air Jordan 12 rumoured to be inducted into the line in the New Year.
The ‘Heiress’ Collection was an all-new introduction for 2016. Released exclusively in women’s sizing, the line was made with Jasmine Jordan, the sole daughter of His Airness, in mind. Debuting with a creamy make-up of the Air Jordan 10 in May, the line continued with ‘Plum Fog’ renditions of the Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 12 in September, before wrapping up with the collection’s two most praised releases – the Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 11 draped in rich red velvet. These final two releases attracted sneakerheads of both genders, with some swearing the Air Jordan 11 Heiress bettered even the ‘Space Jams’ for best Air Jordan 11 release of the year. After great success in 2016, we expect Jordan Brand to continue with the line into 2017.
The Olympics is always an exciting time for sneaker culture on all fronts and the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games was no exception. In addition to the Air Jordan XXXI’s official introduction on court – debuting with both ‘Brazil’ and ‘USA’ themed colourways – this year also saw a number of Olympic-themed retro releases. The Air Jordan 7 ‘Olympic’, originally worn by Michael Jordan as part of the ’92 Dream Team in the Barcelona Games, made a retro comeback in OG form – as did an ‘Alternate’ version that reinvigorated the colourway. A number of other early Air Jordan silhouettes also received Olympic make-ups, themed after the precious medals that await the world’s best athletes. The Air Jordan 1 High received three make-ups, each with a metallic Swoosh representative of the first, second and third place medals. The Air Jordan 5 received both make-ups with both ‘Gold’ and ‘Bronze’ make-ups, each with a metallic tongue representative of their precious metal inspiration. While there wasn’t an Olympic specific make-up for the silver medal, the retro release of the ‘Black Metallic’ Air Jordan 5s shortly before the opening of the games managed to fill the missing spot on the podium.
To close out the Games, an Olympic themed make-up of the Air Jordan 11 Low was released to coincide with the closing ceremony. The patent leather of the AJ11 was replaced with metallic gold leather, ensuring there were no losers for those that copped this release.
Air Jordan 10 City Pack
In a wholly unexpected move, Jordan Brand delivered an all-new Air Jordan 10 ‘City Pack’ in 2016. Revisiting the intercity spirit that launched the silhouette in 1995, 2016’s collection took the sneaker on an epic journey that expanded beyond the Continental United States. Starting in Paris with all-over elephant print leather, Jordan Brand took us back across the Atlantic for a New York City blackout, before walking the streets of Rio in green, gold and blue. LA and Chi City came next, with a double drop in mid-May, before coming to an end mid-June with a transcontinental trio – consisting of London, Shanghai and Charlotte-inspired make-ups.
Trophy Room Opened
Marcus Jordan, son of the Jumpman himself, decided to enter the footwear industry in 2016 with the opening of Trophy Room. Having obtained special partnerships with Nike, Jordan Brand and Upper Deck Authenticated, the Florida-based store endeavours to offer memorabilia and grails to customers that will serve as their own trophies. For its grand opening on May 23, a special white and gold Air Jordan XX3was made available, limited to just 523 pairs in celebration of the date. A black and gold version of the AJXX3 was also available, limited to 5000 pairs. Later in the year, the store also took stock of exclusive collaborative make-ups of the Jordan Reveal and Jordan Hydro 5 Slide. The store’s final collaboration in 2016 came in the form of a tonal ‘French Blue’ make-up of the Air Jordan 16, limited to 5000 pairs and the first time the model had been on shelves since 2008. With exclusive olive and gold collaborative make-ups of the Air Jordan 1 through 6 appearing at the store in the lead-up to its opening, we can pray that these too will be released in the new year.
Jordan Brand is never one to give up collaborations and 2016 was no exception. However, despite featuring only a handful of collaborations, 2016 featured some of the most Jordan Brand collaborations of recent years.
In addition to Trophy Room, fellow Sunshine State boutique SoleFly received a number of store-exclusives of its own. Starting with a duo of Jordan Eclipses in August, followed by a ‘Marlins’ themed Air Jordan XX3 in October and an ‘Art Basel’ Air Jordan 16 at the start of December. Drake’s Air Jordan collaboration expanded with the black OVO Air Jordan 10 and white OVO Air Jordan 12. Don C collaborated with Jordan Brand once again in 2016, releasing a sandy quilted ‘Beach’ Air Jordan 2together with matching golden Air Jordan pin and red leather strapback. In a curious cross-sport collaboration, Brazilian soccer star Neymar worked with Jordan Brand to create a collection of shoes and apparel for both performance leisure. The star of the collection was an all-over reflective rendition of the Air Jordan 5 Low.
For the release of Kubo and the Two Strings, Jordan Brand collaborated with animation studio LAIKA for a special rendition of the Air Jordan 15, featured a mismatched pair that was modified to replace the model’s signature ‘elf boot’ tongue with an ankle-high zipper. The shoe was only available through an online video game and via charity auctions through eBay. The rarest colab of the year was also created with charity in mind. The Grimm x Air Jordan 10 pack saw both black and white versions of the AJ10 created to raise funds for the Grimmster Endowment at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Just five pairs of each make-up were created and auctioned through eBay. To further up the rarity, one pair of each colourway was signed by both Michael Jordan and designer Tinker Hatfield. The signed white pair was the most coveted of the set, with bidding ending at USD$5800.
Air Jordan XXX & Air Jordan XXXI
A Jordan Brand recap wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the year’s newest flagship model. 2016 introduced us to not only the Air Jordan XXX – which hit stores in February – but also the Air Jordan XXXI, which rolled out in September.
The Air Jordan XXX was created with an amalgamation of input from Jordan, together with famed Nike veterans Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith. Up top, it featured a lightweight woven upper, stylised ‘XXX’ net graphic on the heel and asymmetrical collar. Down below, however, it retained the sole unit of the Air Jordan XX9 – a potential reason for it being replaced after just 7 months.
The Air Jordan XXXI made its debut in September, hitting stores in a ‘Banned’ colourway alongside the shoe that spawned the line’s legendary status – the Air Jordan 1 ‘Bred’. The work of senior Jordan Brand designer Tate Kuerbis, the Air Jordan XXXI incorporated a first-of-its-kind one-piece upper, which transitions from lightweight Flyweave to supportive synthetic leather at the rear. From a technical perspective, the AJ XXXI proved itself as a court king with its low-profile full-length Zoom Air unit, tweaked with FlightSpeed technology for maximum energy transfer. However, the Air Jordan XXXI will be best remembered as the first Air Jordan to feature a sidewall Nike Swoosh since the line’s 1985 debut, also marking the first time a non-retro Air Jordan has featured the Swoosh, Jumpman and Wings logos on the one shoe.
In recognition of Kobe Bryant‘s looming retirement, Michael Jordan and the team over at Jordan Brand presented the NBA great with two complete sets of Air Jordans 1 through XXX for All Star Weekend 2016, one in all-black and the other in all-white. The only exceptions were the AJ3 and AJ8, both of which were hit with a dose of Lakers yellow and purple. Both sets were created in Kobe’s size, US 14. While Kobe took the all-white set home to stash away in his collection, the all-black set went straight on to eBay (with MJ’s approval of course!) to raise money for the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. With 30 separate one-of-one Air Jordans, there was no question these were going to go for a pretty penny, and by the time the hammer had fallen, bidding had reached a staggering USD $240,100! While there were reports that the Air Jordan 3 and Air Jordan 8 make-ups had found their ways into the hands of a lucky few as a special Friends and Family release, a public release sadly never surfaced.