Synonymous with sporting heritage and technical precision, the Air Jordan 11 has earned its status as one of the most covetable silhouettes from Jordan’s roster. Nearly 30 years since the sneaker’s debut, the AJ11 is considered an icon — both on and off the court — and said to be Michael Jordan’s most loved style. Here, we take a look back at the shoe’s history, its lasting impact and how it came to be the favourite of one of basketball’s greatest players.

Specifically created for Michael Jordan by Tinker Hatfield, the Air Jordan 11’s design was developed over two years before its debut in 1995. During this time, the sneaker underwent several prototypes that were often critiqued by the design team, Nike executives and the star Chicago Bulls player. MJ had the ability to roll his foot on hard cuts when playing, so Hatfield wanted to create a shoe that not only rivalled on-court footwear, but aided the player’s demanding movements. “Like an athlete who’s trying to win, I put more thought and more technology and more innovation into the idea of the Jordan 11 than anything I’d ever done before in my entire life at Nike.” he later revealed. This thinking resulted in two of the shoe’s defining features; a full-length carbon-fibre plate, paired with full-length Air cushioning, and patent-leather detailing.

Returning to the NBA after a 13-month spell in Minor League Baseball, Michael Jordan was so taken with the silhouette that the OG “Concord” colourway was the only shoe he laced up for the 1995-1996 season, the beginning of his second three-peat with the Bulls. Like with the iconic Air Jordan 1 “Chicago”, MJ was fined $5,000 every time he wore the shoe because it didn’t conform with NBA’s uniform guidelines. That year, Jordan was named MVP, All-Star MVP, and Finals MVP, on the road to securing his fourth NBA championship.

In 1996, the Jordan 11 appeared on the silver screen in Space Jam, a game-changing moment that shaped an entire generation’s perception of Michael Jordan and Air Jordan shoes. Nike cemented its place as the industry leader in basketball sneakers, while AJ11s began flooding the market. The film also birthed a new colourway of the Jordan 11 — the “Space Jam” — which became the most successful shoe launch in the history of the brand, according to Nike president Trevor Edwards.

While there have been numerous silhouettes, remodels and releases from Michael Jordan’s namesake brand, the Air Jordan 11 remains the Jumpman’s favourite to this day. “It’s hard, you know,” MJ commented, “It’s like saying ‘Which one of your kids do you like the most?’ 11s are my favourite. 3s are my next-favourite. Probably 12 or 13 comes in third.” 

Now confirmed as one of the most collectible sneakers from the collection — even decades after MJ famously wore them — the Jordan 11 has aced the test of time. Whether influenced by Michael Jordan’s fondness for the shoe or lauded for its retro aesthetic, the AJ11 is a treasured model with endless staying power.